• Advice

How to make it as a freelancer: Lessons from a single parent

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Before I ventured into freelancing, I had a varied career in information technology, stay-at-home motherhood, and ultimately creative agencies. I have business experience, including business-to-business/B2B sales, marketing, accounting and human resources, but never had the intention to be a solopreneur.

Divorce and single parenthood changed everything and put my career as a mom before everything else. I decided that my time with my children was far too important.

Little did I know that my previous career experience would so perfectly set me up for where I am now. Coincidentally, I now write or ghostwrite for clients about freelancing, including the challenge of getting paid on time. I regularly research best practices to improve my own business as well as helping others.

I’ve experienced tough challenges freelancing but have also learned valuable and shareable tips to solve them.


As a single mom and business owner, I have had my fair share of overwhelm. I am heavily involved in volunteer efforts at both of my daughters’ schools and I pride myself on staying present on whatever I’m doing. I’ve found the only way to battle the overwhelming racing thoughts, and actually get to sleep at night, is to stay organized.

When I went out on my own as a freelance writer, I invested in tools to help track my business expenses and my time. I’d frequently been one-person departments at previous jobs, so I had a few software programs I was already comfortable using. I also knew that I’d need monthly calendar reminders to invoice clients, enter payments, pay bills, and filing to clear off my desk. I live and die by my Google calendar and the other cloud-based tools available to keep my notes available to me at all times.

Losing focus

Type A personalities (like myself) strive to be the best at everything we do. I had to give up trying to juggle it all as soon as I signed the paperwork on my first house as a single mom of two toddlers. There was no way to keep things under control if I did everything. If I kept my house spotless at all times, it took away from other fun activities I preferred to enjoy with my children.

I’ve discovered the same with my business.

One of the best things I’ve done for myself is hire outside help. Hiring a CPA, for instance, relieved the stress of tax time and allowed me preferred focus on my clients and my home life. If I’ve learned anything from the small business owners I work with, hiring someone else to do the things you’d rather not do is ideal. It allows free time to focus on business growth or simply enjoying it as I always planned when I decided to become an independent worker.

Not getting paid on time

One of the most frightening things about freelancing was getting paid. Working for someone else, I’ll admit, I was spoiled by twice-monthly direct deposits that I could depend on. Now it was up to me to ensure my clients understood what they owed and would pay on time.

My former business experience taught me the importance of written agreements. Thankfully, I have a great network of entrepreneurial friends who offered guidance on proposals, pricing, and invoicing.

I also learned more about why freelancers don’t get paid by ghostwriting for a commercial collections agency that works with freelancers and small business owners, Enterprise Recovery LLC..

In 2015, Freelancers Union surveyed 5,000 freelancers and found that 71% have trouble getting paid at some point in their careers. Most were paid late, and some weren’t paid at all. As someone entering the freelance market, these numbers are terrifying. I didn’t realize that there were red flags that could signal non-payment early in the sales process.

I didn’t know that freelancers don’t have any labor laws to protect them, with the exception of New York City’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act.

I also didn’t realize freelancers who are having trouble getting paid could use agencies, like Enterprise Recovery, for commercial collections at no cost unless they collect on your behalf. Knowing these things has empowered me, as a solopreneur, and it’s good to know that someone has my back. As women and mothers, it’s vitally important for us to realize that we’re worth getting paid on time and to ask our clients to respect our time.

After nearly five years on my own, I am fortunate to work with some fantastic long-time clients, including a few that I would now consider friends. I didn’t have a long-term plan to be a freelance writer. I was simply driven by the nature of motherhood–work and earn money so that my children and I could live a comfortable life.

I’m thankful that I’ve learned a few things along the way. I also continue to appreciate that I’m in the right place, working with the right people too.

As a freelance writer and mother with over 20 years experience in corporate America, Tonya Cauduro writes on a variety of topics from business to health to parenting. Her writing portfolio can be found here.