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 to look your best on Skype

Hi! I realise that this may not be for everyone that reads this blog but in my line of work (Publicity), I do an awful lot of Skype calls and visual conferencing. Especially when I am starting with a new client.

SkypeWithin my client base are authors that live in South East Asia and Australia which leans towards using Skype for initial chats before I start working for them. I like to show that I am professional, knowledgable at my job and am generally ‘with it.’ First impressions really do count and therefore I thought I would share my method which can be applied to Skype job interviews as well.

  1. Your username – make it professional and somehow linked to your business or an easy composite of your name. No @cutefluffybunnys as it doesn’t really give the best impression.
  2. Check your wifi – make sure that your bandwidth is up to it, especially if you are calling at peak usage – 9pm at night. Also perhaps ask everyone not to stream or download at the moment you are using Skype. I think it really does make a difference.
  3. I use the room with the largest window in for my Skype calls. Not my everyday desk.
    I use the room with the largest window in for my Skype calls. Not my everyday desk.

    Find a room that doesn’t have any distractions and that the door can be shut. Lots of natural light helps as well. I use our back room (or the Library as my husband calls it – we have a lot of books in our house as we both work in publishing) where there is a large window in-front of the desk, a desk lamp and I can shut the door. (keeps the dog out!)

  4. Think about what the camera sees – check you aren’t showing clothes, kitchen stuff or a bathroom behind you. Try and find a blank wall or something relevant to your

    This is where I usually work - the camera would show the kitchen detritus behind me. And it is dark. Not good!
    This is where I usually work – the camera would show the kitchen detritus behind me. And it is dark. Not good!

    work. (I have the book shelves in my background)

  5. Have your computer camera at eye level or a little higher. You look better when you are talking up – it helps with your posture as well.

    I use an old box to raise my laptop to eye level. And a cushion to help with my posture!
    I use an old box to raise my laptop to eye level. And a cushion to help with my posture!

    Nobody likes to be talked down to. I initially use a box on my desk to lift the camera on my laptop and I also use a cushion on my seat. It does work!

  6. Think about your appearance – I’m not a daily make up wearer but if I have a Skype call scheduled then I defiantly stick a bit on. I find adding lipstick, darkening my eyebrows and tying my hair back helps me stand out more on screen.

    This is my usual look! Not great for a Skype call.
    This is my usual look! Not great for a Skype call.

    I also add a scarf (nothing too fussy) or a good statement necklace (mine are from Stella & Dot) as well to a plain top. I wear a lot of blue and that seems to work with the screen.

    I added a scarf, tied my hair back and popped on a bit of lipstick. Much better!
    What the camera sees: I added a scarf, tied my hair back and popped on a bit of lipstick. Much better! You can also see the books in the background.
  7. Silence all other mobiles, iPads and lock the door so that you don’t have any neighbours popping in. I have been known to pop a note on my front door saying I’m in a meeting and to leave a package by the door. It has worked!
  8. Be ready at least 5 minutes before the call and make sure your Skype account says that you are online. It always gives a good impression that you are prepared.

 

Lastly, I do have those moments when a client suddenly decides to call me and in those circumstances, I usually whip a scarf on (my house is cold anyway so I’m usually wearing one) and take my laptop into the other room. Then I’ll answer. Sometimes I’ll request an audio call or ask to call them back in 5 minutes.

All ready for my Skype call

Skype is a great business tool when you work from home and are not close to a big city. Living in the countryside means that my trips to London tend to be once or twice a month but using Skype enables me to keep contact with my clients. And I’m a huge believer in face to face contact. Even if it is from behind a screen.

 

 

INSTAGRAM POST ALERT!

New Instagram post!
New Instagram post!

I’ve also posted a series of videos onto my account showing you my behind the scenes set up for Skype! So you can see the method in my madness.

@Laura_the_9_to_3

 

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!