Parenthood changes a lot of things, especially your career.
Your child becomes the focus of your life. That’s the way it should be, but it can be hard to keep your freelance business running while looking after your child’s daily (and hourly) needs.
Your work hours shrink from double digits to singles. You’re exhausted all the time, but you’re not earning any extra. Less, in fact — much less.
This is the same dilemma I faced when my daughter was born. She’s adorable and I love her to bits, but in between tantrums, feedings, chores, and the constant fear that she’d hurt herself right that very second if I didn’t pay attention, there wasn’t much time left for anything else.
I started falling behind with work, and my balance sheets were suffering. If something didn’t change, I was going to have to start choosing which bills to pay and which to leave “for later”.
Once my initial panic settled (it took a while for that to happen, to be honest), I took stock of my situation and realized I had to make some serious changes to the business. Here’s how I made parenting work for me as a freelance blogger.
If you want to maximize your time, you need to be ruthless about how you spend it.
When your baby’s taking a nap, which would be more valuable to you: working on your client’s website, or watching an episode of The Walking Dead?
I used to waste time puttering around Facebook. Now, I have to make every second count, whether it’s doing research, marketing the business, or —toddler willing— actually writing.
It helps to create to-do lists in advance (whether written or mental) so that you can jump right in the moment you’re free.
I haven’t yet perfected the art of making lists and sticking to them, but I’m making a damned good effort. I’m also using a modified version of the Pomodoro method to help keep myself focused.
Make Bigger Bucks in Less Time
The less time you have, the more valuable it is. That’s why your rates should scale accordingly. You have a family to support, and you can’t do it by sticking to the same dismal fees you were charging before.
As an exercise, figure out how much you need to make in a month to cover your living expenses (and then some), and divide it by the number of hours you can afford to work in a month. That’s a good basis for your new hourly rate.
You should also be pickier about your clients. High-maintenance customers are now a non-starter. I just don’t have the time to hold their hand, and neither should you. The same should apply to clients who low-ball you, or ones that try to sneak in additional work for free.
I’ve also had to shift to low volume, high paying article markets instead of high volume, low paying ones. One successful article pitch at a decent magazine is worth a dozen “daily drudge” blog posts, can be completed much faster, and is more interesting to write!
And don’t be afraid that you’re not worth it. I had this irrational fear that I couldn’t charge as much for my services as other freelancers with scads of experience. But my child made the decision for me, so I raised my rates —and was surprised that I could actually get away with it. I’m now earning more for fewer hours.
Learn to Say No (To Everything)
As a working parent, you’ll have more things to do than time to do them in. If you want to stay sane and productive, you have to learn how to tell people “no”.
This includes clients, friends, your spouse, and yourself. It’s hard, but it has to be done if you’re going to be effective at both parenting and freelancing. While multitasking might seem like you’re getting a lot of things done, it actually just leads to lots of mistakes.
For myself, I’ve had to learn to compartmentalize my time. This means no smartphones or computers during family time, and no interruptions during work time. Although things bleed over once in a while, I’m still able to focus on whatever I’m supposed to be doing, and the results have been better for it.
The Best of Both Worlds
You can have a viable freelancing career while being a great parent at the same time. The key is knowing just how valuable your time is, and finding clients who know it, too. This is not a pipe dream. It’s totally achievable if you market your business properly and deliver high quality work.
And the beauty of it is that as your child grows more independent and you start getting back more of your time, you can keep your rates at the same high level or maybe even increase them!
Are you a freelance writer and parent? How do you juggle the two responsibilities? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.
Image: Out Of Chicago