Summer holiday survival guide for freelance mums

by | Aug 1, 2017

Freelance or Sole Trader? Its time to face the school summer holidays

You’ve got children. You’ve got a career. You’ve got a dilemma. Leaving the day to day logistics aside of nursery and school pickups, let’s focus on the big one.  The holidays. Especially, the Summer holidays.

Freelance Mums

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume you are not in the holy-grail, ultimately-coveted position of working in a term time only contract.

It’s a simple solution (thought I, seven years ago). Go it alone. Give up the corporate career in London and set myself free. Become a freelancer, an independent spirit, a setter of my own hours and destiny. Swap the salary for a solution.

To a great extent for me and many millions of other mums, it has been.

But as time has gone on, and as my business has become more successful, the solution has become another problem and needs another solution.

To be fair, I was warned. A former colleague turned Sole Trader told me that I could become very busy and this could be a challenge. But I forged ahead optimistically into a new world of family-friendly-freedom.

Read: Freelancing is a female issue 

Term time only clients!

The funny thing, is that with success, come clients. And most clients do not work term time only. They may even have their busiest times in the Summer months (take a wedding photographer for example). And most of us can’t assume we’re held in such high esteem that clients will happily hold off on their requirements every few months for weeks on end, while we host playdates and take the children off to farms and local theme parks.

There are other reasons why downing tools every time the holidays come along isn’t practical.

  • Larger projects won’t necessarily slot neatly into term dates. They may face delays or stop start due to a client’s business circumstances. ‘I’m now not working for six weeks’ isn’t going to go down well once a project comes back to life
  • Larger projects often lead to additional work; add-ons or new services. There could be a real risk that turning down this additional work could lead your client into the arms of another business if the deadlines are key
  • Client relationships are an immensely important factor in the success of most small businesses. Maintaining and nurturing these requires presence and consistency. The chances are you will not have a large (if any) marketing budget and rely on word of mouth and testimonials for your pipeline. So, ignoring clients for weeks on end may not be the smart move, even if you have a portfolio of the most understanding and supportive clients possible
  • You may miss a possible lead, opportunity, project that could be highly profitable and a great career move through not being able to deliver
  • It’s strange how it works; but earning no money during weeks where children need entertaining and are being invited along to local events and attractions, doesn’t really add up. So, the holidays period is not always the best time to take a big income hit (without a lot of planning, anyway).

Read: Childcare costs are a long term investment

Career Path for Work/Life Balance

But on the other hand, we took this career path so that we can balance our family life. Be there in the holidays. Enjoy a stress and guilt-free, special few weeks with our little ones before they return to school.

For the last few years, I and I’m sure many of you, have found this a struggle. Running a business or working as a freelancer really is a 24/7 thing – bringing with it pros and cons.

I’ve sat in the Bubbleworks at Chessington World of Adventures speaking to client about an advertising deadline.

I’ve stood in the Shrek Adventure proofing exhibition stands design and copy on my phone.

It’s stressful and not quite what I had planned.

So this year, for these holidays, I’ve tried to make a few changes and approach things a bit differently. I’m aiming to genuinely enjoy the non-working days of the holidays, without the constant niggles in the back of my mind about what I could/should be doing on my business.

  1. Use holiday camps. I used to be unsure about them and I used to feel guilty about them. But using research, recommendations and meeting the people who run them can ensure you find the right option. I like flexibility, so I’ve found an option that’s close by, affordable where you can go for just one or two days a week. Mostly importantly, the children absolutely love it. I realised this when they complained that they get picked up at 4pm not 5.30 like some of the other children. They get to play sports all day. Meet other children. Play games. Planning just one or two days for the whole holidays in advance means I can inform clients or any ongoing contracts of my working days each week so I’m contactable and maintaining consistency.
  2. Get up before the children. If you’re unlucky enough to have children who wake at 5am, you may want to skip this one. But if, like mine, they are teenagers before their years, by getting up at 6am or 7am you could get at least two hours of solid working time in, to complete short pieces of work or admin. So, when the children emerge, the computer can shut down and you can enjoy your day with a sense of satisfaction. Of course, this could work at the other end of the day too. An hour in the evening could help keep on top of things.
  3. Find colleagues, other companies to collaborate with or bring in additional staff for the short term. Yes, this entails a lot of forward planning and trust. But being able to delegate or outsource work to other professionals will not only enable you to take the time off that you need, but will maintain a seamless service to your clients rather than negotiating extensions and returning to a mountain of work in September.
  4. Have an emergency treat box. You say bribery/I say incentive. I must admit, I pinched this idea from a friend. There will be the odd time when a client requirement means a phone call when the children are around. To avoid the inevitable desperate need for your child to speak with you/demand snacks/describe their toilet requirements just because they know you’re on the phone; have a special box which is allowed for the duration of non-disturbance. This could contain new colouring or activity books and some snack foods. Soon they’ll be cheering when mummy needs to take a phone call.
  5. Use your family holiday away for genuine shut down and switch off. Out of office goes on. Clients are informed. Emails have to wait. I find this hard, and you may too. Okay, I’ll allow the odd email. But the important thing is what goes on in your head. Genuinely, fully, throwing yourself into holiday-mode takes real commitment; but arm yourself with leisurely distractions like kindles, books and great days out. We all need a break (a proper one, not an enforced, stressful one) to make sure we’re refreshed, renewed and motivated on our return.

I’ve called this a survival guide, but hopefully it’s more than that. A way to actually genuinely enjoy the holidays rather than simply survive them.

Happy holidays.

 

For help with setting routines and your work/life balance check out the 3Plus Coaching and Mentoring programs for women. Contact us.

Elizabeth Hibbert Contributor
Elizabeth is an Oxford University educated, former advertising Client Services Director turned professional writer, marketer, small business owner and mum. With a deep understanding of the impact of words, she makes business communications powerful, engaging and effective.
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