With a freelancing career, it is a constant challenge of trying to find new clients, managing the needs of existing clients, taking payments, chasing overdue accounts payable, and then doing it all over again.
Working from home, as most freelancers do, is always difficult because there is no boss looking over your shoulder to check whether you’re actually working or watching that “Epic Fail” newscaster video on YouTube. Freelancers also have the habit of working considerably longer hours than they ever did in their mainstream careers because they need enough billable hours to survive and prosper, but also need time to market their services, organize their business and so on. It is already a very tough juggling act, but adding family and kids into the picture while working from home doubles up on the fun… and the challenge!
One thing to be especially aware of is deadlines. Any freelancer with kids will find it increasingly difficult to meet the deadlines set by clients, yet balancing their home needs and client demands may be perhaps the toughest assignment. There is no easy answer for this. It is a constant balancing act, as it is for any deadline-led freelancer, but I would say the task increases in difficulty with children and so needs more attention.
For freelancers who have demanding clients who expect quick replies, it might be a good idea to have a smartphone or iPad mini available that you can carry around with you at all times. Along with a 4G LTE or 3G cell phone plan, this can ensure that you don’t miss important emails, Skype or other immediate messages from clients, while handing family matters away from your desk.
Dealing with Parents
The issue with parents is one that they cannot stop being the parent. Whether they have run their own business before or worked in your type of industry before, they will still most likely feel that they have many “contributions” that are worthy of adding to the conversation.
It is certainly worth listening to what a father or mother – or other extended family members – have to say about your occupation, business practices, pricing and so on, but you also have to know when to tell them to butt out. They are hardly impartial, and their advice however well meaning is not always the best.
Ultimately, if you do shut them down, then the only way they will leave you be is if you can you show them that you are doing well by bringing in a successful month. This does not mean you have to report your monthly income to them, but it might be a good idea to show that you are providing for your family through your business and therefore might… just… know what you are doing!
Dealing With Kids
When dealing with your kids while freelancing, that is a whole other deal. How you deal with your children will somewhat depend on their ages and maturity levels. I remember visiting my father at his office at a University where he taught. His shared office was was covered in papers, books, newspapers, and really looked a mess. It all looked very serious to me at a young, impressionable age, but what he did to make money was still a mystery to me afterwards.
With a baby, you really have to adjust your work schedule to their naps and around their feeding times. Babies need to be held & comforted, and until 6 months’ old they find it almost impossible to separate their own little bodies from that of their mother; for them it feels like one and the same thing.
Therefore with babies, it will be battle of sleepless nights, feeling tired and trying to get what you can done in the times when they are happily sleeping. A baby monitor will be in the home office with you or the baby will be set-up in the room. You also need to be very organized with what the baby will need, so you do not have to keep stopping work in order to make up more formula because you didn’t think to make it at the start of the day.
Depending on your type of work and how flexible or understanding your clients are, you can choose whether to tell them that you have just had a baby or that you have little ones at home. Many clients are inwardly focused (the polite way to put it) and find anything that may get in the way of their requested products or services a problem for them. It will be up to the individual freelancer to judge their clients, who should be told and who should not, and manage them accordingly.
For the under 5s, but out of the baby stage, they are extremely active and pretty noisy. Sometimes playful, other times demanding, they are a handful in need of constant attention.
It is a good idea to set up some things that they can play with for an hour, and not disturb you. Establishing routines early with young children is vital, as children need structure to learn how to behave in the world. With such routines in place, this carves out time for mommy or daddy to get some important work completed. Work will need to be completed in batches, and achieving deadlines will need to be planned carefully.
With kids between the ages of five and 10, they are capable of beginning to understand that mommy or daddy are working. They can be taught that kids go to school to learn things. Depending on how well they learn, they can get jobs and these give money for tasks performed. This money from work is then used to buy their food, their toys, their candy, and so on. Kids are smart and they can make the basic connections if given the chance to do so.
Depending on the maturity of the child, it is also possible to involve them in what you are doing for work. Often a parent will think that a child cannot possibly understand and so cannot help. But this is thinking in too basic a way. Often children will enjoy “helping” a parent with their work. This will make them feel more involved and may help them better understand that work does not always have to be an unhappy time where they do not see their parent for a long time.
The “helping” can be drawing a picture of the meeting that mommy or daddy will be going to tomorrow. For older kids, who are net-savvy, they can be given research tasks to find facts that you need in your work. They will not be fobbed off with pretend tasks, and will appreciate doing something real. You may even want to offer some payment or reward for their participation.
With teenagers, it is often easier to manage work and home life because quite often teenagers are living in their own head, want their own privacy and do not wish to be pestered by their parents.
The tricky balance with teenagers is to still spend time with them in a way that the young adult will find useful or supportive, without making them feel that their own choices are being taken away. Teenagers are especially protective of their own right to choose, as a sign that they are growing up into early adulthood. It is important to make them feel that you are still there for them and that they can come to speak with you when needed. This way they do not feel cut off.
Depending on individual young adult, they may wish to learn how you actually make money. However, they may not care to know and it should not be forced on them if they have no interest. For those that do wish to be involved in some way, it can be instructive to explain what you do, show them how you perform certain tasks, and to explain what you had to do to get to where you are today. In this way they can gain a useful sense of perspective that you didn’t get there in one day (perseverance and some risk-taking was involved) and that hard work does pay off if you keep at it. Important lessons that can go beyond what they are taught at school.