Thanks to Nicola Cooper-Abbs (who you can contact at All Words) for this fab guest post
I’ve been a freelance copywriter and editor since 2004. About a year into being self-employed, I thought it would be a good idea to have a baby. I dreamt of casually bouncing my little one on my knee while I typed away, chatting to clients and thinking up creative ideas for clients marketing and advertising. I can already hear all the business mums rolling around laughing…
When Mia arrived in 2006 I had a bit of a shock. On the one hand I realised my workday would now be completely fragmented. But I soon realised I’d picked the ideal profession for working around kids. Fast forward to 2010 and I now have two little ones to work around (both preschool age) and I still manage to run a successful little copywriting business with minimal childcare. And this is how I do it:
This can be the toughest part of being a mum and a business owner. If you are starting out or want complete flexibility to pick and chose projects then there are a number of sites where you can pick up writing work including www.elance.com, www.guru.com and www.peopleperhour.com. The money isn’t fantastic but it’s all done online so no client meetings and you decide which bits of work you want to bid on. The next step up are specialised sites like www.skillfair.co.uk and www.freelancersintheuk.co.uk , you usually pay a fee to join but the jobs are of a much higher quality, better paid and usually with larger companies (so there’s a chance of building a relationship and ongoing work). And finally there is networking, face to face is brilliant and with morning, afternoon and evening networking there is usually something I can get to. If not then social media (so facebook and twitter) is a great way to connect with people and find work.
Different types of work and changing your focus
Before I had my lovely babies I did a lot of big projects which often meant long days of focussed work. It can be tricky to maintain this when you have a toddler crayoning on the walls and a baby wailing for a feed. So it’s a good idea to focus on finding work that is more flexible. I started doing some copywriting tutoring, it’s flexible and fits around my other writing work. Then I started looking into types of work that married up with where I was in my life, I now review baby and child products with a large publisher and have a couple of clients in the baby sector. It’s a good match because they know I have kids to work around and I’m able to offer them a view from the trenches!
I’ve left behind the idea of a conventional working day. And that’s hard. It’s so ingrained that we should sit down and do a ‘full day’s work’ that realising there is another way to work doesn’t always come naturally. Today is my one childfree day and so I will sit at my desk for eight or so hours but on most days I work in fits and starts with chunks done at naptime or in the evenings. While you might grimace at the idea of working late into the night, the benefit is I get to spend all the next day with my kids instead of being stuck in an office.
Before I had my kids I asked other working mums how they coped. There was a lot of mumbling, a lot of ‘oh I work around the kids’ and a few honest people who told me they had help. And boy do you need it. It’s really really hard to work if you have no childcare, no colleagues, no family or friends. It turns out many of the working mums who told me they worked around their kids in fact had au pairs, nannies or grandma just round the corner. There is plenty you can do at the weekends, in the evenings and when Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is on (I bless the inventors of Sky) but you need sometime to meet the odd client, make a phone call or just focus your entire brain on the project in hand. Then there are those little things like holidays, which we all need, and maternity leave. After Mia I had almost no time off, this time around I was a bit smarter and found someone to help out. Find other people who work in your sector and use them as support, a sounding board and someone to pass work to if you become overloaded.
I’ve got 4 hours childfree time left, must get writing!! Do pop over to All Words if you need some copywriting or some more information/inspiration.