How to continue your freelance career when you become a mother – a glimpse into my new book
There’s no doubt that combing work with parenthood is a challenging task. But the life of a mother who runs her own business can be more intense on each and every level. Lack of security tied to full-time salaried employment, limited or almost non-existent maternity leave, doubts about how to keep both your customers and your family happy may be reasons for a constant headache and emotional roller coaster long before the child is born.
So, what is the best approach?
What are the right strategies for balancing motherhood and freelance work?
15 women from six continents and nine different industries tod me about their challenges and rewards. Based on their stories and my experience, I noticed that although there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for success, there are some important steps that you can take to transition smoothly into the life of a freelancing mother.
1. Prepare your business for the change
If you’re planning to take a longer maternity leave, you’ll need to prepare your business for your absence. You can train an assistant that would take over some of your tasks, refer your clients to your trusted colleague for the time that you can’t work or hire a sitter for your business (yes, that’s a real thing!).
Whether or not you’re willing to take a maternity break, your freelance business should always have some reasonable financial buffer. In the ideal scenario, your financial cushion should be big enough to cover your expenses for at least six months. This buffer will help you go through unexpected events like a sudden loss of clients, late payments, health problems, including complications during and after your pregnancy. You could also use your buffer to take a longer maternity leave.
Another approach is to make sure your business can generate passive income, so you could make some money even when you don’t work. Think about online courses, e-books, graphic templates, website templates or other digital products. It’s always great to diversify your income streams and find a way to earn money without an active effort—not only when you want to prepare for a maternity leave.
2. Prioritise your self-care
As a mother running a freelance business, you’re actually running a marathon. That’s why first you need to take care of yourself. It’s difficult to have a successful business, and be a patient and loving mum if you neglect your well-being. You don’t need to start your day from two hours of yoga, meditation, jogging or a visit in a beauty salon. Sometimes all you’ll need is five minutes of silence, a relaxing bath, a few pages of a good book, a quick moment to do what you truly enjoy. A short routine will help you start your day on the right note, create a relaxed atmosphere and equip yourself for any challenges that my occur in your private and business life.
Self-care also means choosing a healthy diet, focusing on positive emotions and spending time with positive people. It also means sleeping enough hours to be able to focus on your work and your baby. If you’re planning to work when your baby sleeps, take a break from this strategy from time to time to get a decent eight-hour sleep or a longer nap during the day. This will boost you productivity more than a cup of coffee.
3. Adapt your work style
As a freelancing mum, you’ll often have to adapt your work to your baby’s routine. Starting each day in front of the computer and working for 12 without a break might not be an option anymore. But that’s a good thing. Working in small pockets of time will help you stay more productive and focus on what really matters. Finally the work time will be the time for work, not for mindless scrolling through social medial or never-ending chats with your friends.
Be ready to take your projects with you wherever you go to take advantage of short, random moments during your day. For example, you can reply to your customer’s e-mails while waiting for an appointment with your doctor. You could also make use of the long breastfeeding time and combine it with reading or typing your ideas. For the first six months of my daughter’s life, I could only work when she was nursing or sleeping. Although I missed the comfort of my office, I quickly adapted to this change as well. If your work and your customers really matter to you, you’ll find the right solution to continue running your business.
4. Learn to say no
Once you become a mother your priorities will begin to shuffle. Whether it’s accepting last-minute projects, going to networking events or running intensive social media campaigns—some tasks will simply become unimportant. That’s why you’ll need to be firm and learn to say no. Reject projects or proposals that don’t align with your priorities, cross out the items from your own to-do list and limit your business activities. You can’t always have it all. Sometimes you’ll need to give up certain activities—both in your business and private life—to focus on your baby. But when another opportunity arises, when your child becomes less dependent on your or when you finally have more time to run your business, you’ll have more energy to pick up where you left off. And to start saying yes.
5. Ask for help
No matter how you manage your time or how you approach your freelance work, when you become a mother, you’ll need the support of other people. Even if you think you can do it all by yourself—take care of your baby, your business and your house —everyone will be better off if you start delegating tasks.
If you prefer to wait until someone spontaneously offers to help you, this is the right time to quit waiting and learn to be more direct. People around you might be too busy, too focused on their own world, or simply too shy to lend a hand. That’s why speaking your mind and requesting the help you need is the first step to avoiding many unpleasant surprises. For example, you can agree with your partner on how to share the housework, you can schedule the time that’s only for you or for your business while your family takes care of your child or ask your friends to help you run errands.
There’s of course much more you can do to combine your freelance work with motherhood. You can find more ideas and inspiration in a book that I’ve just published You’ve got this: How to continue your freelance career when you become a mother.
It contains interviews with 15 women from around the world and handy tips on how to find your own effective strategy to continue your freelance career when you become a mother.
Have a look inside for a strong dose of motivation and inspiration!