When you’re a parent, freelancing can seem like the perfect amalgamation of your personal and professional lives. And the truth is, there are a lot of benefits that the lifestyle provides, such as saving on childcare costs and being able to work around a flexible schedule.
However, once you’re actually employed as a work from home (WFH) freelancing parent, there are several drawbacks to the situation that quickly become apparent. Avoiding distractions, staying productive, and generally balancing work and personal life can be difficult at the best of times. When things get rough and schedules become strained the entire affair can start to feel impossible.
If you’re a freelancing parent that is juggling childcare and work, here are a few tips to help you not only survive, but thrive as you simultaneously don the hats of caregiver and laborer.
Don’t Hide Your Kids
First and foremost, don’t try to hide your personal life from your clients. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to trot your kids out on every Zoom call or bring them along with you to work each day. However, if you try to hide that you’re parenting and working at the same time, sooner or later the cat is going to get out of the bag. And the thing is, that’s okay.
Sure, some clients will occasionally be weirded out by the parenting idea, but the overwhelming majority will respect your familial duties — and likely gush over your kids in the process. Often you’ll find that clients are parents as well, which inadvertently turns the knowledge of your own offspring into an endearing factor that only serves to increase your professional connection.
While you should never use your kids as a tool or a commodity in your freelance career, it’s equally true that you shouldn’t hide them, either. Be open and honest about your parental/professional duties. Chances are, it’ll take a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety off of your shoulders in the process.
Conquer Time Management
If you’re going to juggle kids and work, it’s essential that you master your time management skills. Even if you’re a naturally organized person, you may not be ready to handle the full brunt of both parental and professional responsibilities constantly fighting for your attention.
Particularly in the WFH-heavy post-coronavirus environment, it’s important to learn how to properly devote the correct amount of time to each duty as it arrives. You can do this by:
- Using productivity methods, like the Pomodoro Technique, to help you focus and get the most out of each work session that you have.
- Keeping a combined schedule that helps you track your child’s school, your work, bedtimes, extracurricular activities, and so on all in one, convenient location.
- Tracking how much time you and your kids spend in front of a screen — while it can be challenging, a meager one hour or less is recommended for children — to avoid too much blue light exposure.
As a parent and a freelancer, time is one of your most precious commodities. By taking control of and properly managing your time, you can ensure that you come through on all of your commitments — and that you don’t overcommit ahead of time, either.
Organization Is Key
Along with respecting and mastering time, it’s crucial that you stay organized throughout each day. With so many different responsibilities — work, school, eating, chores, and cleaning just to name a few — you must find ways to track and organize everything.
Start by considering the best way to organize your responsibilities in one convenient, easy-to-access location. Do you thrive with written lists? Apps? Mind maps? Once you’ve selected your tool of choice, gather your responsibilities, order them by priority, and then keep them updated. Creating a habit of reviewing your responsibility lists on a nightly basis or as part of your morning routine can help you remain fully aware of everything that is going on each day.
In addition, make sure that your work gear is all in one place, your child’s schoolwork remains easy to locate, and your home spaces stay in good, functioning order — or, at the least, try to do so as much as possible. You are a busy stay-at-home freelancer, after all.
Set Up Separate Spaces
Creating a separate space for your home office is an important aspect of thriving on the home front. The thing is, the concept should apply to your child as well — especially if they’re being homeschooled.
Take the time to identify the best areas in your home where both you and your child can focus on your responsibilities. This can be anything from an entire home office if you have a larger house to a corner of a bedroom if you have limited space to work with. Make sure to:
- Designate the space itself.
- Provide a good workstation.
- Ensure that there is plenty of lighting (both natural and artificial as needed.)
- Quality, comfortable seating.
- Organized and available school and work supplies.
If your homeschool and work areas are clearly delineated and set up for success, everything will function smoother on a daily basis.
Leave Room for Breaks
Finally, with so many balls in the air at once, it’s absolutely essential that you carve out some wiggle room in your schedule. By planning in occasional breaks throughout each day you:
- Provide yourself with a chance to catch a breather from time to time.
- Give yourself space to react to anything that might otherwise upset your schedule.
- Leave room for unexpected responsibilities or activities that may arise.
Breaks shouldn’t be treated as an unnecessary or extracurricular frill for a less busy life. On the contrary, they’re often the very glue that holds your entire schedule together and keeps it from falling apart under the stress of the exhausting and the unexpected.
Finding Success as a Freelancing Parent
Whether you’re temporarily out of work and simply looking to turn a passion into a side hustle or you’re a well-established veteran with a reputation, freelancing with kids is always a challenge.
However, if you take the time to set yourself up for success, you can turn a potentially stressful situation into one where both you and your child both survive and thrive.