3 Tips to Help Your Family Benefit from Your Freelancing at Home

family-1One of the prime benefits of working at home as a freelancer is the ability to engage with your family in ways you never can working elsewhere. Ironically, this can also become detrimental to your family relationships if you have workaholic tendencies or take on projects that require extremely long hours and make you even more unavailable than if you were working a 9 to 5 job.

Balancing your work at home life with your other responsibilities can raise unique challenges and requires a constant attention to the elements that you can dictate to make your family the priority you desire them to be. This post will share some tips to help you not only find that balance, but to reap maximum benefits for the ones you love while giving your work the time and attention it requires.


My Work/Life Balance Story

In a previous post, I wrote about dropping everything for what matters most, referencing my family as the main reason I choose to work from home. I won’t rehash that here, but you should read that article as well if you are struggling with freelancing cutting into your home life too much. If you are single or do not have other family members in your home, there’s a great post here on Freelance Folder regarding how to avoid the loneliness that can come from isolation in the work at home environment. Another related post addresses 5 bad work at home habits that may contribute to a rougher family life should you be guilty of them. Be sure to check out all of the articles here on Freelance Folder to strengthen your freelance business.

This coming May I will be celebrating 21 years of marriage to my wonderful wife. We have three kids, ages 12, 14 and 17, and they are truly my primary joy in life. Since I began freelancing from home I have seized every opportunity I can to take full advantage of the extra time this can give me with them, and I believe all of our lives are better for it. Ultimately, they are the main reason I work at all–to provide a home and a life for them that is acceptable by our standards. So, it stands to reason that I should do everything I can to make sure they are benefiting from my arrangement and the freedoms it allows. If not, I figure I may as well be punching a clock at an office or agency somewhere. I have punched clocks elsewhere in the past. I have learned that the work-at-home rewards for my family can be invaluable as long as I keep them in focus and as a priority for the way I choose to utilize my time. Here are some of the main ways I do this.

Integrate Your Home Office into Everyday Life

family-2I realize that this may not work for everyone, especially those that may have Attention Deficit Disorder or a lower patience level, but I chose from the beginning to set up my home office right in our living space. Because our layout allows it, I decided to set up my desk in the living room. While this can sometimes be distracting, I have made a conscious decision to embrace distractions rather than be annoyed by them. When my family is getting ready for their day in the morning, I am a part of it. I may be sitting at my desk, but I participate in conversations while I work, jump up to help with breakfast or anything else that arises, and do my best to start each day with them. Mornings can be crazy in our house, especially with two teenage girls, but I have made what I believe are necessary adjustments to accommodate my presence as a husband and father in each of my family members’ mornings.

The same applies throughout the rest of the day. As family members come and go I do my best to stop what I’m doing and participate. Sometimes this simply isn’t possible if there are looming deadlines or rush projects, but I try hard to make those times the exceptions. I am able to greet each one of my children after school each day, sometimes without even moving from my desk other than to slide away or turn around, and I get to celebrate the joy of not missing the moments that I otherwise would have been absent for.

At the end of the day, if I have some reason to still be working into the evening, I’m not completely disconnected from whatever the family is doing. This is where integrating the home office into the living space can get dangerous, especially for the workaholic types, because you could find yourself wandering over to check on something or to take “just a minute” that turns into hours. Self-discipline is key to successfully planting your workspace in the middle of all that is going on, but if done correctly I believe the benefits for your family are worth the risk.

Turn Interruptions into Opportunities

family-3Again, this may not work for everyone or all the time. You may be the type of person who gets into a rhythm and stopping in the middle of a project at a critical point could prove disruptive to your workflow. For those who can manage it though, breaking up your work day to drive kids where they need to go or accompany someone to an event or shopping or whatever arises can prove priceless to those that desire your attention.

My middle daughter and I have a running joke that a trip to the grocery store together is our own personal daddy-daughter “date.” I am always careful to point out to her that the trips we make to pick up a few items are special times that only she and I share, and although she is quick to disagree, saying these times don’t count as a “date,” she obviously values them and never fails to ask when we’re going again.

I have made a point of trying to break up my day according to my family’s various schedules. Instead of getting upset with what could be considered interruptions in my busy day, I choose to view them as opportunities to give and share time with the ones I love. Working at home provides this incomparable freedom, and the break in the day is almost always a welcome one to my work process. Try looking for ways to make what you may consider mundane or someone else’s duty into valuable times with your loved ones and a chance to take a break from the workday.

Take Requests

family-4I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as over-communication, especially when it comes to relationships. One of the best possible ways you can foster growth in how your freelancing from home benefits your family is to ask them how you’re doing and what they would like from you. Regularly schedule “family meetings” in which you ask your spouse and children for their feedback. Ask them to tell you what they like and don’t like about you working from home. Open the floor for ideas of ways you can better engage with them and make the most of your time. You may discover new ways to give them the father and husband they most desire, and you may be surprised to find some of the things you are currently doing can be modified or eliminated to benefit your family more.

Of course, you also may receive responses like “Spend more money on me” or “Don’t work as many hours,” but even these types of comments should create opportunities to identify the elements of your work at home life that can use adjustment.

Your Turn

Work at making the prospect of working from home one that continually grows and strengthens your relationships with your loved ones and everyone wins. Dismiss this opportunity and you could find yourself in a more difficult circumstance than if you were punching a clock at an office each day.

Of course, everyone’s family and living situation is unique, combined with your own personal working style, so these tips may or may not work for you. Hopefully at the very least they will give you some ideas and encouragement toward making the most of your own situation and benefitting the ones you love in the best possible ways.

What are some ways that you have found benefit your family? Do you already incorporate any of the tips I’ve mentioned, and if so, how is it working for you? Please be sure to share your thoughts and your own tips in the comments below.

Images by Shutterstock

Comments

  1. says

    I love this post! I will now make a conscious decision to embrace all those interruptions that come from working at home. Funny how just changing your attitude to something can really make a positive out of something that could easily make you quite annoyed.

    And by the way, you sound like a fantastic dad!

  2. says

    I just wanted to note that for tax purposes, your home office must be a separate room in order for the IRS to accept it (and related expenses) as a place of business. The IRS doesn’t consider a desk in your living room as a workspace. Which means that your Internet, hardware and software could also be contested as business expenses.

    Just a word of warning

  3. says

    Thanks for pointing that out, Shaun. As I said, my particular layout allows for it, since the section of space that is my work area actually used to be a separate bedroom. The wall was knocked out to expand the living room. The IRS has been fine with this for a few years, so I guess it’s working for me.

    By the way, I’m no expert at all when it comes to taxes, but I remember that the questions asked regarding space used for work did not mention anything about a requirement of a separate room. They specifically asked for the square footage in use for work purposes only, but not if it was its own room. Obviously, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong, but just a thought as far as what I’ve been doing.

    Thanks for the comment!

  4. says

    I can only work at home for so long before my wife goes crazy due to my cabin fever attitude. Really the only way for me to get out of the hermit mentality is by force!

  5. says

    Thanks Marie! I’m definitely not the world’s best dad, and at times I do not always drop everything for my kids – especially if I’m in the middle of something intense. But it’s my goal to try. So far I think we all are reaping the benefits of it!

  6. says

    Hey Brian, great post. Something I’ve done for quite some time now and find that it’s been super helpful is that I set aside the hours of 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to be with my family each night. No work, no computer, no papers… just me, my wife, and my kids playing around, having fun and reading stories. Of course that’s not the only time I’m with them. I try to participate in their activities and give them time and attention throughout the day as well, but they know that those hours are guaranteed family time.

  7. says

    i read somewhere that the IRS eased off the “separate room” requirement and is ok with a delineated space not necessarily made of walls. Of course, I’ve never had luck in getting that said straight from the horse’s mouth…

  8. says

    Hey Brian,

    I always find your articles very helpful – not only in terms of being a professional web devloper or designer, but in terms of being a professional freelancer. From what you post it seems like you’ve worked hard to achieve a good work/life balance, so as someone trying to do the same, I appreciate the tried and true tips.

    One thing I’ve been trying lately is to designate some time during the day – or even an entire day itself, just for non-work, friends & family time (as Chris mentioned above). It can be hard to pull yourself away from a project, but I’ve found it has really helped to reestablish some personal time and preserve what’s left of my sanity!

  9. says

    Great article, Brian! I, too, use a public family space for my work area, and the challenges are many. I’m working on establishing more of a routine for my work-flow, rather than popping over to the computer to check “just one more email” when I really need to be doing something else at home.

  10. says

    @Chris & Drew:

    You guys both touched on something that I didn’t include, which is the idea of segmented time in which work is not allowed. This gets even more difficult with the kind of “in the middle of everything” setup that I’ve suggested, because just as Julie points out, it can be very easy to step over to the computer and check your email for a sec.

    I try to have set times throughout the day (meals, for instance) that I do not answer the phone, sit at the computer, and so forth. I also strive for at least one whole day a week (Sunday) when I don’t do any work at all. I’m hoping someday this can become an actual 2-day weekend, but the flexibility of all the other days and times allows for some decent balance until that weekend (hopefully) arrives.

  11. says

    Thanks for that insight, Brian. This is definitely right where I’m at right now. My 2 kids and my wife who mean more to me than anything. We’re moving jobs and geographic location. I really want this transition time (and obviously the next season of our life) to be good for them.

    So, I’m really wrestling with wanting to be around them more, yet be sure my work provides for what they need. Because of that, I’m really considering another ‘punch-the-clock’ job. How do you handle the feast or famine cycle and the uncertainty of being able to make enough money for your family?

    I think this is a problem unique to parent freelancers. If you’re single you can just eat ramen for a month and live in a one room apartment, but not so with raising kids.

    Thanks so much for the helpful advice!

  12. says

    @Allena – My accountant explained to me that you can write off 100% of a dedicated office space, as defined by walls. In all other places in your home that you conduct business you can write off 50% of those spaces.

  13. says

    Brian–dude! You have explained exactly how I live my work and family life! Thank you. I’ve been doing things this way for 15 years, and every time I explain it to other freelancers, nearly all of them exclaim, “Oh, I can’t work that way! I don’t think *anybody* can work that way!”

  14. says

    I also have my desk set up in a common room. Since I try to work fairly normal daytime hours, those are the same hours everyone else in the house is gone, so there really isn’t a problem of being interrupted by others. Sometimes I’ll start at the computer while the kids are still eating breakfast in the next room, but I just use that time for checking personal emails and reading news. Then I can still talk with the kids at the same time or get interrupted without worrying about it. And then I’m ready to start the real work when everyone leaves.

  15. says

    Talk about hitting a nerve! In a good way. Thanks for sharing this, Brian!
    I’ve been working most of my life as a contractor in the IT field. My last, and current position has changed in character to the point that it is interesting, and could be great, but my work environment has been turning it into a negative experience.
    The good thing has been that I’ve re-discovered my artistic abilities since the last year, and I’ve been learning and sharing my journey into art with a great bunch of artists online, bit by bit. This has turned into a quest for art time throughout the day. My “punch-clock” dayjob and long commute leaves me a few hours of family time. My art time, which I equate with freelancing, even though it is not at that point, is very minimal. Time management is the only hope I have to etch out some quality art time. Here’s where my family comes in, and where your article hits the nerve so well.
    I try my best to share with my family, which is my inspiration. My daughter continually connects with me (she’s 6) with her never-ending arts and crafts interests.
    My one trick, to marry my art interests (read “freelance job”) is to make art with my daughter, and involve my wife as much as possible. They are both very supporting, and inspiring, but regular family activities will take most of my time at night, and then it is time to go back to work. If I were younger, I’d probably burn the midnight oil in this situation, but that is not an option, because then I would really be worthless as a zombie at the office. So, there I am.
    I use twitter, podcasts, and the web a lot to connect with my art buddies, share ideas and techniques, and get feedback that I think I would otherwise get from a real live art education. This also cuts into family time. So I try to take a sketchbook with me every time I go out with the family as well. Another example… I took a mini sketchbook to vacation, and that turned out to be fun. Me, my daughter, and my nieces actually found ourselves sketching at times at Disney, of all inspiring places. That is the sort of thing that I call mixing family, and my analogous art situation with “freelancing”.
    I found your article so in tune with my situation, that I’m recommending it to lots of art friends, and at least to one of them that runs a very respectable art community called “Escape From Illustration Island”. I hope you don’t mind.
    Thanks again for sharing such wonderful tips and ideas. This is one of the times I really value my decision to stop and read an interesting article even if I don’t think i have the time. Stop and smell the flowers, as they say. It has been incredibly inspiring.
    Best of luck, and congratulations on the delicate balance you have achieved.

  16. says

    You touched on something most people don’t realize – the value of time with children.
    Keep on grabbing every spare moment with them.
    With the talk about fixing dinner, I mistakenly assumed this post was written by a woman. Keep cooking dinner!

  17. says

    “Integrate Your Home Office into Everyday Life”

    This is indeed much better then wondering off all day in a closed home office, I’ve done exact the same thing and with two teenage boys, dog and stuff, it’s a busy morning ;).

    So my opinion is that setting up your desk inside your living room is indeed much better for your relation with your family ;).

  18. says

    @Allena – My accountant explained to me that you can write off 100% of a dedicated office space, as defined by walls. In all other places in your home that you conduct business you can write off 50% of those spaces.

  19. says

    And here I thought my business was going to suffer because I take the time for my kids lol. I’m like you in that I have my work area out in the living room so I take care of my youngins in between working. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. I don’t think it will stress me out quite as much now.

    That is why I’m trying to get this going too is to have more time with my family. They are the main reason for it all. Great post.

  20. says

    Nice sharing you’ve got here. I can relate with scheduling ‘family team meetings’ as it helps our relationship grow strong. Also, my family is supporting me in what I do and I get nice suggestions from them on how to do my work better, from time to time. So, working at home is really working not only for me, but for my family as well. Thanks!

  21. says

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  22. Jay says

    Great post!

    I have my office in a room at the front door, so I’m part of all the comings and gongs. SOmetimes I need to close the door to take a phone call, and our boys are older now, so its better. It is a decision though.

    The family has to accommmodate youand the business as much as you accommodate them. Breakfast with my wife, and fixed lunch hour and clock-off times have made it easier for everyone. If I really need to, I can sneak back to work later in the evening…

  23. says

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