Home office for self-employment
MumBoss

Why I ditched the freelancer life

On a sunny Monday morning, just a few weeks ago, I crammed onto a tube platform at Highbury & Islington to head to my first day at a brand new job. After more than a decade of freelancing, I had signed an employment contract, packed up my shared office space and joined the throngs of commuters making their way to and from central London every day.

With self-employment often held up as a holy grail for parents who want the flexibility to work around their family commitments, why did I decide to leap the other way? And what are the advantages, as a mum, of having a 9-5 job?

  • I am working the same number of hours as before but spending MORE time with my family. Gone are the weekends and evenings spent tapping away at my computer, snatching glances at my phone while my son plays or hurrying him into bed so I can finish off an urgent piece of work. I get all of my work done in the allocated hours and then I can be 100% present when I’m with him.
  • I have ‘me time’! As I work four days, and my son goes to playgroup for five days, I have one magical day that’s just for me. I have big plans for that day… I can also enjoy work-free naptimes and hang out with my hubby after our son is in bed.
  • Flexibility can exist in a 9-5 job. As we don’t live super close to family, we have sometimes needed the flexibility of self-employment to cover ad hoc childcare needs, such as INSET days or illnesses. However, as I discovered when I had a family emergency this week, employers can be really understanding and are often willing to make sure you get the time you need when you need it. I can also work from home, and they have taken my needs as a mum into account at every stage. This was totally unexpected, and has made me realise that there is no reason whatsoever that this shouldn’t be the norm.
  • Teamwork is great. While I always had shared office space as a freelancer, so I never felt isolated, I’ve rarely worked alongside people in the same industry, let alone on the same projects. The internet is a wonderful thing, with tools like Trello and Slack making it so easy to work within remote teams, but it’s also nice to share a physical space with coworkers from time to time to bounce ideas around and learn from one another in real time.
  • Fixed working hours can be a good thing! I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to fit in a full working day when you’re also trying to do school runs, chores and life admin. The advantage to having fixed working hours is that you just sit at your desk and get on with it.
  • I have an excuse to buy new clothes and wear make-up! It’s a bit of a myth (as far as I know) that freelancers spend their days at home in their jim-jams, but I have lived in jeans and scruffy trainers for a long time now, and have rarely worn make-up. It’s actually a treat making (a bit of) an effort in the morning and wearing clothes that don’t have toddler snot on them.
  • And finally, an unexpected bonus: I don’t miss my son as much as when I was self-employed. It might sound crazy but the knowledge that I have no choice but to be at work, rather than feeling like I always had the option of not working at any given moment, has quietened the previously ever-present mum guilt. My new office environment is so different to my old relaxed studio space, and I can’t just pop home, or decide to leave early because I want to hang out with my son, so I can finally switch off that nagging voice for the day.

The most important lesson for me here is that #workthatworks for mums doesn’t just mean one thing. It’s important to investigate different set-ups to find the one that works the best for your family. Flexible working doesn’t only come through self-employment, and there are plenty of employers out there who are willing to provide parents with the flexibility they need if that’s the route you want to go down. Otherwise, self-employment has lots of advantages too and, who knows, that might be the best option for us again in the future (Anyone else feel a pros & cons post coming on..?)

6 thoughts on “Why I ditched the freelancer life”

  1. Brilliant post! And so honest! I believe that work that works is completely different for each mum and the fact that you experienced the ups and downs of freelancing makes you appreciate the 9 till 5 while making the most of it. I’m at the other extreme! Experiencing freelancing after a rather steady pre-children office job…Do I miss the nice suits and make up? Yes! Do I miss the interaction with real adults outside the playground? Yes ;)) Do I often get told off because I’m not able to break up with my phone for half an hour? Yes…but we gotta experience and learn, sometimes not the easiest way…guilty feelings here and there…anyways all the best with the new venture, lovely!! Keep the updates flowing Xxx

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  2. Although I’ve never worked in office and do not have a kid yet, I totally agree with you. I have been freelancing for almost 10 years now, and you know what? When I have those superbusy over-booked days all I am thinking about is how it would be nice to work in the office with 9-till-5 schedule. Will see how it goes in a few years with a kid 🙂

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    1. The grass is always greener!! People with ‘normal jobs’ often wish they could freelance, and freelancers sometimes dream of the 9-5 life. I see you’re a translator! Before having a baby, I was a translator for a long time 🙂 It was definitely hard to juggle all the tight deadlines, and last-minute jobs, once I became a mum, so I guess that would be something to think about for that industry xxx

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  3. Thank you for this post, very helpful. Having worked in 9-5, open plan offices for a long time- even in the open plan environment that big space becomes so tiny after a time and I feel I cannot breathe sometimes. I always think this is because I feel like I am trapped in the 9-5 circle all these years. I have been looking to use my skills in VA version and become self employed for more than a year however it is so scary. I need to be able to find clients to fill the hours that full time employment offers me. Then I think ‘is t really a better option for me?’ so reading your post maybe brought another perspective to me whilst still being in the same dilemna for some time now!

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  4. Fascinating! I’m about to embark as a Digital Mum freelancer but everything you have said resonates. I love office life and working with people. Will see how it goes.

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