Juggling freelancing, parenting and full-time work*
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about being an editor and freelance writer, and a few people have asked me how I manage to juggle everything…
I thought I’d share some of my tips on how I keep on top of everything, from time management and prioritising to finances and looking at small business loans.
Time management is key. Make a schedule and stick to it. I break my days into sections: Parenting; Editorial; Freelance; Blogging; Personal. I’ll work out roughly how much time I’ll need for each piece I’m working on, including research time, how much time I have with Dougie that day, if a piece needs photos etc. It’s so important to have designated ‘work’ time, especially when you are working from home. I personally work better under a bit of pressure, so I tend to set myself deadlines for at least a couple of days ahead of the real deadline.
If I find I’m struggling with a piece, no matter what it is, I set it to one side and have a break. Otherwise I find it feels forced and I just end up procrastinating and then realise how much time I’ve wasted. Freelancing and blogging is never going to be 9-5, but you need to have time for yourself as well.
Another aspect of time management I have to take into consideration is parenting. For the last few months, we’ve been in a good routine with Dougie, and he goes to bed at 6:30pm every night. From a work-perspective, this is great, as it means I can carry on working into the evening when I need to. When I’m looking after Dougie, I am 100% with him. I’m guilty of checking work emails while he’s around, but I couldn’t get my laptop out even if I wanted to as he immediately rushes over and bashes the keys around!
When I was freelancing full-time, I realised just how much of a difference my environment made. While I’m happy to sit on the sofa for blogging, I find I get distracted too easily by the TV or social media if I’m doing work. I sit at a table, with good lighting and I might have the radio or some music on, but I don’t have the TV on and I’ll put my phone away from me. We don’t really have a designated office space any more (we now call our office ‘Dougie’s room’) but if we move somewhere bigger, this will definitely be something I want.
My friend Hannah recommended an app to me called Forest, it helps you stay away from your phone – you plant a seed and set a time that you don’t want to use your phone for. During the time, the seed will grow into a tree, but if you leave the app, the tree dies. It’s a lovely, calming way to keep off your phone and I’ve found it brilliant to help me stay focussed.
I’m all about to-do lists. Each morning I run through what I need to do that day and I make a list, either on my phone or in my notebook that I can tick off. For me, deadlines are key, so I’ll initially order things based on when they are due. I’m in the fortunate position where I have a steady income and my freelance work is on the side of that, but I do hope to eventually make the move to full-time freelancing. With this in mind, I want to maintain good relationships with the brands I work with, and so making sure all work is completed on time is vital.
Once I’ve completed my editorial work for the day, freelance work is my next priority. For one company I work for, I’m often briefed for 2-3 pieces at a time, so I start with the one I think will take the longest, or that needs the most research. This way I can tell myself that once this is done, the easier pieces are next and then I’ll be finished!
Staying motivated can be really difficult. When I was freelancing full-time, or if I have a full day working from home, I stick to my routine. I get up, I shower and get dressed and ready for the day, rather than staying in pyjamas and having a lie in – not that this is possible when I have to take Dougie to nursery! Make sure you get some fresh air at some point in the day and take a break for lunch. I often give myself incentives: “I can make a cup of tea once I’ve finished this piece” or “Once I’ve written this article, I can read a chapter of my book” – I find things like this incredibly helpful.
When it comes to keeping on top of my finances, I have a huge spreadsheet (obviously all colour co-ordinated) and I have a folder on my laptop of every single invoice I have ever sent. I have a ‘Paid’ folder and an ‘Unpaid’ folder and I make sure I keep these up-to-date.
Keeping on top of finances is a huge, and often tedious part of freelancing. Before I began freelancing full-time, I made sure I had plenty of savings and some work lined up. The uncertainty can be very hard at times, and I looked at taking out a small business loan from somewhere like Boost Capital, which has a range of loans available, to help out with setting everything up.
When it comes to filing your tax return, which you need to do once you start making money, make sure you keep a log of everything you have done which has earned money. I try and stay as organised as possible with all invoices over the course of the year so I’m not in a frenzied, mad rush when the tax self-assessment return is due.
Do you work from home at all? What keeps you motivated?
*This post is written in collaboration with Boost Capital. All opinions are my own.