Welcome to Part One of “How to be a freelance writer as a work-at-home-mum”. This was only meant to be one post, but it ended up being so epically long that I had to split it.
There is so much advice in here make sure you have a paper and pen handy. 😀
Let us crack on with it. After all, we are busy mums and time is precious!
When I had my first child (now a strapping 3-year-old) the thought of going back to full-time shift work as a nurse almost had me in a full blown panic attack. The idea of leaving him for 10 hours at a time 4 to 5 times a week was unbearable.
As much as I love my job as a nurse, I am a mum first and foremost. I am replaceable at work, but not at home.
I started thinking about how I could stay at home, be present for my family and still contribute to our finances. Enter the fabulous world of freelance writing!
As great as freelance writing is, it is still a job. You still need to work damn hard at it.
So how can you be a freelance writer as a work-at-home-mum, or stay-at-home-mum if you will?
How can you balance everything?
How can you ensure that your freelance writing business does not take up as much (if not more time) than if you were working away from home each day?
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Everyone has the same amount of hours each day, however, it is how you use these hours that count. The more efficient you are, the more work you can produce in less time. This means more money in the bank and more time with your family! #wahm” quote=”Everyone has the same amount of hours each day, however, it is how you use these hours that count. The more efficient you are, the more work you can produce in less time. This means more money in the bank and more time with your family!”]
Whilst it hasn’t been an easy journey caring for my kids (we now have 2), running the household and still working a few shifts as a nurse, I have learnt a few strategies along the way that make balancing everything easier.
SET REALISTIC “SMART” GOALS.
It would be AMAZING to have a sparkling clean house, a highly successful home-based business, a hot dinner on the table and a solid 8 hours of sleep every single night. I mean, isn’t that what we all want?
But is it realistic?
For us mere mortals it is more about setting feasible goals. Smart goals. Goals that make running our business and house easier and help to achieve our dreams.
Create support systems.
Before you start your business, you need to have a solid plan in place. And I am not talking a boring business plan. I am talking about a plan for support systems that will help you manage all your responsibilities whilst allowing you the opportunity to grow and develop your business.
I wish (I really do wish) that this is something I did before I started my business
Instead, I jumped in without thinking about how much time, effort and energy it would consume. I did not think about HOW I would achieve my dreams, I just thought about my WHY. It wasn’t until my husband sat me down and told me he was struggling that I realized the pressure I had put on those around me and myself by not planning properly. He said that he found it hard with all the extra chores and responsibility I was piling on top of his already stressful full-time job.
It was a real eye-opener for me.
I had to sit back and reevaluate HOW I was working. I had to scale back my big goals and set a more feasible time-frame for them so that I wasn’t working all the time. After all, the reason I wanted to be a work-at-home-mum was to be more present for my family, not permanently attached to my computer or phone.
So where were my realistic goals?
Not just realistic for me, but for my family and support systems. Where were my support systems? Where was my plan to be able to work with support from my husband but without over burdening him?
After much discussion with my husband I have re-set my business goals and worked out a better working schedule, time-frame and plan to achieve those goals. One that does not negatively impact my family or me. Just remember, that you cannot achieve everything straight away. These things take time.
So, my biggest piece of advice before you jump into a freelance writing career is to set up your support systems and discuss with your family how working from home will work for you.
Write a Business Plan.
Part of setting realistic goals should be writing out a business plan. It does not have to be complicated or super long, one page will do. I am a huge fan of simple.
A basic business plan that lays out what you want to earn from your business each month, with the actionable steps you need to take to achieve that and realistic timeframes to do it in.
And it will save you time and angst later. I wish I had done this from the start!
Set your goals.
Set yourself 30, 60 and 90-day goals. Or monthly, quarterly and yearly. Small. Medium. Big.
These goals will help drive your business forward. Don’t forget to break those big business goals down into smaller actionable chunks. Those smaller pieces help maintain your motivation and productivity. It keeps those feelings of overwhelm at bay.
ORGANISATION IS KEY TO BEING A SUCCESSFUL WORK-AT-HOME-MUM!
Balancing everything from being a mum, running a household to being a wife, and writer is hard. But if you are organised it makes everything easier.
I love a schedule and a good to-do list! I use my own version of a bullet journal to stay on top of everything and keep a home, social and business life on track. My husband loves to joke that I have a to-do list for my to-do list…I don’t, of course. Kind of. Maybe.
Anyway, moving on.
Organisation is what will help you balance EVERYTHING as a work-at-home-mum! And the first step to being organised is a…you guessed it…to-do list!
I would be so lost without one. I have a running to-do list that I write things down on as I go. Then I have a weekly to-do list, and a daily to-do list. It sounds like a lot. But it is a system that works for me.
My running to-do list is a bit like a brain dump. Where the weekly and daily lists are more structured and prioritized.
Create a Schedule (and STICK to it).
The next step to creating and maintaining an organised business and life is a schedule that works for you and your family. This is where a good planner, diary, online calendar or whiteboard come in handy. You need to write out your schedule, and stick to it as much as possible. Obviously, there are things that happen such as illness or teething babies that can throw a spanner in the works. Then you need to adapt and change your schedule where possible. Your priorities will change and your schedule needs to reflect this.
Decide WHEN you will write and work.
I absolutely LOVE batching tasks. It is a time management system that has boosted my productivity and streamlined my week. When using batching for time management I feel more organized and less overwhelmed. I allocate batched tasks to each time window I have during the day and pencil those into my schedule.
I know when my youngest will be napping (roughly) and when both children should be in bed at night. These are my “working” hours. I also aim to get up earlier during the week to get some work done before they wake for the day.
These are chunks of the day and night where I know I can generally work relatively uninterrupted….depending on my toddler!
Using this I have an estimate of how many hours a week I can dedicate to work. This is important to help you set those realistic goals we spoke about. There is no point taking on projects that need 10 hours of work a week if you only have 5 available hours. You will only be setting yourself up to fail.
I try to ignore the housework and folding during nap times so I can focus solely on “work”. This may mean I do not have a sparkling clean house or neatly folded clothes put away, but I am productive! I can always fold clothes when both children are awake.
Put it this way, if you were working outside of the home you wouldn’t be stopping your workday to fold a load of laundry or to vacuum the floor.
Write it all down and allocate time for each task
I mean write it ALL down. Every task you can think of that you need to do in the week. It is called a brain dump. Just get it all out.
Once you have your epic to-do list, prioritise. What absolutely MUST get done and when. Plug this into your schedule. Highlight it if you must. I colour code everything.
Write things down into your schedule by order of priority and when you know you can get things done. What day will you do the cleaning? Or will you spread it out over the week? What day will you focus on pitching? When will you return emails and check in on Social Media? When will you complete client work? What about grocery shopping and other errands or appointments?
GRAB MY SAMPLE BATCHING SCHEDULE HERE:
Keep your client assignments organized.
Whether you use an online project management tool like Asana or Trello, Google sheets, excel, word document or a simple paper and pen the key is to keep your projects organized!
You MUST know what each project entails, timeframes, workload and when they are due.
Otherwise, the poop will hit the fan. You will miss deadlines. You will forget integral parts of the project. So, whatever method works to keep you organized and on track make sure you use it.
My best advice is to ALWAYS WORK AHEAD.
What do I mean by that? Simply, if the due date of the project is Friday 24thset yourself an internal due date of Wednesday 22nd. Or even earlier. This way if anything unexpected crops up like illness (you or your children), computer issues or other emergencies you have a few days up your sleeve before you miss deadlines.
So, what have we discovered we need in Part One?
- Set realistic goals
- Create support systems
- Write a business plan
- Organisation is the KEY to everything.
- Develop a schedule that works for you and your family, and that is fluid. It needs to be easily adjusted to the changing needs of your business and family week to week.
- Keep client projects organised
- ALWAYS WORK AHEAD
Stay tuned for Part Two: How to be a freelance writer and a work-at-home-mum.
We will delve into topics such as setting boundaries, working around your children, using templates and separating your mum and business roles.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your ideas and stories on how to be a freelance writer as a WAHM.