A few months ago, I wrote a piece for Underpinned all about maternity leave when you’re self-employed. At that point, I was full of optimism about embarking on motherhood and keeping up with my freelance writing career: after all, unlike most of my friends, I wouldn’t need childcare, I could whip out my laptop as soon as my baby drifted off to sleep and there’d be no need to feel the dreaded ‘mom guilt’ since when he would be awake, I could give him my full attention.
And for the first few weeks, that’s what happened. My baby boy slept and I was inspired; having more ideas than ever before. Until, it quickly became apparent that sleeping twenty hours a day is only confined to a very short period of time and suddenly, babies are constantly awake and work gets done one sentence at a time; in between spurts of crying (you and them!) feeding and nappy changing.
But being a freelance parent can still be an ideal solution for you and your family and luckily, there are plenty of resources and support networks to help you make it work. I turned to the internet to ask freelance parents for their tips, as well as uncovering new initiatives to help make parenting and self-employment go hand in hand.
Start with a good working space
You might think working next to your baby’s crib is perfect but cabin fever will set in and co-working spaces provide a welcome change of scenery. Thankfully, there are options that mean you don’t have to commit to traditional childcare. For example, Cuckooz Nest is a pay-as-you-go Ofsted-registered nursery in Clerkenwell that also offers a dedicated co-working space. Whilst Farm Work Play is set on a working farm in Favesham; offering your little ones the chance to learn in the fresh air whilst you get to work. This guide to child-friendly co-working spaces by Doing it for The Kids is an invaluable resource.
If there’s not a suitable space nearby, get creative. “Check your local leisure centre. Mine has a creche intended so mums can go for a gym session but you can put baby in the creche and go and work in the cafe—perfect if you can’t afford huge childcare bills,” shares Emily Davies, writer and mum of two.
Look for online support
If getting out of the house with a new baby seems impossible, you can still connect with fellow freelancers. Join in with Doing it for the Kids a thriving online community for freelance parents—complete with facebook group and podcast. Milkinbizz is a new virtual coworking space that launches next month; aiming to replicate all the benefits of coworking from your living room—with members logging on and chatting virtually as they work, along with joining in with monthly events.
Got no hands spare during night feeds? Why not download a podcast for some company? “As my hands are often full, I can’t spend loads of time researching online or typing. I have done lots of my learning by listening and podcasts,” explains Sarah Billingham, a special needs teacher who runs confidentkids.co. Try The Juggle is Real, The Digital Mum’s Podcast, Doing it for the Kids and Starting the Conversation.
Be realistic and try to adapt
Self-employed folk tend to be highly motivated and determined but it’s okay if parenthood throws your business plan off course a little or slows things down.
“I think having realistic expectations is really important” advises Laura Baker, who runs Tribe Copywriting. “When I had my son in 2016, he napped a lot and I had loads of time. Child number 2 was not a napper and although I have set up my business, I’m not really as far along as I hoped to be. I’ve learnt not to beat myself up about it though!”
Given freelancing can be so sporadic, we can sometimes be quick to accept any work offered to us for fear a dry spell is around the corner. Yet think carefully before taking big projects on. It’s far better to be honest and scale back from the beginning rather than promising something you end up not delivering on.
Remember your financial entitlements
Remember that if you choose to pause your freelance business, there is financial help out there for the first 39 weeks of motherhood. You can claim maternity allowance – £148.68 a week in most cases – whilst still working up to ten keeping in touch days to allow your business to tick over. Most people also apply for child benefit of £20.70 too.
Should you find yourself stumbling upon a rare free moment, why not give these guides to freelancing and parenting a read?
1. The Freelance Mum by Annie Ridout:
Annie draws on her experiences as a freelance journalist and chats about everything from setting your rates to using social media; as well as drawing on anecdotes from lots of successful freelance moms such as Sali Hughes and Ariana Huffington.
2. Successful Mumpreneur by Debbie Gilbert:
For those looking to transition from employment to freelancing, Debbie provides an invaluable guide to getting started and working around your family. Littered with the stories of real-life moms who make self-employment work for them, it covers topics such as business plans, marketing and accounts.
3. Positive Wellbeing Zine:
Taking care of your mental health is key to successfully balancing parenting and freelancing. This beautifully presented zine makes things a little easier.
4. Mumboss: The Honest Mum’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving at Work by Vicki Psarias:
Successful mom blogger Vicki started her business on maternity leave and shares her top tips on helping you do the same.
Sadly, there’s no magical solution to sleepless nights or being able to perfectly type with one hand whilst rock your baby with the other, but hopefully, these tips will make your transition to freelancing with a baby go that little bit smoother!