How do you juggle freelancing and parenting?
Just two weeks ago, this topic came up again in the 30 Days or Less Facebook group for writers.
We’ve covered it before on the blog too, but we’re always happy to get more practical tips from freelancing parents who are making it work.
Today’s post comes from Megan Larson, a virtual assistant and mom to two boys.
Here’s what Megan does to make her busy days go smoother.
Building a freelance business is not easy when you have little ones at your feet. Some days, it feels like I get absolutely nothing done. It can be frustrating to say the least.
I have two high-maintenance boys under three so I don’t have a ton of time to work during their waking hours (which are vast, as neither of them are good sleepers). In fact, as I write this post, I am pecking at my keyboard with my left hand, while holding a sleeping infant in my right.
The struggles (plural) are real.
I have lofty goals when it comes to building a VA business.
I have lots of time to think about it during the day.
I have a list of skills I want to improve on, courses to get through, a website and social media profiles to build out … and the list goes on.
What I don’t have: extra time or extra hands.
If you’re the main caregiver and trying to build a freelance business, chances are you’re probably already utilizing the obvious strategies like working during nap time or trading “shifts” with your spouse in order to knock a few things out.
If you need a few other suggestions, here are a few tips I’ve been implementing to make freelancing and parenting work at the same time:
1. It’s All About the Give and Take
Decide what your main priorities are, then come up with creative alternatives to keep other areas of your life in check.
My kids come first, and somewhere close to the top of the list is building a freelance career. When I get a spare moment to myself, do you think I’m wasting time by cleaning the house or exercising?
Don’t think so.
I want to devote my free time to the things that will support building this freelance goal.
If I get an early morning to myself while everyone is asleep, I use that time to work on tasks, rather than say, exercise.
However, to get a bit of physical exercise into my day, I make it a point to chase my little guy around the yard.
There are also some awesome mama/baby workouts on the interweb these days, so I don’t have to settle for being completely sedentary. I get to knock two items off my to-do list at the same time: hanging out with the kids and burning some calories.
It’s not forever; it’s just for now. Priorities will change as life moves forward, and you just have to pick what’s most important to you and focus. You can’t do it all.
2. Invest in a Gym Membership with a Child Care Option
Confession: I don’t always use my gym membership for working out.
A gym that provides a childcare option is great way for the kids to be safely entertained for a few hours a day so that I can get some work done. Honestly, I wouldn’t get much done if I didn’t “use” the gym.
I pay $70 per month for a gym membership, and that comes with two hours of child care, seven days a week. It gives me peace of mind, and time to concentrate.
Tip: If you use the gym option, make sure it has a good wifi connection before signing up.
I don’t use the gym every day, but it’s there when I need it.
If you do the math (and I have), it’s totally worth it – especially if you think of it as an investment in your business.
Psst! If you’re still not sure what virtual assistant services you can offer, we’ve put together a list of over 150 services that webpreneurs need help with.
3. Set Up Systems to Save Time
Sometimes this means working away into the night after the kids go to bed.
Other times, it means stealing time during the day, even if it’s in small chunks. I have lots of time to think, so I use it to brainstorm future blog post ideas while doing the more mundane tasks.
Sometimes, I listen to podcasts while giving baths… you get the point.
I always have my notebook handy (or my phone and list app) because the ideas might gone by the time I get a quiet minute.
I also have my list of most important tasks handy.
This way, I’m prepared to drill down when small chunks of time present themselves. It’s important for me to have rules and a plan to get to work the minute I sit down, because free time is precious. Otherwise, I’ll get distracted – as in, I’ll fall down a Pinterest hole.
Read more: Lisa Tanner put together a list of 50 tasks you can do in 15 minutes or less if you want to grow your business. Check it out! It’s super packed with excellent ideas.
4. Make a Checklist and Keep It Visible
I like lists.
I usually have several going at once.
Sometimes, I even make a list of lists that I need to make.
I find it very satisfying to cross things off my lists once I’m done with a task. But the trick is to keep the list in plain sight, so that I can look at it repeatedly during the day.
I like to plan my week ahead of time.
But I also make a daily master checklist of at least five important tasks to accomplish the next day before I go to bed each night.
Even if two of these items deal with housework or something trivial, it helps me to set goals on a micro level.
Accomplishing small tasks can snowball, and it increases both my productivity and my motivation.
Additionally, I like to make two separate checklists: one for things that I can do on my smartphone and one for things I need to do on my laptop. If it’s something that I don’t need two hands for (such as reading emails and researching clients), then I usually save it for the smartphone list which I can do while rocking a baby to sleep.
This way I am much more efficient in my plan of attack, and I don’t waste any time when I get two free hands.
Told you I liked lists.
5. Know When to Go Easy on Yourself
“To everything there is a season.”
This is something I truly believe.
My baby is in the stage where he is content only in my arms. My toddler cons me into laying with him every night until he falls asleep. Sometimes it feels like an annoyance because there are so many things I could be getting done.
But I know that I need to slow down and cherish these most precious moments. They are little for such a short time, and they will be bored with me soon enough.
What does this mean for a budding freelance career? Well, for me, this means that most goals take longer to accomplish than originally planned. When you have young‘uns, this is almost a guarantee.
And that’s OKAY.
I’ve already DECIDED I’m not going to quit. And I’ve DECIDED I’m not going to fail. But it is probably going to take me a lot longer than most.
Whenever I get ants in my pants, I remind myself that the internet isn’t going anywhere, and there will always be opportunity.
I’ll still make my SMART goals. But I’m also going to forgive myself if I don’t make every goal on time.
I’ll just re-work it, and keep pluggin’ away.
Freelancing and parenting is tough, especially if you don’t have a plan. Don’t wish your kids into the next stage of life … that will happen with no effort on your part.
Instead, get organized, prioritize, and give yourself permission to grow slow for awhile.
By planning and remaining flexible, you are helping yourself set realistic expectations for your freelance business and your family.
If you care for your children full time, what are your tricks to carving out time during the day?
Megan Larson is a mama to two sweet, busy boys, and just getting started on her virtual assistant/writer for hire path. If you dropped by her house, you would most likely find her vacuuming up yellow labrador hair, watching a rerun of The Office, or scouring Pinterest for a good mayonnaise-based dip recipe. She loves DIY-ing almost anything, making people laugh, her husband, and Jesus (not in that order).