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

Working when on the move

How I get work done whilst completing chores…

As I work from home, I tend to be the person that also does the errands – take the car for its service, take back library books and take the dog to the vet. It does help that I do these things during my working hours – it is always easier to get chores done without a reluctant 8 year old following me. But I, of course still need to get my work done too! I live in the middle of nowhere so just popping to the shops for milk is a round trip of 40 minutes – and I do not usually have a lunch break! So here is what I do:

  1. Preferably the day before, I would have written a list of the chores that need doing. I’m not perfect and this doesn’t always happen!

2. Being freelance means that I do choose my hours and I am an advocate of leaving the house once a week to work somewhere else so it makes sense to make chore day, the time that I also work off site!

3. I try and place the chores in groups – by location. This means that I can work out the best way to get everything done. I check library times, Vet opening times and also if there are nearby cafes that I can work in. It may seem a bit over the top, but by planning in advance, it really does save me time!

Notebook and tea

4. Check that my laptop and phone has enough battery. I carry a mobile charger (check that is fully charged too) that I can use as well.

5. If I can, I like to do an hour of work before I leave the house – running through emails and downloading files that I may need. I save everything else on a memory stick that I travel with.

6. I then head out! Making sure that I have my notebook with me too. I’ll use my phone to answer any urgent emails that come through between chores but I will wait until I find somewhere with free wifi before I use my laptop.

Dropbox logo
I rely on Dropbox when I am on the move.

7. The hours can go by quite quickly but if I can get 60-90minutes on the laptop whilst also completing my chores then I am a happy person!

If Wifi isn’t an option, I’ll either work offline or connect my laptop to my phone – this has saved me many times! I’m also a fan of Dropbox for retrieving files (really handy when I’m just using my phone) and iBooks for reading pdfs.

Essential equipment:

  1. Laptop and phone
  2. Battery charger
  3. Noise cancelling headphones
  4. Dropbox app