Are you freelance with kids, or thinking of going freelance when you’ve got a family? Then you’ll need to know what the options are for childcare for freelancers! Thanks to Nina from the Freelance Lifestylers Facebook Group for the inspiration for this post.
Prefer to listen to this post? Here’s the podcast version!
What are the options for childcare for freelancers?
- No childcare
Nurseries are a group childcare option for those that want the benefits of being able to drop off their child(ren) for the day, somewhere that has structure and a class of children the same age.
- Larger groups of kids
- Lots of activities included, from song and dance clubs to trips out.
- The perk of meeting lots of other mums and dads, and kids parties. It’s nice to make some nursery parent friends.
- Purely from a personal point of view, I felt nurseries offered better structure for learning and hitting learning objectives.
- Larger groups, so your child(ren) may get less 1-2-1
- Often the more expensive option
- Less flexibility, you’ll often need to give 30 days notice to make any changes, and you pay for the month up front
- Fixed hours, so whether they’re in for a full day or a half day, you pay one price for each slot. So if you only need them in from 9-12, you’ll probably still have to pay for 8-1.
- You’ll probably pay for bank holidays and holidays, even if your child(ren) isn’t in (don’t pick Mondays for this reason, a mistake I made!)
Childminders are individuals who will look after your child(ren) in their own home. They’re often parents themselves, and have a small group of children they look after (1-6 kids).
- More flexibility, both with times, pick ups and changing days
- A consistent carer for your child
- Smaller groups, so more 1-2-1
- Many childminders take their children out to lots of different places, from libraries to soft play, all included in the price
- Cheaper than nursery usually.
- If your childminder is on holiday, you’ll be without childcare (although some offer partnerships with other childminders to cover this time)
- Often work shorter hours than nursery
Do you have family or friends nearby who are keen to help out with childcare? Hurrah! This is a great option, whether they can come to you or you drop the kids off.
- Often free! You could also do a swap with another self-employed parent, so you take it in turns to look after each other’s kids alongside yours.
- More flexibility
- A better understanding of your child’s needs
- If family/friends can’t help out, you might not have other options
- Occasional clashes in the best way to bring up your child, especially with family.
- No regulations, learning targets or training in childcare.
Are you looking to fit work around your children’s routine?
- You and your partner are the sole caregivers, so more control over what they do.
- You don’t miss out on any big milestones
- Having to work during naps, or once they’ve gone to bed can be very challenging. Especially if they refuse to nap, or fight bedtime. Potential for burn out.
- Not having time for yourself
- Loneliness. It can be easy to fall into the trap of not going out and meeting people. I found the Mush and Peanut apps really good for getting out and meeting other mums.
- Live in nanny
- Child-friendly networking, like Freelance Mum’s networking and netwalking in Bristol.
- Entreprenursery in West hampstead offers a pop up creche and co-working space
What are the childcare funding options for freelancers?
Tax Free Childcare
While the employed have been able to benefit from childcare vouchers for a while, if their employer does them, the self-employed haven’t been able to use them unless they had their own company. Now thought, they’ve introduced a Tax Free Childcare scheme that us freelancers can use too. Here’s what HMRC says:
Parents will be able to open a new childcare account. For every £8 a parent pays into their childcare account, the government will pay in an extra £2. Parents can get up to £2000 government support per child per year towards their childcare costs – that’s up to £500 every 3 months. If they have a disabled child, they can receive up to £4000 per child – a total of £1000 every 3 months. They can then use this money to pay their childcare provider.
You’re eligible if:
- is under 12, or 17 if they’re registered as having a disability
- usually lives with you
You (and your partner, if you have one):
- are 16 or over
- live or work in the UK
- are employed or self-employed
- earn less than £100,000 a year each
- don’t get other support with your childcare, including from a childcare voucher or salary sacrifice scheme
You may also be eligible if you have a partner and one of you gets any of the following benefits:
- Carers Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
- Severe Disablement Benefit
30 Free Hours
Once your child hits the term after their 3rd birthday, they can apply for 30 free hours of childcare. It’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds though. Many childcare providers will only let you use the hours in certain times brackets or if you’re booked in for certain times, so it’s not just a case of putting them in for three free days. If you’re already using childcare though, it should save you some money.
Additionally, you can use them alongside:
Childcare vouchers or salary sacrifice schemes
Childcare grants and bursaries
To be eligible, you need to tick the same boxes as you do for Tax Free Childcare.
To apply for either of these, you need to sign up through the Childcare Support website.
There’s no one size fits all approach for childcare when you’re freelance. Personally I went for a nursery because I felt it was a better fit for my busy little boy, but I know lots of freelancers have had brilliant experiences with childminders. The key is to explore all your options. Don’t be afraid to visit a few different places.