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?
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?
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.
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.
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
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:
Employment and Support Allowance
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.
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?
Before I had Oscar, I had a very naive idea of how I would mix the freelance life and parenting. I’m not sure if I assumed I’d have one of those children who happily just sat down doing one thing for ages, or I just assumed that I’d have more energy than I do. But the honest truth is that, on the days I don’t have nursery or childcare, I find it extremely challenging to get anything done. I think there’s a lot of pressure on mums who work from home to achieve so much – and being a mum on it’s own can be challenging enough. Someone recently asked me how I get so much done – and I honestly don’t feel like I do, I just happen to be fairly visible online. 21 months on, I still feel like I’m not achieving enough.
So, I thought it might be interesting to share a day in my freelance life, before and after having Oscar (on a day when I don’t have him in nursery).
Before Kids: Wake up at 7am, feeling (fairly refreshed). Sit in bed scrolling through e-mails. Saunter to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and breakfast. Scroll through social media. Put shower on. Wash. Put bra on. Dress. Meditate. I’m ready for the day.
After Kids: Wake anywhere between 5-6.30am. Scramble out of bed to be greeted by the noisy but smiling alarm clock/child. Go downstairs with Oscar and give him his milk and breakfast. Put kettle on. Put Peppa Pig on. Scroll through emails. Put kettle on again because I forgot to make tea. Make tea. Play hide and seek. Forget tea. Drink cold tea like it’s a shot of Sambuca.
Before Kids: Sit down at desk and work through To Do list. Take conference calls.
After Kids: Sit on sofa and keep Oscar busy with building bricks/cars/Disney movie/something in the garden if the weather is nice. Try to reply to e-mails/tweets/Facebook comments while he’s distracted. Stop half a dozen times to pull him off the walls/stop him eating the toys/stop him filling his toy box with water/applaud him for stacking a high enough tower. Repeat. Give in after five e-mails and join in with play. Still not wearing a bra.
Before Kids: Make lovely, healthy lunch. Eat lovely, healthy lunch.
After Kids: Make lovely, healthy lunch for two. Oscar refuses lovely, healthy lunch. Throws it on the floor. Put fish fingers in oven instead. Return to lovely lunch, now cold. Still not wearing a bra.
Before Kids: Drink tea and proceed through To Do list.
After Kids: Kid goes down for a nap. Mad panic about what to tackle first in the 1-3 hours of nap the toddler takes. Work, housework, shower? Procrastinate by mindlessly scrolling through phone for first 30 minutes. Panic a little more. Finally focus on e-mails, writing content and planning ahead. Take a conference call with one eye on the baby monitor, praying they don’t wake up mid-call. Throws wash in machine (last lot of wash is still in the basket, unfolded and un-put away). Debates whether to jump in the shower or baby wipe wash. Finally put on bra. Quickly dash around the house doing a five minute tidy. Child wakes from nap.
Before Kids: 6pm rolls around and you finish up for the day. Write tomorrow’s To Do list, and enjoy an evening of dinner, Netflix, social media scrolling and blog post writing. Maybe even venture outside and socialise.
After Kids: From 5pm, I have grand ideas of the many things that will be achieved after bedtime. As soon as Oscar is in bed, anytime between 7-8pm, I’ll collapse on the sofa in an exhausted heap. Half an hour later, realise I’m still watching Peppa Pig. Two hours later, collapse in bed.
Obviously, the ideal is that as someone who is self-employed, I should have the flexibility to just not work on the days when I don’t have nursery for Oscar. Reality is a little different.
But would I change it for a job? No! I love what I do, my freelance life is just as much a part of my identity as being a mum is. I love that I can be at home to see all the cool things my son learns to do. I love that there’s not as much pressure to be a polished mum all the time (because, no one apart from Instagram can see me at home). Plus my boss (me) is pretty understanding of the days when not much sleep has been had and all I want to do is have a day watching Trolls on repeat. Being a freelance, work-from-home mum is certainly a privileged position to be in, even with its challenges.
Oh, and this is really only very short-term in the grand scheme of things. In just over a year, he’ll be applicable for the free 30 days of childcare a week. And I’ll be sitting at home, working and missing him horribly. So if you’re going through these early years of freelancing and parenting, remember that it’s not forever! And you’re doing far better than you think you are.
How does your freelance life compare, before and after kids?
This originally went out in my newsletter this week, but I had so many lovely messages from subscribers who felt relieved that they weren’t alone when it comes to freelancing peer pressure and perfection, that I thought it was worth a share here too.
I’ve been feeling the peer pressure recently.
Every time I log onto Facebook, I’m (super-enthusiastically) told:
You’re just one Facebook ad away from a six figure business (just as long as you’re OK with paying five figures in FB ads to launch that six figure launch)
Make SEVEN figures from your online course! Here’s a 15 step plan to do it! Only £4k.
Raise your prices! Constantly! Even if it makes you really, really uncomfortable.
You can have a baby, have a million dollar business and have a pristine house and office. To not do so is terribly un-feminist. Pushing yourself to a breakdown is so 2016, darling.
Everything I’m doing is wrong and everyone else is right, and get with the programme Emma (OK, that one might just be that mean little voice in my head)
How utterly exhausting.
Honestly? I don’t give a damn about having a six figure business right now. If that’s your goal, more power to you! I have nothing against having a chunky bank balance, but right now my goals have to be life-based. I mean, I want to be able to pay the bills, treat myself and my little family and have a semi-comfortable life. But the reason I love being freelance is the flexibility it gives me, the ability to be able to work with people I actually like, and to work from home. I’ve been so focused on ‘proving myself’ financially (partly from guilt that I’m not setting a good example here as a freelancer), that I got a big lost along the way. Which actually limited my income.
I’m also tired of cookie cutter sales language. Big claims without the evidence. I feel like I’m back at school, with the popular girls boasting about how many boys they’ve pulled and the rest of us feeling a bit inadequate in comparison. Except, now they’re charging thousands to teach you how to replicate their success. In general, I’m just a bit tired of the overwhelm and the enthusiastic quick fixes to a big business. My introvert brain needs a break from all that noise!
So, I’m making some changes.
I’ve lowered my coaching prices. It’s not really the done thing to lower your prices, but I want to help more freelancers (new and established), and lowering my prices makes coaching more accessible. I really believe coaching can make a big difference, and it’s had a huge impact on my life. In fact, as hard on myself as I can be, I think without it I’d have caved in and thrown in the towel by now, instead of relaunching my business and growing it.
I’m going to get over this peer pressure block that’s stopped me blogging and podcasting until I’m ‘perfect’. I’ve actually achieved quite a bit over the last year, something I want to blog about more.
Here’s a controversial one – accept that it’s ok for the next couple of years to not be where my business was pre-baby. I have a third of the time I had before to work (and that’s throwing working nap times into the mix). It’s ok not to have a baby and a bazillion pounds in the bank, as long as you’re achieving what you want to (for me, that’s time with my son while affording to pay the bills and helping more people to go freelance or improve their freelance life). On that note…
*deep breath* Share an income report. This one is risky and very scary, because I don’t have a six figure income (or anywhere close). But there are two benefits: a) it shows you what I actually earn, so I don’t feed into the number bending bullsh*t b) it keeps me accountable with some goal setting for the following month. Because I do want to increase my income, but not by adding to the bullsh*t.
What does success mean to you? I’d love to hear your personal definition of success in the comments.
I’ve always thought that one of the key ingredients to a successful freelancing career is to be as healthy as possible (for your situation). I’m not talking about living on a sugar free diet, HIT training and taking a million supplements daily. What I mean is that you are your business’s biggest asset, and running yourself into the ground doesn’t benefit anyone and certainly won’t benefit your business in the long run. Self-care is just as essential as doing your invoicing, and pitching for work.
I’ve been neglecting this recently as I adjust to being mum to a nearly five month old and running my business. It’s been tricky to balance the two, and at times its felt like as soon as I put Oscar down for his nap, I’m picking up my laptop and ‘panic working’ before he wakes again. Priorities change, and as I absolutely love being a mum I’m keen to create a balance that means I can spend quality time with him and still manage my workload
Physically I’ve slipped into a bit of a habit of skipping lunch, snacking instead. He’s actually a fairly easy, happy baby and sleeps through at night, but often only sleeps for 45 minutes during the day, so I try and use that for catching up on emails rather than making lunch. Not ideal.
Since November hit, I’ve been trying a few things to get back some balance and mojo for both my business and so I have the energy to really enjoy these precious first few months. Here are just a few of the things I’ve been doing to live a healthier freelance lifestyle.
Diet and exercise
HelloFresh* kindly sent me one of their recipe boxes to try. I’ve definitely been in a rut recently with cooking and making dinners in particular, so I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed trying some new recipes. It also forced me to try some new vegetables and spices, which is never a bad thing. This is definitely something I’ll treat myself to every month or so to shake things up. I now use the HelloFresh app regularly for some meal inspiration and to shake things up a bit.
Making lunches the night before. Whether it’s a sandwich or a few pasta dishes for the next couple of days, making it before really helps me stick to eating lunches and keeping my energy up. It means all I have to do is grab it from the fridge.
Filling up a water bottle and taking it around with me during the day. I’m AWFUL at drinking water, and it’s often the cause of headaches for me. It’s a small, easy change to make but makes a huge difference.
I’ve downloaded a dance app and the SWORTKIT to fit in some 7 minute work outs. Additionally, one of the things that I’ve learnt from Gretchin Rubin’s book Better Than Before is the importance of making it harder to do bad habits. So if I want a naughty snack or treat, I have to do ten squats first.
Address my priorities. Quite often I panic and think I must work, but I’m not 100% sure what I’m supposed to be doing first. I’ve gone back to a habit of writing out my to do list, highlighting the top three things I have to do today, then doing the ‘frog’ first (if you’re not familiar with the Eat That Frog theory, there’s a great summary here)
Getting up an hour earlier than Oz. Working for an hour before I start the day with him really helps and eases a lot of the guilt so I can focus on being a mum. At the moment, I’m trying to do an hour before he wakes, an hour when he goes to bed and I get half a day on Wednesdays when my lovely mother-in-law babysits. If I can get some time at the start of the day and the end, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t during. It doesn’t always work (he’s been waking earlier his week due to a cold and teething), but even a handful of days a week will help
Timing my tasks. Without a doubt timing tasks, and crucially setting time limits for work, has had the biggest boost on my productivity and balance. It stops me going into a blind panic, and gives me focus.
I’m currently working through my coaching diploma, and part of it means I coach and am coached by another coach-to-be on the course. It means I’m setting regular goals and working on how I view problems.
Meditation nearly always gives me focus, but it’s easy to forget. On the days I can squeeze in an hour before Oz wakes up, I try to do five minutes of meditation
The biggest challenge I’m tackling is changing my mindset to accept that, for at least the next few months, I can’t do the same amount of work I was doing before and that’s ok.
Is there any way you can boost your freelance lifestyle? I’d love to know in the comments about any new healthier habits you’re picking up.
*HelloFresh sent me a recipe box of theirs for free, but I was not paid for this post.
Ever since I had Oscar, the bulk of my online business is run from my iPhone or iPad. I thought it might be useful to share a few of the workflows I have in place to make creating, sharing and organising content easier – whether you have a little one or work on the go.
First up, blog posts.
Step 1: Draft it out
Since becoming a mum, I’ve fully embraced drafting up either the bare bones of a post or the full post in Evernote on my phone or tablet. For example, with this post I brainstormed lots of blog post ideas that I really want to write, then create a draft format to help me flesh them out. You don’t have to use Evernote, Google Drive and WordPress’s own app are great), but I’ve found it the easiest to use with Siri.
Using Siri is a game changer when it comes to writing posts now. I use it to transcribe by speaking into it using this button.
(You can also use the record audio button to record it as an audio file and either turn it into a podcast or send it to someone on Fiverr to transcribe for you)
I also use it to Google for other useful links or information.
Step 2: Create your image
Once I’ve drafted the blog post, I’ll switch to the Canva app on my iPad to create an image for the post. If I’m on my phone and just want a simple text image, I’ll use Instaquote. I get a lot of my images from Picjumbo (you don’t need to credit the images and they’re free) or buy them on Etsy or CreativeMarket if there are any great bundles.
Step 3: Publish
It’s perfectly possible to then take your post text and image and pop them into the WordPress app and hit publish. I have to confess though that I like to have a quick look at how it looks on a computer before I hit publish. If you’re like me and have a habit of forgetting to take the next step, schedule it on the app, and then check it on your laptop before it goes live.
Step 4: Promote
Finally, I have IFTTT recipes set up to promote it across social networks. One for Facebook, one for Pinterest and one for Google+. Once it’s live, I’ll also use Buffer to share it across Twitter a few times and into a few of my groups if relevant.
Do you blog from your phone or tablet? Any apps you’d love to share? Leave them in the comments below!
How are we already nine days into August? The last few weeks have absolutely flown by, and I can honestly say they’ve been some of the most challenging but best weeks of my life (sleep deprivation and dirty nappies aside). I’m afraid I’m going to indulge in a bit lot of baby talk in this post, so if you’d rather stick to general freelance chat, may I suggest having a browse of some of the Day In The Life Of A Freelancer posts?
If you’ve read my previous post on pregnancy and pre-natal depression, and the struggles and concerns I had, you’ll maybe understand why it’s such a huge relief that parenthood has been so, well…lovely. I have to confess, I’ve become a bit of a mumbot and I’m completely in love with Oscar, which has taken me by surprise a little as someone who wasn’t really that maternal before. In all honesty, after struggling during pregnancy I think my family, Pete and I all thought the first few months would be really hard for me, but it’s all come surprisingly naturally.
Obviously, it hasn’t been entirely rosy all the time. Labour was traumatic, complicated and took three days, and both Oscar and I ended up staying in hospital for almost a week after his birth. For about two weeks afterwards, I was pretty traumatised by the experience, however in retrospect staying in was a blessing as we really benefited from lots of time with the brilliant midwives at Frimley hospital. I honestly don’t know how first time mums can cope in those first few days if they’re ejected just a few hours after giving birth. Having that hospital stay as a buffer has undoubtedly helped me settle into motherhood much easier.
Once we left hospital, those wonderful baby blues hit for a few days, although these were nowhere near as bad as how I’d felt during pregnancy. But since then, it’s been kind of brilliant – and that’s largely down to getting lucky in the baby lottery with this little dude. We’ve been really fortunate that he’s a really chilled little guy, and he’s been taking naps during the day and sleeping pretty well at night. We’ve started to get him into the routine of going down at 7pm and waking for feeds at 11pm and around 3am, which means I get a precious few hours in the evening to relax with Pete and do a little bit of my own stuff (which suits my introvert nature perfectly). Although I’m planning to take a few months off before properly returning to work, I’m finding that keeping my finger in the odd pie and doing some planning for the future of my business has helped me feel ‘normal’ much faster. Which is why this blog has undergone a little update/spruce. I reached a point at four weeks when I realised that all I could talk about was Oscar and baby stuff, so being able to do a bit of brainstorming for work has helped me feel like I could potentially hold a half-normal conversation again some point soon.
It’s hard to explain how different life is, but also how not a huge amount has changed. Thanks to the anxiety and depression I went through at the end of pregnancy, my expectations for the first few months were pretty low. I thought I’d be a bag of nerves and stress, struggling with sleep deprivation and unsure of whether I’d be able to bond. In reality, it’s all come surprising naturally. Dare I say it, it’s been fun! I’ve laughed more in the last few weeks than I probably have in years. I’ve probably cried more too, but the happy times outweigh that. I’ve definitely bonded with him, and fallen in love with my husband even more than before. Another concern for me was whether it would put a strain on our relationship which I really cherish, but seeing him with Oscar has only further strengthened it. I think having the support of him, and both my family and his family, has made the transition much easier.
On the topic of sleep deprivation, it’s a bitch – but I’ve actually found it easier to cope with than the shattering exhaustion of pregnancy, which never let up (something my mum guru and friend Leanne told me about but I didn’t fully understand until now). At least now a quick 45-60 minute nap usually leaves me feeling much better. Obviously this is partly because of being lucky that he doesn’t suffer from colic at the moment, which makes sleep so much harder.
I don’t want to paint an entirely rosy picture, but I also wanted to share a positive story after a pretty negative pregnancy and labour. There have been challenges along the way. He had jaundice early on and I had to have a blood transfusion (we looked like Bart Simpson and Caspar the ghost together) and due to lots of issues with breastfeeding we spent the first few weeks feeding him with a mix of expressed milk, formula and straight from the breast when I could. By the time we reached four weeks, we switched to formula only, and it’s a decision I’m really comfortable with now – and Oscar is thriving on it. It’s also meant that Pete and both of our families have been able to feed him and have lots of bonding time with him, plus it’s given Pete and me the freedom to have a couple of dates while Oscar’s doting aunts or grandparents look after him. It’s a personal choice and I have a lot of admiration for those that do breastfeed for longer, but for us the decision to switch to formula only was the best one. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make though – especially as there’s still a lot of guilt placed on those that don’t breastfeed. Being a mother has definitely helped me be more assertive and strong about my decisions though, something I’m hoping will apply to work too (I’ll also be using some of these tips from Hayley’s post).
On the freelance front, having a baby is a pretty great way to have an enforced break from things – and gain some clarity. When I can, I’ve been filling a notebook with lots of ideas I’ve got buzzing round my brain. While it’s tempting to start a few new projects, I’m trying to hold off and do a little more development and planning. I’m also using feeding times to listen to some audiobooks, including The Big Leap which is really opening my eyes to ‘upper limits’. I’d really recommend reading it if you feel like you sometimes self-sabotage when things get ‘too good’. In fact, I’m trying to apply the principles now as I feel very lucky with Oscar and keep expecting a big dose of bad luck to come along. Arguably I had that bad luck with the pregnancy and labour, so perhaps he’s the pay off? I know as his naps in the day start to decrease, it will get more challenging – but I’m also excited about the smiles, milestones and bundle of new experiences that come with it.
Do you have any recommendations for other great business reads/listens? Let me know in the comments!
So, that’s my first baby proper babble. I’ve got some more posts coming up soon which aren’t baby related, so don’t panic – I’m hopefully not going to become a total baby bore.
Are you a parent? What did it teach you about yourself? Did it help you develop any new skills?
Just a quick post today to introduce my baby son Oscar David Ward, who arrived on the 2nd July weighing 8.2lbs. So far, he’s been a brilliant baby, despite a tricky labour and pregnancy, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I’m adjusting to and enjoying these first few weeks (partly because he’s a pretty chill baby so far). It’s been lovely spending a few weeks off with Oscar and my husband, who has been fantastic.
I’ve got a few posts in the pipeline, ranging from maternity leave as a freelancer to cover while I cut back on work for a while and how to run a business in short bursts (which I’m currently calling ‘naptivities’)
But for now, I’m off to have a cuddle with this little chap!