Freelancing and parenting seem like a natural pair: like peanut butter and jelly, crayons and construction paper, or Play-Doh and a new carpet.
It’s also true that – while both pursuits are very rewarding – they can also be challenging and exhausting.
We asked a few ‘freelance parents’ how they juggled the demands of freelancing and parenting, and how the freelance lifestyle can benefit both parents and kids.
Here are 5 of their top tips to achieve Freelance Parent Success:
1. Take advantage of flexibility
One of the best parts of being a freelance parent? The freedom to set your own schedule. Being your own boss means that you can determine your own professional and personal priorities – and that can vary from day-to-day.
Freelance editor / writer Erin Brenner (www.righttouchediting.com) told us, “I love that I can be there for my kids when they need me. I don't worry about missing work due to sick days or snow days. I don't have to ask anyone's permission to go sledding or bake cookies! My work adjusts to the life I want to lead.”
2. Find your balance
Freelance web hosting business owner / WordPress consultant Nedra Rezinas (check out some of her work at bluedeerforest.com) acknowledges that juggling your obligations can sometimes be challenging: “I've been working for myself before I had my daughter, so I tend to think of my business as a child. I get torn between working and playing with [her] sometimes. I think that's normal and you find ways to shuffle and make it work, depending on deadlines and emergencies.”
Odds are that you’ve got a To-Do (or Would-Do-Given-A-Moment-To-Breathe) List a mile long. Try to handle the things you need to do first, and then work your way down.
Says Rezinas, “Plan out times when you know you can have at least an hour or two to focus and get work done. Turn off your phone, Facebook, and other distractions when you have time to work so you can be as productive as possible.”
3. Be realistic (you don’t have to be Superdad or Supermom)
Especially in today’s hyper-tuned-in parenting world, it’s easy to feel like you’re slacking if your kids aren’t eating 100% organic vegan gluten-free meals and using Tolstoy flash cards in their spare time – all while you run a powerhouse business.
Don’t try to be perfect; that’s the path to burnout. It’s okay for the kids to chow down on takeout sometimes, and it’s okay to quote clients a slightly longer turnaround time in order to cover any ‘surprises’. Forgive yourself slipups at the end of the day. Try to plan for Clark Kent’s - rather than Superman’s – agenda.
“Set goals, but be prepared for them to take longer than you expect,” says Rezinas.
4. Remember that it’s okay to get support
Both Brenner and Rezinas emphasized the importance of finding support – whether within the family, or externally. Brenner, who has children in middle school, says: “The balance was harder when they were younger. We often hired mother's helpers to give me some quiet time. Life got a lot easier when my husband took a job that let him work from home two to three days a week. We share the childcare between us, supporting each other's work needs.”
Rezinas also recommended that parents find other freelance parents to connect with – there are lots of you out there! Check out one of our Freelancer Happy Hours or community classes, make a friend on our Facebook page, or see if there’s a Meetup in your area. Remember, you’re not alone.
5. Make time for you!
Freelancers, in general, are busy people – and freelance parents are some of the busiest people around.
The best piece of advice we gathered from our freelance parents? Make time for yourself, just as you would schedule time for an important client. Your ‘you time’ doesn’t have to be constructive, or even productive; you may need time to take a nap, or read, or just sit and stare at a wall and think of nothing for a half-hour or so.
Brenner’s advice to freelance parents concurs: “The most important advice I can give is to not work every available minute of the day. It's tempting to let parenting and working become your entire life, especially when you worry about the feast-or-famine cycle. You want to squeeze in every bit of work you can while the kids are sleeping or otherwise engaged. But you can't be a good parent or a good business owner if you don't refresh yourself. Be a good role model for your kids by taking care of yourself!”
One of the best things about being a freelance parent is the example you’re setting for your kids; you’re right in front of them every day, showing them that they can pursue their dreams and make their own path. And we bet that those days, as Rezinas told us, are “never boring!”
So keep on keepin’ on, freelance parents – you’re an inspiration!