The freelancing mum’s guide to getting sh*t done

Having been self-employed before motherhood, and now as a mum, I am finding out that the challenges involved are very different. Gone are the days of working 60 hours a week (thank goodness!) and only having myself to think about. Here are the things that have helped me to stay sane and get sh*t done over the last two years:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it

Making sure that you have specific days for working, and others for spending with your family, will help you to make sure that you work the number of hours you need to get things done. When you are self-employed, with no-one to answer to, it can be easy to either work yourself into the ground or take too much time off. Decide how many hours you need to do each week, and make a realistic schedule. Children also respond well to a routine, so they will be happier if they know where they are going to be each day.

  • Schedule in some ‘me time’

This comes up on every single list of tips for mums, working mums, self-employed mums, stay-at-home mums and everything in between. It’s arguably the most important point on this list. By taking some downtime from work and family, you can be more productive when you are working, and a more pleasant person for your family to be around. And knowing that you have that time scheduled in will make it easier for you to focus on work and family the rest of the time.

  • Accept help

And also ask for it. You might not be lucky enough to have people throwing offers of babysitting at your feet (I’m not!) but don’t be afraid to ask around. You’ll be surprised how many people will be happy to help out, but just didn’t think to offer.

  • Learn to say no

When you work for yourself, it can be easy to say yes to every offer that comes your way, for fear of turning down the wrong opportunity and missing out. However, when you’re a mum, you have to recognise that your time is more limited, and you need to manage the expectations of your clients and your customers. This means saying no to requests that don’t align with your objectives, or that you simply don’t have time to do. This will avoid you wasting your time, or being forced to break promises.

  • Give 100% to whatever you’re doing

When you’re at work, try to forget about everything else and concentrate on the task at hand. You will be more productive and this means that when you’re with your family, you can turn your phone off and give 100% to them too. My tip: Use a time-tracking tool (such as Toggl) to help you stay on track.

  • Get a dedicated working space

This might take the form of a room in your house, or even a corner of a room, or a desk in a coworking space. This will help you to focus when you’re at work and it also means that you can shut down your computer and leave work behind when you’re done for the day.

  • Outsource

I hate the expression ‘time is money’ but this is literally true when you’re self-employed. If you pay someone to do a task for you, you haven’t simply spent money, you have saved yourself time, which can then be spent on earning money! Identify those things that take you a lot of time, that you don’t enjoy, and that you can offload onto someone else. And do it. For lots of people, accounts and tax returns fall into this category.

  • Make time for your other half too!

I’m really bad at this one. I make time for my son, for my work, and even for me, but I have a terrible habit of neglecting my other half. He’s very understanding, but I’m making an effort to put aside time once a week to spend with him, even if it’s just vegging in front of Britain’s Got Talent with a bottle of wine together!

I would love to hear about your experience of being a self-employed mum so please do Tweet me @hackneymama or comment below!

The studio I share with a bunch of lovely people in Dalston

The importance of saying yes

AKA why I decided to take part in the Mumpreneur Networking Club Bus Tour Blogathon.
Tomorrow, I will be sacrificing a full day of work to get up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus to Waterloo and a train to Guildford to sit on a stationary bus all day, and then travel all the way back to Hackney. I have had to ask my other half to cancel some of his own work so he can pick the toddler up from nursery and, for the first time ever, we’ll have to waiting at the nursery door for it to open in the morning. Why?
As a self-employed mum, my time is precious. And I don’t give it away very easily. In fact, I would say that saying no has been one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt over the past 2 years since my son was born, and the one that has ensured I enjoy a decent work-life balance while still earning enough money to support my family.
However, sometimes it’s good to say yes, as long as the opportunity is the right one. And how do you know?
  • Step 1: Make sure you have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve in the short, medium and long term. Write it down so you can keep referring back to it.
  • Step 2: Compare each potential opportunity with the list, and be honest with yourself about whether that particular opportunity is going to help you to achieve those goals, either directly or indirectly.
For me personally, after a couple of years of professionally blogging for businesses and parent websites, I have taken the plunge and launched my own personal blog. My goal right now is to network with other bloggers, promote my blog, increase followers and engagement on my social platforms, and pick up some tips and tricks along the way. One of the main themes of my blog is about the challenges involved in being a self-employed mum, so it will be great to chat to other mums in the same position and find out what their personal challenges are too. So when I was offered the chance to go and represent a business I work for on the Mumpreneur Networking Club Bus Tour, I said yes straight away as it’s the perfect opportunity for me right now. Now can someone remind me of that at 6am tomorrow morning..?
  • If you’re in Guildford tomorrow, come say hi. I’ll be at the blogathon in the morning, and then representing the Bubele app for parents in the afternoon.
MNC take the plunge

Babies: the ultimate weight loss tool

Now that I have a toddler, I look back with fondness at the baby days for many different reasons, but today, as I sadly admitted defeat when the button of my favourite pair of jeans stubbornly refused to fasten, I am thinking particularly of those heady first few months when, against everything I believed before having a baby, I was actually losing weight and looking good!

If you don’t believe this is possible, here are just some of the reasons why the first few months with a baby can actually help you to shed some pounds without any effort on your part. And you still get to eat biscuits.

  • Your baby will only fall asleep if you have them tied to your chest in a sling and you bounce, jiggle or, in the case of my bundle of joy, perform deep squats on repeat (a serious workout for the glutes).
  • They always choose the worst time to fall asleep without the aforementioned jiggling, like in your arms just as the sandwich you have prepared is just out of reach, leaving you to stare longingly at it while they have the longest nap they’ve had to date.
  • Despite looking forward to wine for 9 months, when the baby is born, you realise that you still can’t drink any because you now have a tiny person attached to your boob 24/7 and so the binge session has to wait a bit longer.
  • You walk round and round and round and round your local park/estate/block to get the baby to sleep and then to keep them asleep.
  • They will keep you awake half the night until you feel sick from exhaustion and couldn’t possibly put any food in your mouth. Besides, you have no energy left to chew.
  • Breastfeeding. Obviously. I developed my terrible biscuit addiction during the early days of breastfeeding when all of the calories I consumed disappeared straight out of my boobs, but unfortunately haven’t been able to stop eating them since.
  • You meet the best mum mates at postnatal fitness classes. There’s no way to sit in the corner and pretend to be invisible or quietly skulk in and out. Plus a workout gets the endorphins going, so everyone is in a great and receptive mood at the end of the class. You also have the time to go to these classes because you can take your baby along too. No-one wants a roomful of toddlers in an exercise class.
  • The endless stream of visitors will eat all of your biscuits. Bastards. Do none of them read those helpful articles on what you should bring a new mum? You bring food, you bring tea, you look after the baby while mum sleeps, and you leave. The end. None of my visitors had consulted the manual before arriving biscuit-less, hungry and with no intention of taking over the endless rocking/squatting or passing me my sandwich.

Any more to add to the list?

Exercise bike with baby
Me and Beanie on an exercise bike. Natch.

Forging a Career around Motherhood

To illustrate the person I was before becoming a mama, let me tell you a little story…

In my past life, I founded a translation agency. I worked all day every day. Throughout my pregnancy, I was sure that the birth itself would be a minor blip in my working week, and that I would be right back on it as soon as I’d pushed out the placenta. My waters broke at around 11pm when I was already one day past my due date and had accepted work from an important client. The deadline was the next day, so rather than go to the hospital, or even phone the midwife, I grabbed a towel, sat back down at my desk, and kept going until I’d finished the piece of work. Then we went to hospital. I didn’t want to tell my client that I was having a baby (I didn’t tell any of my clients), so I just said that I would be uncontactable for a couple of days, and turned on my out-of-office, for the first time ever.

Then little Beanie arrived, and everything changed. Not in a sudden lightning bolt kind of way, but in a subtle changing-of-the-seasons kind of way. I didn’t want to rush out to the office. I wanted to sit on my bum and drink tea and eat cake and hold my beautiful baby boy for just five minutes longer. So that’s exactly what I did. I was really skint for a few months, but it didn’t matter.

And then one day I got a Tweet from a local mum who was setting up an app for parents. Would I meet her for coffee? Jumping at the chance to go and have an adult chat with someone, and intrigued by the possibility of doing something different, off I went. And I never looked back.  Bit by bit, I took on a few hours here and there, taking on their Twitter account, and then their Facebook account too, creating blog posts for them, and helping to launch a local parent newsletter, which would eventually be rolled out to the rest of the UK. And it all fit neatly around my life as a mum. I even took my son to meetings!

Somewhere along the line, I heard of Digital Mums, and things really started to happen. In a nutshell, Digital Mums takes lost mums like me, and turns them into social media ninjas. It’s a pretty exhausting transformation, with so much to learn and do in five short months, but it was worth every single late night and mini breakdown (there were several).

Now, I work a very reasonable 35ish hours per week, for the original client, but also with additional freelance work in social media and content creation. I coordinate a team of mums around the country who are all trying to find work that fits around family life, and that complements their mum life. I meet and talk to incredible mums every single day, mums who have turned their lives upside down in order to find a more flexible way of working, and it’s the most supportive and wonderful community I’ve ever encountered.

And you know what? I’m a bit poorer, and a bit more tired, but I’m happy. I get to sit and watch Kung Fu Panda for the millionth time with my little boy, and play with Duplo, and read the Gruffalo over and over, but I’m also supporting my family and doing something that I really enjoy at the same time.

And so this is my new blog all about my new life. I really hope you like it.

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