Around the country this week, parents have released a collective sigh of relief as their kids head back to school.
And for at-home copywriters trying to work around their little devils darlings, the sense of respite is even stronger.
But that joy isn’t without its pitfalls.
I’ve been working from home in school hours for four years now. And OMG, that school day is s.h.o.r.t.
Compared to the glory of long-day care where you could get eight or even 10 hours of work, there are only six hours between school bells.
Which makes building your copywriting business in school hours… erm, challenging.
Especially when those six hours seem to defy the laws of physics and tick by faster than any other time.
But fear not. You can build a successful copywriting business during school hours.
And in this post, I’ll tell you how.
Keeping it real (chaotic)
The key to productivity is organisation, focus and discipline. Right?
One thing I do know about fitting a copywriting business into the school day is that no two days are the same. That’s what makes it such a flexible job – fitting it around parenting life.
Here’s an example of a recent working day:
9.00 am: Drop kids off. Do a happy dance. Walk home.
9.30 am: Time for the essentials. And by that I mean make tea, do a wee and check important messages (okay, Facebook).
10:00 am: Okay, time for work. Research latest client blog post. (Insurance. Thanks for asking.) Panic at what I’ve learnt and the implications for my own life. Message husband to tell him about my new obsession.
10.47 am: Check emails. See notification from school – “Outbreak of head lice in year 3”. Ffffffruit loops. Spend next 30 minutes distractedly scratching own head.
11.00 am: Yay. I’ve written some headings and an outline for the blog post. Time to celebrate with another cup of tea. Remember I put a load of washing in the machine earlier while kettle is boiling. Go and hang that out while I think of witty introductions for the blog post. Laugh at own cleverness.
12.00 pm: Oh, look at that. It’s lunchtime. Yay. Except I packed the last of the good stuff in the kids’ lunch boxes. Grab a packet of rice crackers and a tub of hummus to eat al desko. Time for reading ‘educational’ content on Facebook and Twitter.
(Okay, okay. Commenting on some holiday pictures and getting caught up in the latest outrage. I can’t help it. It’s how I feel connected, okay?)
1.00 pm: Panic time. Only two hours until pick up and all I’ve written is half a blog post. Turn off all notifications, turn on Pomodoro timer, and knuckle down.
2.47 pm: I’m in the zone. The words are flowing, and I’ve written more in the past two hours than I have all day.
Blog post finished and sent to client. And I’ve got a cracking outline started for the website copy job I’m working on tomorrow. All that research and thinking time this morning has paid off, with the words flowing and the ideas falling into place. Feeling like a copywriting MACHINE that could keep going for hours.
But no, it’s time to frantically hit ‘Save’, grab my keys and run out the door.
3.10 pm: The bell rings and the kids run to me with happy faces. I’m feeling good about what I got done, and might do some emails over the afternoon in between activities and requests for food. (The never-ending requests for food…
Remind myself that I’m creating the flexibility for myself that I’ve craved in the past, and that makes the juggling worth it.
4.00 pm: Dash off a few emails on my phone while I’m cooking dinner and the kids are running around outside. See very interesting new enquiry and race to laptop to reply properly. Realise I’m burning dinner—whoops.
4.45 pm: Off to taekwondo. Research competitor sites for new project, saving relevant pages to Evernote.
6.15 pm: Home again. Feed the troops before running through the bath/story/bed routine.
8.00 pm: All kids are in bed. Contemplate a bit more work. Collapse on the lounge with a glass of wine and some Outlander instead.
Practical ways I make life work
You probably think I’m a chaotic disaster zone who doesn’t deserve to work with decent clients.
But I believe you can grow your copywriting business around your school-aged kids in the way that works for you.
For me there are two options.
- Option 1: You can have a super-strict schedule with time blocking, laser-sharp focus and military discipline. And sometimes that’s what I have.
- Option 2: You can ebb and flow with your energy, what your kids have on and what they need from you, and be more relaxed with your days.
As my youngest is starting school, right now I’m going with Option 2.
I need the flexibility to get her settled, do the unrushed drop off, and maybe even tackle the occasional session of volunteering in the classroom.
But whichever option you choose, you can:
- Keep your calendar up to date for everything—work, school, activities, socialising, etc. If it’s not in the calendar, it’s not happening.
- Create a to-do list that works for you. I love an old-school paper notebook, but there are also loads of digital tools such as Trello, Asana and Evernote.
- Have email on your phone (but turn notifications off). That way you can check messages and dash off quick replies in those little pockets of time during the day, such as when you’re waiting for the bell at pick-up time.
- Be proactive about managing deadlines. Managing deadlines and producing quality work is the one non-negotiable to a successful copywriting business. But that doesn’t mean you have to burn yourself out. Life happens, and good clients understand that. They just want to be kept informed. So if you won’t be delivering when you said you would, pick up the phone and work with the client to make new plans that suit everyone.
- Get a good support network for when you need that little bit of extra time. Play dates can be awesome for getting an extra couple of hours without losing time to school pick up.
- See if your child’s preferred after-school activities offer a pick-up service. If they have a friend who does the same activity, work with other parents to share drop-offs and pick-ups.
Remember to make time for you.
All work and no play makes for a burnt out copywriter with no creative juice left.
Eating properly, moving your body and finding time to relax is essential when you need to create for a living.
The days are short – but the years are shorter
Yes, the school day is infuriatingly short. And yes, it can be hard to grow a business around small humans.
But don’t worry. One day soon your sweet little primary school kid will be a moody teenager who barely grunts at you.
Stay in the game now, keep chugging away at your business, and be prepared for world domination once high school hits. It’ll be here before we know it. Pinkie promise.
Over to you
How do you fit your copywriting business into the school day?
Are you a super organised machine? Or are you more the fluid and flexible type?
Angela Denly is a freelance copywriter based on the northern beaches of Sydney. She’s a mum to two girls, the youngest starting school in 2018. Angela is looking forward to five days a week of copywriting madness!