This review features the Varidesk ProPlus30, which was kindly gifted to me. I’ve been curious about standing desks for a while. I’ve heard about some
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.
What are your experiences of childcare as a freelancer?
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.
So what did I learn the first time round?What did Nina Lenton learn after returning to freelancing after a break? Click To Tweet
It’s OK to change your mind about what you do.
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
Are you signed up to any subscription boxes?
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.
Bacon subscription – Does what it says on the pack.
Happy mail from I heart homes – A cute collection of goodies for inspiring you.
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.
The cake tasting club – Cake. Cake in the post. Why are you still here? Go, order!
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.
Which subscription boxes do you rate?
Freelance General, Freelance Personal Development, Freelance Podcasts, New Freelancer, Podcasts & Interviews
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)
Happy New Year everyone!
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!
(p.s I’ve returned to this old post on how to beat Imposter Syndrome, to remind me how to challenge that mean little voice.)
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.
Favourite Apps: Forest
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.
Favourite Product: Olympus Pen Camera
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.
The Last Minute Gift Guide For Freelancers
- Amazon Vouchers – for books aplenty and gadgets. A Kindle Unlimited Subscription is worth a look too.
- Coffee shop vouchers – Know a freelancer who works from Starbucks a lot? A refillable mug or coffee shop vouchers are always a good bet. Starbucks, Costa and Pret
- Co-Working Day Pass – Have a look through a local co-working venue who offer memberships. Check out the Freelance Lifestyle Co-Working map for one near you.
- Stationery vouchers – Paperchase are always a good bet.
- Audible Subscription – Perfect for freelancers on the go
- 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.
- Magazines are such a treat when you work from home. iSubscribe is great, and I’d especially recommend Breathe, or In The Moment for a mindful read.
- A coaching session with me! If you know a freelancer who could do with some support with business planning, mindset or structure, drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll sort out a package.
Know of any other last-minute gifts for freelancers? Share them in the comments below!