June 23, 2021

Freelancer parents: balancing work and school

Written by Martin Baxter

Freelancing parents – do you ever feel like your head is a jumble of things to remember? Zoom meeting at 9am. Daughter needs her P.E. kit. Must follow up on that new client quote. Did I transfer their lunch money? 

Lockdown and home-schooling weren’t always fun, but at least you knew where everybody needed to be at all times. Now that things are shifting back to normal, it can be hard to get back into a structure or routine with work, school and the various clubs and activities that are part of family life. This final few weeks of the summer term can be a good time to try and get the balance right before September, when the kids will refocus for another full – and hopefully uninterrupted – school year. 

There’s no silver bullet to juggling freelance work and the extremely busy social lives of your children, but there are a few things that can help. In this blog, we offer some top tips for freelancing families. 

Dedicate time

Time is the most precious gift you can give – to your kids, to your work, and to yourself. And all too often it feels like there’s simply not enough of it to go round. But is that because you’re trying to spread yourself too thin? Sometimes multitasking can seem like a smart way to use your time, but it actually ends up being unproductive. Trying to blast your way through emails while you sort out the kids’ breakfast seems like a good idea, but then you find spilt milk dangerously near your laptop, and you’ve asked your new client if they want Shreddies or Coco Pops! 

Instead of trying to do everything all at once, set aside some hours in your day that are just for work, and some that are just for focusing on your family. This will lessen the guilt you feel while working, and help to increase your focus, and your children will get more quality time with you, not time when you’re sneakily checking your emails on your phone between rounds of Hungry Hippos. Ideally, you’d have one or two hours that are just for yourself as well, so that you can look after the person who looks after everybody else. 

Create a calm freelancing workspace 

Another way to help separate your work life from your other responsibilities is to create a quiet, pleasant, private workspace, in an area of the house that is kid-free. This will help to get you in the right frame of mind for intense concentration, and retreating there gives the message to other family members that you’re not available right now. Investing a bit in making your workspace a calming and happy place to be might mean that you actually look forward to sneaking away and getting lost in your work. Why not add a few houseplants or treat yourself to a comfy new chair? If space is limited, as it is in a lot of family homes, you could consider taking your work out and about to a coffee shop or co-working space for a few hours a day. 

Stick to a schedule for work and home

Once you’ve found where you can have that child-free time in the day, make yourself a work schedule and stick to it. These are your working hours, and you can make sure your clients and your family are aware of them. That means that if a client emails you after 3pm, say, they know you might not answer until you start work the next day. It equally means that your partner or childcare know when they need to be available, and the kids know when not to come pestering you for snacks. 

Involve your children 

Do your children really understand what you mean when you say “no, I’m busy”? Possibly not, especially if they don’t see you going “out to work” like their friends’ parents. Spend a bit of time giving your kids some insight into what you do, how you do it, and all the different things you’re juggling. Opening up your “work-life” to them like this will help them understand why you can’t always drop everything to assist them and will show them why they need to respect your work boundaries. You’ll also open their eyes to career options and different ways of working, so that when they get to school-leaver age, they’ll know there are choices for them beyond the standard 9-5. 

(House)Work smarter 

Sometimes when you’re juggling freelancing and family life, it’s the mundane, everyday things that seem impossible. You can find time to deliver that project and help your child revise for their end-of-term tests, but cleaning the bathroom? That’s another matter. Finding sneaky ways to shortcut housework and other domestic tasks can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. For example, you could use the weekends to batch cook meals together as a family, so that during the busy work/school week tea can be on the table in minutes. Getting your food shop delivered can also give you back another precious couple of hours mid-week. Structured cleaning routines like The Organised Mum, where you spend just 30 minutes per day on housework, can also help if it feels like your living space is more “house of horrors” than “show home”. 

Set a realistic monthly income 

As a freelancer, one of the hardest things to say is “no”, especially if that no is turning down work. It feels all kinds of wrong. But saying yes to everything can leave us frazzled, overworked and burnt-out. A good work/life balance was probably one of the reasons you became a freelancer in the first place. Try to work out what is a good and comfortable monthly income that you need to get from your freelancing, and once you’ve hit that target for the month, don’t feel pressured to accept any additional jobs. You can then spend the rest of your time with the kids – guilt-free – or say “yes” to a select few jobs if you want to, but based on choice, not necessity. 

The last thing freelancers need is additional, arduous admin jobs that take you away from focusing on your paid projects. That’s why here at Dinghy we’ve made the task of choosing and buying freelance business insurance as easy as possible – the whole process takes just seconds. Simply answer a few quick questions on our online form and we’ll provide you with a quote straight away. You can pay for and manage your policy online, in monthly instalments to spread the cost, with no additional admin fees. We’ve also added a unique feature where you can switch your cover down when you’re not working – ideal for those taking time off to look after children over the six-week summer holiday. To get yourself sorted, head over to getdinghy.com

About Martin Baxter

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