This is a guest post
Self-Employment is a gift. It’s also a bit of a curse, especially when you’re working at home whilst also looking after a small child (or two). Now don’t get me wrong, I love being my own boss, but it’s honestly not without its pitfalls. I’ve been working for myself for the last three years and I’ve learned a few things about it along the way.
Primarily, it’s not a one-way ticket to mega-money. Far from it. You quickly begin to realise that the steady stream of income you were once used to in the days of paid employment is something you massively undervalued at the time. That said, the first time you make a sale or get paid for your services, no matter how small the amount may be – that payment is worth its weight in gold to you.
The sense of satisfaction you get from creating and implementing your own workload is fantastic. It just takes a lot of time to establish yourself as a self-employed business, rather than ‘a mam who sells crap on the side’. You’ve got to switch that mindset off when you’re in work mode, otherwise, your self-employed dream will soon come crashing down.
The biggest difficulty must be the juggling. It is way too easy to take on more than you can handle, to begin with, and all this while you’re being a parent at home too. It’s tough to multi-task effectively when you work from yourself, not least because of the level of self-discipline required to make yourself do work.
That’s the key thing here; self-discipline. All well and good in theory, but when you’ve got a four-year-old hanging off your leg because she wants you to go and do colouring in with her – you feel like utter crap for telling her that you’re working. Then you eventually cave in and go do the colouring, because you’re a parent above all else, right?
Here comes the controversial bit. Part of being that parent is being able to provide for your kids. That sometimes means sacrifice. I believe that those of us who work from home can often have a tougher job on their hands because of the guilt we feel about shutting the door on our children when they want our attention. But it has to be done. Not all the time, but for certain times in your week, you need to make your work a priority – otherwise how else will you support your children long-term?
It’s all well and good saying that they need your constant love and attention, but just because you’re committing yourself to working for three or four hours a day, you aren’t shutting them out. You’re trying to do what you can to build the funds to take them on a dream holiday or help them to afford their first car. Whatever it may be, your work is purposeful and valid; even though it might not feel like it when you’re internally freaking out about ignoring your kids. You need this time too – you’re your own boss now. So, boss yourself. You wouldn’t get away with putting your workload off till tomorrow if you were working for someone else, would you?
The juggling act is tough, which is why I really rate having a planner or wall calendar of some kind that’s visible to everyone in the house. I go through it at the start of each month and mark of the days that are going to be my ‘work days’. Obviously, this changes month on month – no one’s family life is as routine as they’d like! Mine in particular as I have to fit my work around my husband’s shifts and my daughter’s nursery schedule. But I make sure that I have at least two days in the week that I can allocate to ‘work’. The fact everyone can see it is important too. Those around you need to respect your working pattern as if you were going out to a job in the outside world. Just because you’re at your computer in the house doesn’t mean they can interrupt you.
Then there’s prioritising your actual work. I’ve started to do this with a bullet journal – in fact, I only started it yesterday but already I’ve found that setting five small tasks each day means that I’ve more chance of accomplishing them. The key is to not give yourself too much to do each day, otherwise, it becomes all-consuming and you inevitably end up procrastinating into nothing.
Set goals and give yourself a timeframe. For example, I have three hours between 9am-12pm in which to do writing-based tasks, as that’s when my daughter is at nursery. So, I allocate a morning slot to writing and give myself a little goal of 300 words. I’m on 812 so far. I have other roles that I need to juggle too, but again, plan them out and allocate a small timeframe for each one and you’re far less likely to get distracted.
Basically, my advice for those of us who struggle with the juggle is this; be kind to yourself, prioritise, remember why you’re doing it and actually boss yourself. Being self-employed is hard. It really is. You’ve got to make sacrifices. But the rewards are there if you’re willing to be disciplined and motivate yourself. So, what are you waiting for?
Ar is a freelance writer and artist who lives in the North East with her four-year-old daughter. She runs two businesses outside of her writing work and also plays rugby with her local women’s team. Currently writing her first book, you can find her at https://actualar.co.uk, or on Twitter and Instagram @actualwriting.