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I did it!
I can proudly say I’ve made it past my first year as a full-time freelancer (plus two months!). Hallelujah!
This is quite an accomplishment, especially from a worry-wart like myself. I’m one of those people that worries about things before they even happen. You can imagine how much I’ve stressed over whether quitting my full-time teaching job was a good move or not. Then, once I did, I constantly worried if I’d be able to keep a steady stream of writing clients going to support my family.
I’m a single mom, guys. The thought of my clients dropping my services terrified me. (Okay, it still does, but not as much.)
The truth is that owning your own business is scary. Freelancing is unpredictable. There are a million things that could go wrong. But, I’m happy to say that in my first year of being a full-time freelancer mom, I’ve had a lot of success.
Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
Working from Home with Kids Ain’t Easy (But It’s the Best Thing Ever)
Nope. Definitely not. It’s almost impossible.
In fact, I encourage anyone who works from home to get daycare, if possible. I just know that it’s not possible for everyone financially or logistically. It wasn’t an option for me, so my 4-year-old son was home with me when he wasn’t in preschool for a few hours a week.
Try working with a kid on your lap. Or a sick kid who wants to snuggle (I can’t resist). Or, even a kid who begs you to play “ONE MORE TIME, MOMMY!” (again, can’t resist!).
It’s tough, but I learned to deal with it. I loved having my son home with me and made the choice to work from home because of my kids. There was no way I was going to take it for granted.
So, I started waking up super early in the morning and working before he woke up. I promised him, every day, that we’d have a long lunch break together. We’d eat our lunch, read some books, go to the park, or take a walk. I’d also take a couple of mini-breaks through the day to play a game or give a snuggle. We learned to adapt together.
And, guess what? Now that he’s a big boy in kindergarten, I totally miss having him glued to my side.
You Absolutely Have to Be Adaptable
I knew before starting a freelance writing business that the job would give me more flexibility than I’d ever had at work. What I didn’t realize was how much flexibility I’d have to give to the job.
If you’re not able to adapt, you won’t cut it as a freelancer. I’m not kidding.
Sometimes, you’ll need to work on Saturday to finish up a project that you thought you’d have done by Friday afternoon. Maybe your kid gets sick at school and you have to lose half a day’s work to pick her up and bring her to the doctor. Or, there could always be that inevitable Wi-Fi or computer failure that happens at the worst possible moment.
Crap happens. It’s part of the job.
I don’t necessarily love being under time crunches, but it happens sometimes. I’m such a stickler with deadlines and I love planning things out. But, I learned that you just can’t plan everything as a freelancer.
I always suggest to people just starting out in the freelance world to give themselves an extra day or two for every project. Never, ever plan anything without some leeway. It’s when you do that, that something unexpected will happen and you’ll need more time.
Unplugging is Crucial to Your Sanity
I work so that I can provide for these two. They deserve my full attention, and I deserve some downtime.
As a full-time freelancer mom, I quickly learned that I couldn’t stay glued to my computer and phone all day.
It seriously stressed me out getting constant email and Skype notifications. Just like a real job, I realized that it’s necessary for me to stop working when it was time to stop working.
As a freelancer, you need to make boundaries. Give yourself a schedule if you need to. I usually work between 5 AM and 4 PM. After that, it’s time for me to help my kids with homework, make dinner, go to dance practice, etc. The evenings are for me and my children, not work.
I even started silencing my phone after 4 PM so that I wasn’t tempted to answer emails or hop on a Skype chat. Once I realized that I deserved downtime, free from my computer and phone screen, it was much easier to unplug.
You Should Never Stop Marketing Yourself
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a steady stream of clients come my way without doing much marketing. But, I’m one of those people that believe that as soon as you stop marketing yourself, that’s when you’ll find yourself in a pickle.
Realistically, freelancing clients can drop you at any time after your contract is over. And, even if a contract is in action, there’s no guarantee your client will adhere to it.
I never saw myself as “safe” during my first year of freelancing. I still don’t, even thought I have some incredible clients that I work with. You just never know when something will come up on their end that affects their budget or content needs.
So, I market myself. I continue to look for more amazing clients to work with. And, I network with other freelance writers in Facebook groups. Part of the business is getting your name out there, after all.
About two months into my time as a full-time freelancer mom, I realized that marketing took up a good chunk of my work time. I started setting aside time for it every week, just as I did with my writing projects. That helped keep me on task with writing and marketing more efficiently. The more I got myself involved with networking groups and my own website, the less time I had to spend on marketing. It semi-automates itself after a while.
Still, I don’t stop doing it. I still set aside a few hours per week for marketing tasks, whether it’s updating my blog, posting in groups, tweaking my portfolios, or pitching clients. I see it as a must-do for future career security, which is crucial to me as a mom.
I’ve learned so much from my first year of working from home and balancing my new career with mommyhood. The lessons I mentioned here are just some of the most important things freelancing has taught me that I believe can help other mamas just starting out.
Feel free to fire away with any questions you have for me in a comment below! I’m glad to help.
Are you a full-time freelancer? Do you have some tips you’d like to share with other readers? Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and keep the conversation rolling! Also, if you’re interested in contributing your freelancing story, I’d love to hear it. Click here to submit a guest post!
Amy is a mom of two, freelance writer, and blog manager who works with family-focused businesses to improve their content strategies. You can find her published work on Reader’s Digest Online, MSN, Niche, Frugal For Less, and other lifestyle publications.