Falling into the freelance trap

…and how to avoid it

I recently read an article in the Telegraph by Maria Lally that was warning mothers to not ‘fall into the freelance trap.” It was published in March 2019 but I do feel that it is still very relevant.

In the article, Lally suggests that by being a stay at home working mum, you actually double your workload – you end up doing the household chores AND your work. Your days are longer and you get the joy of seeing your partner skip out the door each morning knowing that the pick ups, PE kit, swimming lesson taxi driving role is being handled by you.

It is all true – it really is. In the last few years, I have definitely ended up doing a lot more round the house, and I wrote about this in this blog post about ’emotional labour’. Lally only rescues herself from this role by taking an office job which takes her out of the house. Her partner works from home one day a week to help out.

Me and Maggie at work

This is the bit that sticks with me – why should you have to change your job or get an office job to be able to work and live happily? Working from home is no picnic even if I know that I’m envied by my office job friends. There is the inevitable distractions and I do a lot of the housework but I have spent a few years now honing my day structure and this has really helped me.

Here is what I do:

  • From the hours of 9am to 3pm, I prioritise work. It is that simple.
  • Before 9am, I set up the household chores – washing machine is put on, dishwasher emptied , clothes put away, beds made.
  • I take natural work breaks – hang the washing out, or prep the dinner but nothing that takes longer than a work break in the office.
  • After 3pm, I down tools, go pick up my daughter and then parenting stuff.
  • After bedtime, I may get my laptop out and run through a few emails but otherwise, I’ll wait until 9am the next day.

How I am able to do this?

  • I am really honest about my working hours to my clients
  • My husband is aware of the work that I do every day – we have a shared calendar so he can see what I have lined up
  • There is nothing like a deadline to focus you! I work smarter and harder on my chosen limited hours than I was when I worked longer hours in an office
  • I try and not take on too many clients. Does this mean that I am losing potential income? Absolutely but it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make at this stage in my life.
  • It is a juggle and I’m always re-addressing it but so far, this seems to be the best way of working for me.

Suggested reading:

Ms I Can Do It All blog post

Mothers beware of the freelance trap

How I work: Lizzie Woodman

Lizzie Woodman – blogger and freelance writer

I first came across Lizzie Woodman from another Instagram account and was immediately taken by her effortless style, wit and calm nature. Based in the Cambridge area with two boys, she works from home and juggles life/work like the rest of us. I was delighted when she agreed to feature on my little blog! She takes gorgeous images and shares her thoughts on matters of the day with articulated thought. She works with numerous brands on her blog and never fails to inspire me. Please do have a read and go visit her blog and Instagram. You won’t be disappointed.

  1. Name : Lizzie Woodman

2. Name of Business: Lizziewoodman.co.uk

3. What do you do?

I’m a blogger and freelance writer. I also help businesses with their marketing and social media – taking photographs, writing captions and press releases. 

Lizzie works from home and her gorgeous cats are featured on her account

4. Where do you work?

I work from home. I have a big desk in our open plan kitchen space, but usually prefer to perch in an armchair with my laptop. My two tabby cats are usually close by!

5. How did you get to this point in your career?

I fell into freelance writing after starting a blog in 2014. I’d been a stay at home mother since 2009 and craved some creativity that didn’t involve glitter and PVA glue. Blogging taught me to be a better writer and photographer – plus it helped me believe in myself. My first paid work was for sponsored posts commissioned by brands for my blog. Over the last couple of years this has blossomed into writing for other people too – from ghost-written blog posts for big brands to writing product descriptions and helping at influencer events.

6. The best part of my job is?

The flexibility. I do all the school runs and can take time off to be with my children during the holidays. I also love meeting new people. I’ve met and interviewed so many people over the last couple of years and it’s been fascinating.

Her clients include brands such as Fat Face and Joy where she creates content for her blog and Instagram account.

7. The worst part of my job is? 

Getting lonely. I miss chatting to colleagues – which is probably why I spend too much time on social media. I also find it tough to motivate myself. When you’re a freelancer you have to be your own best cheerleader all the time. Picking yourself up after a disappointment can be tough and it’s not for everyone.

8. Favourite time-saving trick?

Ignoring the housework until the children get home. I don’t like wasting my work day putting on loads of washing and cleaning the shower. I tend to get my chores done when the boys are busy with their Lego after school. 

Lizzie’s Instagram is well worth a look!
@lizzie_woodman

9. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3?

Don’t try and do it all. It’s easy to think you can move mountains while your kids are at school, but in reality, it’s a very short day. Prioritise the things you really need to get done and try not to feel guilty about everything else!

10. Favourite social media accounts/blogs?

I’m addicted to Instagram and it also forms a big part of my work. Creating a beautifully curated feed is like my shop window and helps put me in touch with people. I try and write about three posts a week for my own blog, Lizzie Woodman. I find Hannah Gale’s blog very inspiring. 

Other posts you may like to read:

How I work: Jenna Bissell from That Mum Moment

My Freelance Story: Lizzie Woodman

The joy of freelance: How to be Freelance

My new work from home computer system

How this set up has made me happier

My Apple Air laptop lasted me around 8 years of solid use. When it started beeping at me and refusing to start, I rang the Apple Helpdesk to be told that there wasn’t an option for fixing it and I should upgrade. I then started using my husband’s MacBook as my main computer – it was really heavy but the screen was a decent size and this has worked brilliantly for me in the last two years. The downside was it was set up for my husband – so I had to use memory sticks and email a lot of things from my phone to be able to use them on the computer. No linked iCloud for me. It was also too heavy for travel which meant I would use my iPad instead but if I’m being honest, I couldn’t get nearly as much work done on my iPad than I could with my laptop. Adding a bluetooth keyboard did help but it was something extra to lug around.

How I used to travel and work with an iPad and bluetooth keyboard
How I used to travel and work with an iPad and bluetooth keyboard

So I decided to bite the bullet and visit John Lewis on Oxford Street when I was last in London. I knew they would have a good range of computers for me to look at and wouldn’t be intimidating. I really do not get excited about tech – it is the end to a means and I find the Apple store too daunting.

I was looking for a new laptop that had a decent sized screen (anything small really does give me a headache and sore eyes) that I could use at home and whilst travelling. I’m also an Apple devotee – simply because I have always had a good experience with them and a lot of people in publishing use Macs. I’m programmed to use them!

My previous way of working - with a huge MacBook that belonged to my husband.
My previous way of working – with a huge MacBook that belonged to my husband.

My heart sank a little when I saw what was on offer – small screens only for laptops or I would need a desktop one. Neither appealed because as mentioned previously, I like to work in my kitchen during the day. I don’t have an office because although technically I could set one up in a spare room, I like being in the kitchen. It really is the heart of our home. Its warm in the winter (hello Aga!) and weirdly cool in the summer. It also has viewing points to the front and the back of the house so I can see any deliveries arriving.

So I need tech that I can put out in the morning and put away at night – my husband’s laptop was brilliant but still not right for travel. After a long conversation with the chap at John Lewis, he suggested an Apple Air laptop but also a monitor that I could plug into the laptop. A bit cumbersome in the morning but really the best of both worlds. I’d still be flexible with my workspace but I would have a screen that wouldn’t give me a headache. Monitors are very slim and lightweight nowadays and I could stow one away each night without much bother.

I went away and thought about it for a long time. The extra incentive was that John Lewis was running a 0% interest loan on Apple products with a small deposit. It wouldn’t be a huge outlay of cash instantly – which defiantly appealed to me. Plus they could deliver for free. No lugging of expensive equipment for me!

My new set up with Apple Air laptop and a Dell monitor.
My new set up with Apple Air laptop and a Dell monitor.

So that was what I did – I visited my local John Lewis in Nottingham and bought an Apple Air (the new one but in grey – I wasn’t about to spend an extra £100 for Rose Gold!), an adaptor to plug the charger, monitor and memory stick into and a Dell monitor. Why Dell? I went round the displays and lifted them up until I found the lightest. They all seemed the same to me and that was the best way to differentiate them.

Oh my I do love my new system! I’ve been able to take my laptop out with me but when at home, its plugged into the monitor quite happily. I’ve had zero headaches. Result!

This system means that I can have a mouse and a keyboard.
This system means that I can have a mouse and a keyboard.

Extra exciting is my husband has now linked up my bluetooth keyboard and mouse as well! This means that when at home, I can use the keyboard and mouse and not really use my laptop. Its just a hard drive powering everything else.

So my advice when looking for new technology when working from home:

  1. Write a list of all the things you need to be able to do
  2. Go and see an expert – find somewhere that you feel comfortable. I didn’t get any joy from just looking online.
  3. Don’t buy instantly, go home and have a think.
  4. Measure everything – lift everything so that you know that it all works.
  5. Find a spot in the house that you can put it all away each evening so that you can switch off from work each evening.

And that’s it! This isn’t sponsored at all by Apple or John Lewis but I hope it might be useful if you are looking at tech solutions. What do you currently use?


Here is what I now use:

Looking to know more about how I work? I wrote a blog post last year that explains my work! Please click here.