How to manage the school holidays…

…and still have a good time!

I don’t know about you but the forthcoming school holidays always fill me with joy and dread. Joy that I get to spend time with my gorgeous girl but dread because I still need to find time to work.

Mum and Daughter

Full disclosure – I take a financial hit during the holidays. I’m not truly working – instead I reduce my hours massively and take on new projects that start in September. I posted about how I save before the holidays in this post and I’m currently beavering away to try and set up work from September.

I do this because I never want to feel torn between choosing work over time with my daughter. I am really LUCKY that I can do this because of my freelance lifestyle. My work tends to be on a project by project basis. I’m not forgetting this and we all know the benefits AND the negatives of a freelance gig but it is a choice I am currently choosing to make.

So during the holidays I do:

Working on the move
  1. Check my email – everyday and I answer anything pressing from my phone.
  2. Work for an hour every morning and in the evening.
  3. Check in with clients – wish them a happy summer or just remind them that I’m ready to start in September
  4. Network through meeting with ex-colleagues for a drink or coffee when I’m child-free.
  5. Plan a day every fortnight when I am child-free and can binge on work stuff/admin
  6. Revise any plans/goals for the Autumn
  7. Assess my financials – where am I in invoicing/earnings.

I can thoroughly recommend that you have a look at the article here by Skills you need website.

How to be freelance

 

Freelance life

Hello! I’ve had a few messages asking me about how to become freelance whilst working limited hours. (I love how 9 to 3 is consider ‘limited’ btw…) So if you are thinking of taking the leap into freelancing, then here are a few practical thoughts:

Photo of Laura working from homeKnow yourself – are you a highly motivated person? Can you work to self-imposed deadlines? Working freelance often means working by yourself with little company most days. You need to be able to motivate yourself to open that laptop every day and not get distracted by daytime television or my achilles heel – social media. My… that is a wormhole I often find myself in! If you can, great – that is half the battle. Sticking to regular working hours and putting in good practice measures straight away is vital.

Can you afford it – get financially savvy. Do you know what your outgoings are each month? My husband has a basic spreadsheet budget that he has used for decades and this tells him how much is due to go out each month. We know how much we need every month plus the extras such as car insurance, holidays and Christmas. Before I went fully freelance, I worked 3 days a week for a company to really find my feet – I used my other days to network and gradually build up potential new clients.

Laptop ready
Are you tech ready?

Location and tech – are you planning on working from home? Is your wifi up to it? When we moved, we didn’t have super-fast broadband (it wasn’t available) so it meant that I had to visit my parents every time I needed to send a large file. This wasn’t ideal but it made me more organised and I started working at their house 1 day a week.

Lifestyle – being freelance can mean working odd hours and juggling your normal ‘life’ as you get the business going. Do you have help with childcare? Are you able to attend meetings after school? Make sure that you have plans set up just in case. An example would be that I tend to visit clients in London every month – I choose a day that Amy doesn’t have any after school activities and my neighbour is happy to have her until I get back. Or I ask my parents. I’m lucky but I have this in place in case I suddenly have to attend an urgent appointment.

Choose your sector – are you planning on continuing within the same area as your current job? I have always working in PR and this is a sector that is very friendly to freelancers. I would make sure that you can still work as a freelancer before you take the leap. Chat to others who have already made the change to double check that it is a possibility.

Linked In
Is your LinkedIn profile updated?

Network and LinkedIn – keep in contact with people and companies that you would like to work with. The occasional coffee and quick email is a great way to keep in touch.  Highlight a product or a project that you loved. One of my best sources of income is through LinkedIn – I have had referrals from colleagues that I worked with over 12 years ago (that makes me feel old) via the site. Keep your profile fresh and remember to add an update each time you finish or win a new project. I’ll be running a separate blog post on LinkedIn soon.

Accounts – do you know how to keep up with your taxes? I’ll admit that this area terrifies me and I had a meeting with an accountant who guided me through everything. Now I do my own books but she processes my tax return. I also save at least 25% of my income to put into savings, National Insurance and my taxes. To read more about taxes when freelancing, I’d recommend this article.

Honesty – be honest with yourself AND your clients. Tell them the hours that you work and the reasons why. Since having Amy I know that I’m more motivated and efficient with my time – mainly because I have no choice. This, in my opinion makes me a better worker as I’m focused, deadline ready and prepared.

Get yourself a contract
Have a few draft contracts ready

Contracts – get something in place that suits you and your client. There are lots of templates available online that you can amend. This can help with payment processes and also defines the time you will spend on the project.

 

Love what you do! This is the most important aspect  – love what you do and it will never feel like work! I’m passionate about brilliant books and beautiful art. This makes me want to work with artists and authors – I’m enthused by their art. Everyday is different and this is what I love about freelancing.

Still not sure? I really like The Crunch for their articles on self-employment. Have a look here for other articles that may help you.

 

How I Work: Niki Walker (aka Mrs Niki Stylist)

 

Introducing… Mrs Niki Stylist!

Hello!

After yesterday’s post regarding Stella & Dot, I thought it would be an idea to feature a stylist! Niki has a thriving personal styling business which she incorporates Stella & Dot into – another tip – have a side gig that works perfectly alongside your main venture. She does this as well as having 4 children who are very close in age. Wonder woman! I love sharing these profiles because I’m in awe of every single one.

  1. Niki works as a personal stylist
    Niki works as a personal stylist

    Name:   Niki Walker

  2. Name of Business:   Mrs Niki Stylist
  3. What do you do: I am a self employed personal stylist
  4. Where do you work: I’m at the kitchen table with my laptop, sometimes I venture out to a nearby garden centre cafe. I work in my dressing room, kitchen table, cafes, coffee shops and at clients’ homes.
  5. How did you get to this point in your career: I had a long career in retail fashion buying and merchandising, took a career break, had 4 children in 4 years, and here I am, making the dream work!
  6. The best part of my job is: Fashion is my passion and it is so rewarding when the women I work with feel amazing about their look.
  7. She's also a Shining Star with Stella & Dot!
    She’s also a Shining Star with Stella & Dot!

    The worst part of my job is: Missing bedtime with the kids sometimes as I do work some evenings.

  8. Favourite time-saving trick:   It’s all in the organisation. Plan, plan, plan!
  9. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3:   Set your own agenda and stick to it. Set yourself mini goals.
  10. Instagram post!
    Niki has several favourite Instagram accounts!

    Favourite social media accounts/blogs:  Stella & Dot, Elsie’s Attic and ElleBelle Attire

To contact Niki about styling requests or hosting a Stella & Dot party, please visit her Facebook page here.

How I Work: Alexandra Wright

Hello!

Time for another How I Work highlight! When I asked this brilliant lady if she minded answering a few of my questions to appear on my blog, she was surprised as she didn’t consider herself ’employed’ and yet, to me she never stops working.

I met Alex a few years ago when our daughters started school (they are in the same class) and she has become a firm friend of mine. Determined, focused, and a force of nature, Alex is a pure grafter. She works to earn extra money to help her family whilst bringing up 3 children. Incredible.

She’s also a brilliant example that you don’t need to have a set career plan whilst working the 9 to 3. She’s making the most of her time and making the work, work for her. Truly inspirational.

Have a look!

  1. Name:  Alexandra Wright
  2. Name of Business: Housewife!
  3. What do you do: Self employed – Kind of!

    A photo of Alex Wright
    At one of her cleaning jobs…with her favourite gadget!
  4. Where do you work:  I am a housewife/homemaker for my 3 children. In between the school hours,  I do small  jobs to help top up the family income. These include – a paper round in my village, cleaning jobs, home from home dog boarding and looking after horses (though that is mainly in the winter months during the hunt season)
  5. How did you get to this point in your career: I used to work full time for Mars petcare. After having our first daughter I realised this wasn’t a realistic work life balance. My husband is a farm manger on our local dairy farm which is shift work but can be long hours, plus his days off are every other weekend. My job was also shift work, so when we were both working weekends we found that I would be asking the world and his wife to look after Sophie. We decided that I would stop working to care for our children and from this I started doing a few smaller jobs where and when I can to help with our cash flow.
  6. The best part of my job is: Being able to attend every school event that is thrown at school parents throughout the year!

    Walking two ponies – as well as a buggy.
  7. The worst part of my job is: Not having an identity
  8. Favourite time-saving trick: Can I pick two? Hoovering and mopping at night so you start the day with a clean floor. Putting sheets and duvet covers in the matching pillow case so when its bed changing day everything is ready.
  9. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3: Don’t beat yourself up if work isn’t done. With children the days are long but the years are short.
  10. Favourite social media accounts/blogs: Umm… I don’t really have one but really looking forward to reading 9 to 3!

Thanks Alex!!!!

 

How I handle half-term

Hello! How are you? Week going okay? We are based in Leicestershire and the school holidays here are always slightly out of sync with the rest of the country! Which is great in terms of going to visit tourist attractions when it isn’t so busy but can be tricky when being on holiday a week before everyone else. It normally means that it can take longer for me to finish tasks as when I’m away, everyone is at work and when I’m back, well you get the picture!

As a freelancer, I am hugely lucky that I can pick and choose when I work. But it also means that I do not get any holiday pay whatsoever. Therefore during school holidays, I tend to take a hit on my income because I do not have set childcare in place. The bonus is that I’m around for my daughter and we do fun things but I also could potentially lose money too.

Here’s what I do:

I look to see if there are any extra projects I can work on before or after the break.

Take on an extra project:  I look at my schedule and see if I can fit in another project before or after a planned holiday. This does mean extending the 9 to 3 to working in the evenings after my daughter has gone to bed but I find that it is worth the pain.  I have a friend who takes on a few extra baskets of ironing and walks a few more dogs in the run up to a holiday so that she has a little more cash in her pocket.

Tell my clients: I have a couple of clients that I work for daily and I let them know that I’ll be making up the time either the week before or after, plus I’ll be answering emails during certain hours. These tend to be 7-9am and 7-9pm. I find that you end up doing more work (which is unpaid) to make up the week you took off. Or is that just me?

Forget the admin: A lot of my time is spent organising my company’s admin – accounts and follow ups. During the holiday, I leave it to one side and then pick it up afterwards.

Hootsuite
I use Hootsuite to plan my social media

Schedule all Social Media in advance: I know lots of people that do this already but I really enjoy the conversation flow of posting in real time however during the holidays, I’ll use Hootsuite to schedule a few posts and then I’ll pop as well when the timing is right.

Childcare:  Yes, if there is an opportunity that cannot be missed, I’ll ask my Mum or a friend to look after Amy for me. This can be for a few hours or a whole day. To be honest, this happens more in the summer holidays. With half-term I can juggle a bit more but I endeavour to let me clients know that I’m not around but will make up the time.

Breathe:  The holidays are always quite stressful when trying to combine children with work but once I made the decision to not take on as much and

Live in the moment and try to forget about work.

then step up before and after the break then it made me really determined to enjoy the break.

Have a great day!