This summer will be my last one before my son starts school, and school holidays become a Real Thing. It’s all a bit unnerving as a freelancer! So I’ve been thinking about how to survive the summer holidays as a freelance parent, and I’ve come up with some survival plans!
Read on, or click the podcast listen below, to find out what they are!
Follow @Fiveminutemum and @play.hooray on Instagram for some brilliant activities you can set up with your kids, that will give you focused time with your kids AND encourage solo play.
I know personally, if I’m on my phone when I’m around my son, my irritation levels are sky high. So I’m going to commit to some screen-free time every day to give him really focused time.
Setting boundaries with clients is going to be an essential part. Whether that’s making it clear what hours you’re available, or getting ahead before the holidays. Be honest, most clients will totally understand. Or outsource for a few weeks to another freelancer.
Batch like a mofo! Use the first half of the year to batch create some content to see you through the holidays, so you don’t need to worry about blogging or writing newsletters through the holidays.
Plan out your year accordingly, so you know you can take your foot off the pedal a little more during the summer. For example, run a launch in the Spring, so you know you have a busy few months, and then can relax a little during the summer, and then have another launch or offer in the autumn to kickstart things again.
Obviously, this is all in theory, so I’d love to know what your tips are!
How do you survive the summer holidays as a freelance parent?
I’m about to start freelancing for the second time in my working life. The first time was after redundancy, when I did a series of contracts before taking the plunge and working from home as a freelancer for a couple of years. This time round it was an active choice after returning from maternity leave.
One of the great things about being freelance is that if you find you don’t enjoy a certain type of work, you can just stop doing it. Don’t take on any new projects that involve it, and ease your way out of any ongoing ones. Likewise if you suddenly realise that everyone needs a certain skill and it’s something you love, you can take on more of that type of work.
You don’t necessarily need a website.
This depends on what you do. The first time round I did set up a website for some services I was offering – but I probably spent more time than I should have done on developing it and marketing the services, and not enough time actually working in that area! This time, I think LinkedIn is sufficient to give an overview of what I can do, and I’ll be able to supply potential clients with a more detailed cv and case studies if needed.
Don’t pin your hopes on one contact, company or conversation.
When I first started freelancing, I got excited anytime someone showed an interest in what I was doing. I’d imagine myself working on a project with them, and then be disappointed when they didn’t reply to my emails or took ages to decide they didn’t need my help at that time. I realised that it’s helpful to put these contacts to one side as potential clients for the future, and just follow up with them again in a few months.
Always do some business development in the background.
Last time I freelanced I had a contract that was meant to be ongoing for a year or longer. However the client we were working with decided to cancel the programme after six months. Because I’d been focusing on that project and very little outside it, I suddenly had to look for some new work.
This time round I’ll find a way of keeping in touch with my network even if I’m focusing mainly on one client. This might be going to networking events, dropping a note to a former colleague, or sending an enquiry email to a company I’d like to work with. Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group has a weekly reminder to do this, which will come in very handy!
Don’t keep popping into your social media accounts.
It’s easy to feel like you’re being productive when you’re tweaking your LinkedIn profile, chatting to other freelancers in a Facebook group or tweeting links to your blog or other people’s articles. I found that the best way to deal with the social media temptation is to have a system for getting stuff done, and fit social media into that. Having a short list of three important tasks for the day helps me focus. Once I’ve made progress on those tasks I allow myself to look at social media for a short period of time!
Work to your productive hours.
After managing my own days for a while I realised that I had times when I worked really productively and was in “flow” and times when thinking felt like walking through treacle. So this time as far as possible I’ll work around this. I’ll allocate time for my thinking and writing tasks when I’m most productive, and leave email, social media and reading for my low energy times.
It’s tempting to just get on with working and decide you’ll have the fresh air later, especially if mornings are your most productive time. I found that it worked for me to either go for a short walk first thing, or commit to myself that I’d have walk after lunch. I’ll be continuing with that approach this time round to make sure I get some exercise and fresh air. It can also help with thinking through a tricky problem or communication!
It’s OK to go back to employment
If an interesting opportunity comes up, or if you need the stability of a regular income for a while. You can always start freelancing again if you miss it, when you need a new challenge or if your circumstances change.
Nina Lenton is a freelance marketing and communications consultant, specialising in health. You can connect with her on LinkedIn
One of the things I encourage freelancers to do, is to set aside time each month for fun. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of being all work and no play. I also think it’s incredibly important to reward yourself as a freelancer. After all, we don’t have a boss to give us a pat on the back, so we need to be a good boss to ourselves.
With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to have a look at what subscription boxes are out there, so that fun reward can pop through your letterbox when you’re not expecting it. Y’know, like when you have a couple of glasses of wine and order something on ASOS, then forget until it turns up a few days later.
Through some online shopping and crowdsourcing, here are some of the most popular:
Subscription Boxes For Freelancers
Buddy box – Put together by the lovely people at Blurt (a brilliant bunch who cater to those struggling with mental health challenges), this monthly box is designed to bring you joy, comfort and inspiration each month.
Lucky Dip Club – Socks! Pins! I mean, what could be better for someone working from home, than a pair of really funky socks every month?
Stack subscription – If independent magazines are your thing, Stack is for you. They send you a different independent magazine each month, so you’re ahead of even the coolest hipsters.
Birchbox – I’ve been a Birchbox subscriber in the past and plan to return to it. It’s a beauty box, but the feature I loved is that you can enter your skin type, hair type, interests, so it’s more tailored to you. Because the last thing this dry skinned, thick red haired girl needs is more oily face products and shampoos for blonde hair.
I love gin – Confession: I don’t actually like gin. But most of the people in the Facebook group do. This is for them.
Mess box – Got kids? Don’t mind mess? Love a bit of sensory play? The Mess box is for you(r kids)!
Crown and Glory – The go-to brand for funky hair decorations has a monthly subscription. I like the idea of rocking up to every Facebook Live in a new glittery hair dec.
Pong subscription – I feel like the postman wouldn’t like you for this, but a cheese subscription exists.
Bloom Box – I often look at other people’s Instagrammable house plants with envy. So signing up for Bloom Box’s monthly houseplant subscription is seriously tempting.
Papergang – A stationery subscription. This one got recommended to me by quite a few people. Stationery is essentially really pretty crack for freelancers
Rainbow Soul Surprise Box – Someone mentioned this in another group I’m in, and it’s perfect for those that run more soul-centered businesses or love a bit of woo woo. Boxes contain a variety of things, from moon guide and essential oils to crystals and bath soaks.
Edit: This is a blog post from 2011, updated in 2018.
A good support structure is so important when you’re a freelancer, or you’re self-employed, particularly when you’re starting out. Having that freelance support network structure can help you get through the tough times, give you the inspiration you need when you’re starting a new project and help you celebrate your successes.
I’ve come up with five types of people you need in your support network, who I’ve described below. What do you think? Any you would add?
The Supporter is the person that is always there, through the rough times and the good times. This is likely to be your partner, parents or your oldest best friend. The Supporter always has your back, and stops you feeling out of control when everything gets a bit much. They might not know your industry or understand your job, but they’ll understand how important it is to you.
The Energiser is the person that has a bundle of enthusiasm for your new idea or project, and helps motivate you to really push forward with it. In the company of an Energiser, you might find yourself trying or doing things you’d never normally have the guts to try.
While The Energiser is a great friend to have, it can often be dangerous to listen to them alone. Which is where The Critic comes in. This is usually someone a little older and wiser, who can give you positive criticism of your project or plan, to help you spot any flaws early on. My Dad usually fulfils this role, although previous employers and colleagues are also often Critics.
Approaching The Critic with a project close to your heart is one of the scariest things to do, but you’ll appreciate their honesty long-term.
The Alien is the person in your group that has nothing to do with your industry, and doesn’t really get it. You need an Alien in your group for two reasons.
On a professional note, if The Alien doesn’t understand your project or plan, you know you need to work on making the pitch or business plan clearer. Same goes for a blog post or design. Having that outsider eye can help you see how the perception of your project will be to everyone else.
On a personal note, spending time with The Alien usually means you don’t talk about work much. Which, as discussed in a previous blog post, is always a good thing occasionally. Talking shop all the time can be boring for others. I’m totally guilty of doing this at times. It’s only when I see the husband’s eyes glaze over that I realise I need to change the subject.
The Role Model
The Role Model is, unsurprisingly, the person you aspire to be in five, 10 or 20 years time. Whether you’ve got yourself a mentor or coach, you’re in touch with an old employer you admire, or you’re aiming to take over the family business, a Role Model can be a well of information and advice.
You can find lots of lovely people that fit these categories over in the Facebook Group. Come join us!
Recognise any of these in your support group (or recognise yourself)? Got any more to add? Let me know in the comments.
A common misconception about being freelance, is that we have a chilled approach to work, waking when we fancy, working in front of This Morning, potter off somewhere for work and never work weekends. Right?
Nah. NAH. If you’re freelance, you know this isn’t the case. In fact, I’ve always suspected most freelancers work far more now they’re their own boss, than they ever did in their traditional job. New research from Crunch has back this up, showing that the self-employed work an extra 14 hours per week compared to employed workers. That’s an extra month a year!
There were a few other interesting stats that came out of the research, commissioned by online accounting firm Crunch as part of its Safety in Numbers Report:
January is the most stressful month of the year, for a third of respondents. Well, it is self-assessment deadling month!
We suck at taking time off. Independent workers take half the average holiday allowance of employees.
We don’t work 9-5. Over a third (39%) start the working day before 8am and six per cent even clock in between 4am – 5am. A further 43% are still working after 10pm, with women more likely to work later into the night than men.
It’s not all bad news. Part of the reason we work harder is because we simply have more to do – marketing, finance, admin, sales etc. But it’s also because we actually like what we do.
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
If you are struggling this January, Crunch are trialling a helpline between 4:00am-8:30pm between Monday 29th and Wednesday 31st January on 03332226070, with loads of professional support for freelancers facing tax return wobbles.
I’d love to know how you get on with work hours and taking holidays. Is balance something you struggle with?
(Note: Not a sponsored post, I just found these stats really interesting)
How are you all doing? Enjoying the first few days of 2018, or feeling slightly overwhelmed? I spent most of the Christmas holidays looking forward to getting stuck into some planning (I ADORE Christmas, but I love planning new projects and adventures even more). But when the first couple of days of January rolled around, I felt a bit overwhelmed and intimidated by all the people who had got all their ducks in a row, and were already launching their new courses and products.
But when I posted on Instagram about this, I was reassured that I wasn’t the only one – and that first week of the year doesn’t dictate how the rest of the year goes. So if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed too, and that Imposter Syndrome is making an appearance, know that you’re not alone!
Anyway. I thought I’d kick off my first post of 2018, with a reflection on some of my favourites from December.
Freelance Life Favourites for December
Favourite Apps: HMRC
OK, I hesitate to call this a ‘favourite app’. But with it being self-assessment month, it’s worth mentioning that HMRC has a handy app for checking what tax you owe once you submit, and also has a tax calculator.
I’ve mentioned Forest before, but I know a lot of people are setting a goal/resolutions to spend less time on their phones/devices this year. Forest is an app where you ‘plant’ a virtual tree and set the timer for how long it will take to grow. While it’s growing, you shouldn’t use your phone – or the tree dies. If you have a tendency to automatically open your phone and enter into the Facebook-Email-Instagram cycle without even realising it, this is a great deterrent.
Favourite Podcast: Your Biz, Your Rules: Daire Paddy
One of my business BFFs, Daire Paddy has finally launched her podcast, and it’s brilliant. Daire (pronounced Da-ra) interviews a variety of people about how they add their personality into their business. I’m biased because I was a guest last month, but they’re lovely chats. I especially loved Karina Lyburn’s interview.
I know I’m years behind everyone with an Instagram account, but 2017 was the year I finally got a proper compact camera. I adore my Olympus Pen Camera, and have been putting it to good use over the Christmas holidays. I can’t wait to use it more in 2018, to really improve my imagery.
Favourite Event: The Freelancer’s Christmas Party
Thanks to Emma Creese in the Facebook group, in mid-December a group of us freelancers in the South met up at a London Pizza Express for a festive lunch. It was so lovely to meet old and new freelancing friends, and chat about all things freelancing.
Left buying Christmas presents a little late? Want to impress the freelancer in your life? If you’re too late to buy from the standard gift guide for freelancers I shared earlier this month, I have a collection of last minute gifts for you to treat your favourite freelancer to.
Blinkist Subscription – Another bookish treat, Blinkist takes popular non-fiction books and breaks them down into short text and audio summaries, so you can harvest all the highlights.
Graze Box Subscription – A Graze box subscription is the perfect way to brighten up their weeks, with delicious healthy snacks dropping through the letterbox.
Flower Subscription – Help the freelancer in your life keep their desk looking Instagram-ready, with a subscription to Bloom & Wild. The best bit is, the flowers are packed so they can drop through a letterbox.
Moo voucher Business cards are essential as a freelancer, and Moo makes it a lot more fun to do them. A voucher would be perfect!
Quite a few people in my Facebook group want a new laptop for Christmas. If you’re after a budget option and you mainly work online (and mainly use cloud-based apps), I’d highly recommend a Chromebook. I have a Dell Chromebook, and use it far more than my Macbook – especially as it’s light, extremely fast (as everything is on Google Drive) and lasts for most of the day. Plus you can usually get one for less than £300. Alternatively if you need something for more powerful tasks like video editing etc, the Macbook Pro is for you.
If podcasting is your goal for 2018, the Blue Yeti microphone is touted as one of the best value and quality
Alexa. God I love Alexa. She helps me set timers for the oven when I’m juggling a toddler. She tells me the news headlines. She tells me what the weather will be like today. She plays my music.
Slippers – OK, these don’t really fall into the category of stocking fillers as they’re £79, but they’re perfect for home workers who occasionally need to nip outside. Mahabis are slippers with a solid sole you can pop on for when you’re outside.
Heated blanket. When you work from home, anything heated is a bonus. This heated blanket will not only keep you cosy, but it has a very Hygge vibe about it.