We all know that it’s tough being a parent and for many, working as a copywriter may seem like the dream job. So flexible, so relaxed. But how do copywriting parents really cope? In this week’s blog Bec Christensen gives her top 8 tips for for juggling freelance work and small children.
Take it away Bec.
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Okay, let me start by clarifying that when I say parents, I mean those who have taken on the job (by accident or design) of being the primary, stay at home carer of their offspring.
As well as this, you fancy earning a bit of dosh and using your brain for things other than impersonating an acorn becoming an oak on Play School. Male, female, doesn’t matter. You don’t even have to be a copywriter, although we are on a copywriting website. But, no matter. If on most days ‘the buck stops with you’ in terms of childcare, then this article is for you.
All of you lucky people who don’t get the first phone call when little Amelia runs a fever at day care, you may not find this relevant. Get back to work.
I’m a primary carer of 3 kids, 10 and under, and my husband works long hours in the city.
An accountant in my former life, I would rather eat a ball of my own hair than return to the drudgery of debits and credits (although I’m happy to write about them). I became a copywriter just after my third child was born (she is 6). I did a course, wrote a lot, read a lot and backed myself. I am a professional procrastinator who still manages to make dosh from freelancing. Just give me a deadline.
While your kids are small, make the most of sleep time
It’s really hard to bang out a meaningful article or a sensational Home page with a grumpy two-year-old on your lap.
Trust me, I’ve tried.
Be ready for when they go down, to rush to your computer and start working. Embrace the mystery of not knowing if they are going to sleep for an hour, or three and just beetle on with it.
Have a day off
I recommend having a day (at least) every week to do shopping, run errands etc, leaving the other days clear to focus on your business. Alternatively do your house related stuff in the mornings and work in the afternoons. The more systematic you can be, the better for your productivity.
Don’t wait for time to find you
It never will. There will be many times you’ll simply have to leave the washing, or the folding or the grocery shopping undone while you work. If you have a deadline, THAT is your priority. It’s easy to use housework as an excuse to avoid the computer, I even use it to cover up my fear of doing a bad job by feigning ‘busyness’. Sooner or later you’re going to have to do the work. So just do it.
Compartmentalise your brain
Possibly the hardest of all. When you are working, you must try REALLY hard not to worry about whether your three year old is festering chicken pox, or whether your 18-month-old is ever going to say a word other than NO or if your 10-year-old made the soccer team.
You have to think about WORK. The next paragraph, the next phone call, the next webpage.
Get over the guilt
Being able to work from home and choose your own hours is one of the advantages freelance copywriting holds for a parent with young kids.
Yes, there will be times when you must work and can’t give them the attention they are clamouring for.
This should not be cause for guilt or angst. Drop them to a friend for a play, or give them a couple of hours in occasional care. They are fine. And if you’ve been working all day and taking them to activities all afternoon, a dinner of beans on toast or sushi isn’t going to kill anyone.
Top Tip: I have on a few occasions in the school holidays, put my kids in front of the TV for the ENTIRE day while I finished an urgent job. I called it a pyjama day and they thought it was awesome.
Plan your week
And then plan some more. Make sure you’re leaving enough time not just to write, but to invoice, prepare quotes, take briefs and make phone calls. Include time for exercise and coffee with friends so you don’t go bonkers. You may wish to factor in any volunteering (canteen, reading groups) and of course, kids extracurricular activities.
A great website resource for planning with kids is (surprise!) Planning with Kids. Nicole Avery has five children, a thriving blog she has seriously monetised and seems to keep it all together.
Let your friends and family know you’ll be working
If you’ve been a stay at home mum for a few years while your kids are babies, you might have to change some of your close friends’ and family’s expectations of your availability.
Quality friends and rellies will accept this (they may even offer babysitting) but you may have to be firm with a few who still think you’re free for lunch every Friday regardless. Alternatively, take Friday off and have lunch, damn it.
As your business grows, grow with it
If you work hard, market hard and attract a few regular customers, your workload will increase accordingly (along with your income). Don’t try to achieve your increased project commitments with the same amount of time. Use some of the extra income to put your smaller kids into care once a week or consider a nanny. You could do a swap with another parent. And never forget, car pools are your friend.
Forget the word balance, because that would indicate that you are in control.
You are not. Once you have children you are never in control again.
You will never achieve perfect organisation (unless you are Nicole Avery and it’s her job).
You will, however achieve the satisfaction of having satisfying and (hopefully) lucrative work while caring for your children.
This is gold. And better than perfect balance. Give yourself a break and enjoy your new career as a freelance copywriter.
The final word
Due to a blip on the space/time continuum the hours between 9 and 3 during school term pass by significantly faster than any other 6 hour period at any other time. This is the truth. No, it really is.
Bec Christensen from The WordSmith Copywriting has personal experience of wrangling three tiny children while being a freelance copywriter. She knows how to engage your customers by writing about the best bits of your business.
Bec loves words and writing and chocolate. Not always in that order, but mostly.