Freelancing When The Kids Are Around

I wrote a blog entry for James Lambert Consulting on how I balance working from home with children about.

Here it is…

The days when businesses wouldn’t accommodate their employees who were parents are long past. Now companies offering flextime and work-at-home options. Meanwhile more and more professionals are choosing the freelancing life so they can work and stay home with their kids.

It’s tough working from home when you are a parent – having to focus on your job along with your responsibilities as a parent. But these are not necessarily in conflict, even if they were once viewed that way. That companies are offering flextime to men and women is a sign that attitudes towards parents, and especially mothers, in the workplace have changed. It’s now OK to be a professional and an at-home parent at the same time.

Working at home means I get to spend afternoons with my kids but it also means I have to make the space and time to get client work done. I’ve been a freelancer for ten years and during that time my kids grew from small children to teenagers. Since I’m home and their mother works out of the house, much of the day-to-day responsibilities that come with parenting have fallen to me.

Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

1. It’s called Flextime for a reason.

Throw 9 to 5 out the window. This is true for a lot of freelancers, parents or otherwise. I’m an early riser so sometimes the workday starts at 6:00 AM. I find at that hour I can get a great deal of writing for clients done.

Of course this doesn’t mean you should be taking phone calls at 9 at night. It means you can and should adjust your schedule to accommodate your work and your parenting responsibilities.

2. Set boundaries

Speaking of taking calls at 9pm, as freelancers we know we need to set boundaries with our clients and ourselves. So as parents we need to separate our workspace and time from family space and time.

If your kids are old enough, make sure they understand that when you are working, you’re working and unless it’s an emergency (I tell my kids only if their heads are on fire), you need to be left alone to work.

And even if your office is a desk in the corner of the living room, it’s only to be used for work, not watching videos or doing homework. Note – this will also keep the IRS happy.

3. Work anywhere.

WiFi is ubiquitous. Coffee shops are obvious but you can also find a place to work and a decent connection in the lobby of a gymnastics studio, dance school or karate dojo. It’s even easy to find an electrical outlet.

If you have time until the class is over, find a place to sit, open your laptop and get to work.

4. Realize there are others like you

Countless times I’ve been in the lobby of my kids’ karate studio, plugging away at client work, when I notice other parents, laptop open and hard at work. It tells me that what I do isn’t that unusual today and will probably be more commonplace in the near future.

I’m sure if you are on the same path as I am, you’ve discovered a few things too.
With a few small sacrifices and changes in the way you work, you can give 100% to your clients and your kids.