How to Freelance with Kids

Many people are drawn to freelancing because they feel the flexible lifestyle will give them more time to spend with their kids. With summer just around the corner, many schools are about to end their school year and freelancers with school age kids will once again find their kids at home.

While it’s true that freelancing work can be flexible, it can also be challenging to get work done while the kids are home. Just how challenging depends on the kids and the freelancer… But there are ways to make freelancing with kids easier.

In this post, I’ll provide some easy tips for freelancers who juggle freelancing with parenting.

If you have children at home while you freelance, please add your own tips in the comments so that we can learn from each other.

The Childcare Question

Many freelancers turned to freelancing specifically so that they could spend more time with their kids. For many that works well. Parenting is an important life phase.

However, it’s important to remember that freelancing takes time too. So, a parent who freelances needs to make sure that they allow themselves enough time (and the proper conditions) to get their work done and done well.

While some freelancers thrive in a noisy environment (arguing kids in the background, babies crying, frequent interruptions), other freelancing work requires more concentration and quiet. If you find that you are a freelancer who can’t focus when your kids are noisy, you may want to consider paid childcare for at least a few hours a day. Of course, childcare can be costly, so make sure that you are charging enough for your freelancing services to cover the cost of childcare and still earn a profit.

Remember, that childcare does not necessarily mean dropping your kid off at the local daycare center (although that’s an option). Here are some other childcare options you may want to consider:

  • Swap babysitting tasks with another local freelancer. Alternate the days that each of you watches both sets of kids.
  • Hire a teen to watch kids and keep them quiet in your own home for the summer.
  • Hire a trusted relative to watch kids for a few days a week.

Some freelancers don’t want to rely on any form of childcare. This may be an economic or a personal decision. Those freelancers are not without alternatives.

Other Alternatives to Paid Childcare

If you can’t afford childcare or don’t wish to use it, you may still have some free and low cost options that will give you some quiet time to get your work done:

  • Mother’s Day Out Programs–Many churches and community centers offer childcare for one or several days a week.
  • Community Programs–Many libraries have a free story time for preschool and elementary age children. As a bonus, many libraries also offer free WiFi access to patrons.
  • Summer Activities–Look for children’s community activities and lessons as well as summer camps. With your mobile device, you may be able to freelance while your child participates.

When my own kids were younger, they loved the library story times in our community. I loved the hour or so that I could sit in the relative quiet of the library with my laptop getting some serious work done.

Another option that many freelancers choose is to work while the children sleep. This can work well if your child still takes a nap or has an early bedtime. Take care to get enough sleep yourself, though.

Some freelancers delegate childcare to their partner while they work. If you’re the primary caregiver for your children, this can also be a great opportunity for your kids to spend some quality time with the other parent.

Make the Children a Part of the Business

You may be able to hire older children to perform basic tasks for your business. Is your teen an aspiring writer or web designer? Give him or her a chance to show you what they can do.

Younger teens may be able to help by making copies, filing, or performing other simple office tasks. This is a great way to pass on some basic business knowledge to your kids.

There may even be some tax benefits and other advantages to hiring your own child. Check with your accountant to make sure.

Your Turn

Do you freelance with children at home? How do you juggle freelancing and raising kids?

Comments

  1. says

    As a freelance writer who has recently become a dad, I honestly don’t think there is any easy way to deal with the added commotion, jobs, noise, etc that come with a new baby. This is one of the times when working from home is not ideal.

    Rent an office? That’s an option I am seriously considering, but then that’s an added expense. For the time being it is just a question of shutting the door and focusing on the job. This is something that will differ immensely from freelancer to freelancer, but I can tell you I am looking forward to a few years down the road when school starts…

  2. says

    Greg Walker–Thanks for sharing your experience. I remember those days and you have my sympathy. Renting an office may be an option for some, thanks for suggesting it. But, as you point out, renting can be pricey.

    In the mean time, you may be able to use one of the other suggestions to get a little quiet time for yourself so that you get some work done.

    Maybe some of our readers will have other tips for you?

  3. says

    Thanks for the tip about swapping with a local freelancer – that’s a great idea. Right now, my husband is home with the kids while I write, but it’s not exactly an ideal situation. Anything that promotes more networking among our kind is a good thing, in my opinion.

    We are talking about creating an office that is separate from the house. No matter what’s going on, my Mom instincts can’t totally shut down so when it sounds like they’re all falling apart, of course I go see if I can help. :)

  4. says

    @Greg, I know exactly what you mean. Shutting the door doesn’t quite do the trick, either, unless it’s a soundproof room. When the better half takes the kids out to the park or shopping is my best time. It’s like becoming a whole new writer, “Wow, I can be that productive?!”

    If you have the space, what about converting a shipping container or one of those fancy storage sheds into an office? It would be simple enough to run power for coffee and lights, which is pretty much all it takes to work, at least for me. :)

  5. says

    Hi Megan–Thanks for sharing your story and ideas. I’ve seen some really nice storage sheds that could easily be converted into a home office space. In my climate, though, air conditioning is a must.

  6. says

    Yes, it gets very hot here in the summer too. It would certainly take some creativity, but I dream of a nice, tidy office that is free from kid crumbs and dirty fingerprints. :)

  7. says

    I’m glad you posted about this, because being able to stay home with kids one day is why I got into the field of graphic design/writing to begin with. Not speaking from experience (yet), but I’m guessing when they’re younger, setting and adhering to a regular schedule will be a necessity — at least that would give you a good chance of knowing how much time you have to work on projects. Looking forward to hearing about the experiences of those who have done it before!

  8. says

    Thanks Mandy B! This is an aspect of freelancing that doesn’t get discussed nearly enough. You’re right, being able to stay with kids is a motivator for a lot of freelancers.

    I do hope a lot of our readers chime in with their own tips and experiences.

  9. says

    I began freelancing when my grandson was two, which is almost six years ago. When he was little, I had to work at night or while he was napping. Now that he’s older, almost eight, I can work while he’s at school. The only hard part now is when he is sick, on summer vacation, or has a day off from school. During these times, I work while he is out playing with friends, something that I couldn’t do when he was younger.

    I also work when he is busy playing with his trains or legos, and I have learned to work at an hour a time, which is great because it reminds me to take a break every once in awhile.

  10. says

    I started freelancing when my older kids were 10 & 8, and had a baby durring that time. There is defiantly an age when working from home is almost impossible. (about 2-3 years old) as babies it’s fine. Naps and early bed times gave me plenty of time to work. I worked when the older two were in school, or doing homework, and taught them to help with the business. I’m a graphic designer and by 12 my oldest was doing all my filing, most of the billing and even some prep work (scanning files, uploading to the server, etc.).

    Once little ones are 2-3 they are old enough to be mobile, but don’t have the attention spans needed for you to get much done. With my youngest, once she was about 3, I had a kitchen timer that I would set. I would tell her, “you need to do X (play with blocks, color, look at books, etc) for 20 minutes, and then we will X (go for a walk, have a snack, read a book).

    I gave her the timer to time me, and the deal was, if she interrupted me before the timer went off, I would start it over again, and she wouldn’t get the activity I promised. It worked very quickly (because she grew up with it) and all my kids are VERY good about not interrupting mom while she’s “at work”.

  11. Allison says

    I have spent the last two years staying up late and getting 5 – 6 hours of sleep. The immediate consequence has been a zillion new gray hairs ( I’m only 38), so I don’t actually recommend my strategy to anyone.

  12. says

    Working at home with kids. It has become my life. Not that I would change it for anything.
    I spend my days working hurriedly through naptimes and when the kids are playing nicely.
    Bringing them (and a laptop) to grandma’s doesn’t hurt either.

  13. says

    Instead of renting an office, you could look into seeing whether there are any complementary businesses (graphic design agency, web design agency, even a printing firm) in your town that would rent you a desk in their office. That would probably work out a lot cheaper than renting out an office in an office building, and could get you some extra work to boot if you’re right there and they want the job done.

  14. says

    Wow!

    Great discussion in the comments.

    Katrina Miller-Fallick–I agree. The toddler years are tough ones. Thanks for adding your tip.

    Allison, Yikes! I hope you get some sleep soon.

    Corinne -> You gotta love grandmas. :)

    Lucy Smith–Good suggestion. That almost sounds like a co-working set up.

  15. Maria says

    Each year gets a little easier, but I’ve always found it helpful to tell the kids when they wake up what “our” schedule is for the day ahead, including how many pages of editing I have for the day, what our meal/fun plans are, etc. They know the more they interrupt, the longer it is till I’m done. And if they interrupt too much, the “fun” plans aren’t going to happen. I have to admit, I love when my 10yo asks: “How many more pages?” (i.e., Are we there yet?) We all do the best we can. I do always make time for lunch with them at the kitchen table, or even better, outside. Thankfully, they are old enough to have friends here, plus they are sleeping in later. And they play very well together.

  16. says

    I started freelancing (in a serious way) when I was 6 months pregnant with my oldest son. He’s now 4.5 and I have a younger son, 2.5. I have to say, now that my career is really taking off, it’s tough. When they were very small, I worked during nap times or before they woke up (which meant I got up *really* early).

    Now, I have a babysitter most days, but even so, I work before they wake and often after they go to bed. Working isn’t easy when they’re both at home (the oldest one has started school). It’s hard to stay sitting at my desk when I hear them crying or fighting or even laughing. But I’ve trained myself to do so, unless it sounds like something I really shouldn’t miss. It’s great to be able to swoop in and deliver a hug or kiss or share a laugh – for me, that’s the point of working from home. But it takes a lot of discipline to go straight back to work. It’s something the kids have had to learn also…that mama is around to give hugs sometimes, but work time is work time….

    Oh, and if it’s too crazy at home, I go to Starbucks. Typical freelancer ;-)

    Lucy Smith – that’s what my sister-in-law does. She rents space from a psychotherapist in her neighborhood.

  17. says

    Maria and Barbara–Thanks for chiming in.

    I love all of the ideas that are being shared here. :)

    It sounds like quite a few freelancers struggle with freelancing while kids are in the home.

  18. says

    Oh my god, I’m so glad I came across this article. I have a two month old, and I have not been able to figure out how to balance staying at home with her during the day and getting work done for my clients at night.

    I think I’ll attempt some of these suggestions. Maybe even start a meetup or something for freelance dad’s that need to alternate watch days.

    Thanks for the info.

  19. says

    My son was 13 when I started my business, so daycare wasn’t an issue. About the only problem I have when he’s home for the summer is if he’s downstairs with me playing video games and yelling at them. If I get a phone call, I have to shut him up before I answer. ;-)

    Our biggest challenge is coordinating schedules. I got us iPhones in November, and set up calendars so they automatically update on all our devices. He has to enter school activities, days off, work times, sports events, etc. on the calendar and maintain it himself, or he gets grounded. Between sports, school and his part-time job, we need to coordinate so I don’t have to move/cancel appointments. It’s gotten better since we got the phones, but it still depends on how well the humans involved update their calendars.

    If I had done this when he was little, I would definitely had to have kept him in daycare. He was much too busy as a small child for me to keep track of and still work. Kudos to all the parents with little ones who keep their kids at home and manage to make this work!

  20. says

    I think thats the beautiful thing – to be able to combine family and strike a work/life balance. Has to practiced with one’s own self discerning discipline though. As some of us have children and predicting to spending slightly time in the office, we’re thinking of reserving a small area and convert it into some ‘play’ area. It’s an idea being toyed with at the moment so we haven’t fully worked out the details yet but yeah, its definitely in the pipelines.

  21. says

    Finding the right balance between work and family is SO difficult. I have a 2 year old and a 5 year old, and find it impossible to get anything done at home when they’re around and not asleep.

    I’m actually trying to solve this dilemma for parents in the Philadelphia area; I’m in the process of opening a coworking office space that caters to the needs of entrepreneurial parents and other work-from-home web designers, developers, writers, marketers, artists, small business owners, telecommuters, and more. Benefits will include on-site child care, conference rooms, nursing/pumping areas, family dinner nights, space for parents to spend time with their kids on breaks, and so much more. We want to give independent consultants and small business owners the ability to network, find community, socialize, learn, get stuff done… and finally achieve work/life balance.

    This has been done in a couple of other places… there’s Bean Work Play Cafe in Atlanta (http://www.beanworkplaycafe.com/) and Third Door in London (http://www.third-door.com/). Others are looking into doing something similar in Toronto, Seattle, and San Francisco. It’s good to have options! :-)

    Aliza Schlabach
    Founder, Coworking for Parents

  22. says

    Hello;
    I started my freelancing career just after I gave birth to my son. I couldn’t do it for couple of months because he needed attention all the time.
    I will go with option “sleep”… HE is still so young and I have to be around him most of the time unless he were sleeping.
    Now things are much better and I have even created a blog about freelancing.. here is the link if you like to check it.
    http://hashtaghal.blogspot.com/
    it is fairly new but I try to do good work

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  1. [...] Many people are drawn to freelancing because they feel the flexible lifestyle will give them more time to spend with their kids. With summer just around the corner, many schools are about to end their school year and freelancers with school age kids will once again find their kids at home. While it’s true that freelancing work can be flexible, it can also be challenging to get work done while the kids are home Direct Link [...]

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