May 2, 2021
You’re a parent of young children, and you’re ready to break into the world of freelancing. You’ve set up your portfolio, your Fiverr or Upwork profile is ready to go, and maybe you’ve even started to promote yourself on social media. Your first project comes in, and you’re ready to tackle it with everything you’ve got… but then, from across the room, you hear little footsteps scurrying over to you in a hurry “MOM, I’M HUNGRY!” your eldest cries. You get up, fix them a snack, and sit back down so you can get started on your work. The moment your fingers touch the keyboard, “MA MA MA MA,” your youngest cries, as they try to climb on your chair and take over your work.
Yes, I’ve been there. Working at home with young kids can seem impossible. Between caring for them, keeping them entertained, cooking, cleaning, and the endless loads of laundry, how can you find the time? I am here to tell you that it is possible. I’m also here to tell you that it’s not going to be a walk in the park. But with a little dedication and the willingness to develop new habits, you absolutely can do it.
Now you’re thinking, “okay, but how?” so here are my 5 tips on how to freelance as a parent of young children:
- Get Organized
Between work and your kids, you’ll have a lot of tasks to manage every day. Whether you use an app like asana or notion, or prefer a paper planner, you will need to write down every task so that you can stay on top of your priorities. Personally I use and swear by the Bullet Journal Method. It’s a simple system: every day you write down a specific number of tasks to complete, check off the ones you complete, and move the ones you didn’t over to the next day. You repeat this each day, and it helps you prioritize your deadlines, and you’ll realize if you’re repeatedly putting off any specific task, so you can either decide it’s not important and remove it from your list, or reprioritize it so that you get it done first.
- Time Blocking
Now that you have your tasks written down for the day, it’s time to figure out when you can accomplish them. This is a good time to be honest with yourself about how much you can take on and what time of day works best for you. Personally, I am a night owl. I envy any human who functions at 100% at 6 am, but I’ve come to accept that’s not me. I get all my work done during the midday and evening hours. I work during the day when my husband is around. If he’s not available to take care of the kids during the day, I wait until after the kids are in bed, and then I go straight to my office to work until midnight. I personally use google calendar to create time blocks for when I plan to work, and I plan this around my husband’s schedule. If you don’t have a spouse, I recommend getting help from any family or friends willing to watch the kids for you so you can get some work done. As a freelancer, you have the advantage of flexibility, so base your schedule on the times that you can get childcare help.. I developed my time blocking method by combining the productivity systems from Jordan Page and Jules Acrees.
- Be honest about the amount of work you take on
Whether you’re happy with freelancing part-time or you want to go full-time, you need to be honest about how much you can take on. If you over book yourself with client work and can’t deliver, you will end up stressing yourself out and disappointing your clients, and that leads to less work. Only take on what you can handle, and adjust as you grow, which brings me to my next tip:
- Delegate household tasks by outsourcing
The more time you spend on household tasks, the less time you’ll have to dedicate to growing your business. As your business grows, you may be able to dedicate some of your new earnings to free up your time so you can work more. Budgeting is essential for any freelancer. Determine how much you’re willing to spend on outsourcing a household task, and choose what is right for you. Personally, I hate food shopping and planning dinners. I am not a natural born chef like my mom—I can’t make a gourmet dinner out of leftovers, I am just not that crafty in the kitchen. I benefit greatly from ordering meal kits, and my choice is Everyplate. It’s cheap, easy, delicious, and I only go food shopping once a month to buy bulk from BJ’s. Figure out what you can afford to outsource and remove one of those tasks from your to-do list.
Finally, my last essential tip:
- Have a dedicated work space
Having a space where you can get your work done in peace and quiet away from Cocomelon and Paw Patrol is crucial. Is there a room in your house that you can turn into an office? If not, try to find a space where you can set up a desk, close the door and unplug from parenthood, even if it’s just a corner of your bedroom. Having a dedicated work space helps you mentally plug into your work. If you’re constantly trying to work from your couch, you’ll be tempted to watch TV. If you’re working from your kitchen table, you’ll be tempted to snack or distracted by family walking around. Separate yourself from these distractions and set up boundaries that let your family know that when you’re in the office you must not be disturbed. Daddy is perfectly capable of getting you a cup of water too!
Freelancing is a great way for parents to make an income from home with a schedule they can set up around their life. It has afforded me the ability to do what I love from home on my own terms, on my own time, while raising my family. It won’t always be easy, but I believe if you implement these methods into your everyday life, you will be able to accomplish whatever you set your mind to.
Alayna Quiles is a Freelance Branding & Web Designer, as well as a mother of two, based in NJ. She is a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, where she helps businesses get more customers through strong brand development and beautiful web design that tells a story. Visit Alayna’s website here!