Articles - 3rd December 2020

A guide for parents building their freelance career without childcare

Words by Jenna Farmer
Illustration by James Merritt

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard someone say: ‘you must be so lucky not needing childcare working for yourself’?’

The truth is that being freelance without childcare is bloody difficult. We might not need to go into the office or answer to a boss, but cramming an eight hour day into the one episode of Peppa Pig currently occupying your toddler is impossible!

For many though, it’s not a case of not needing childcare but just simply not having access to it at the moment. Whether that’s family and friends no longer an option, being stuck at home isolating, losing a nursery place in lockdown or the fees for them being too extortionate to justify it in the first place.

We can’t promise that you’ll be able to clock in a full 9-5 shift whilst simultaneously entertaining your little ones (you’d spend a fortune in biscuits for one thing!), but if you find yourself stuck without childcare and are desperate to grow your freelance career, here’s some tips that may help…


Structure your day

If you have older children in particular, setting a structure for the day with them can be really useful and help establish boundaries. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with younger ones but having a loose structure can still be helpful for your mindset and elevate guilt for those moments when you’re not as present.

For example, try dedicating your morning to structured activities where your laptop and phone is switched off: visit the park, go swimming or attend a messy play class. The afternoon then might have a looser structure, with your child or children happy to play independently for pockets of time whilst you catch up.


Use the Pomodoro Technique for important short tasks

Maximise nap time and evenings by using the pomodoro technique (time blocking parts of the day to just focus on one task). You can get pomodoro timers on your phone and laptop and use them to tackle tasks that are impossible with children in the background: whether it’s seeing how many words you can write in 20 minutes without stopping or reading that project brief without being interrupted.

Make a list of these meaty tasks to only address when you have clear headspace and then make a list of other tasks that can be done with background noise. We’re not suggesting it’s feasible to spend the whole day at your laptop, but can you fire off a few emails before you get the kids out of the car? Can you dictate a blog post via voice notes on your phone whilst they’re tucking into their lunch? Or upload a few receipts to your accounting app?

These sorts of stop-start tasks are easy to pick up and put down, but you’ll be surprised at just how many you can get done when you set your mind to it.


Don’t work all evening, every evening

It’s not as simple as childcare in the daytime, work in the evenings: most often you’re flat out exhausted by the time bedtime rolls around and trying to get Bing theme tune out of your head.

Working all evening means you’re exhausted for the next day but set yourself an hour at your laptop as soon as the kids go down (before you have a bath and dinner) and get as many tasks as you can in that hour before logging off. Having wind down time is really important for you too.


Is outsourcing cheaper than childcare?

If you’d love to take on a project but just can’t afford the childcare to do it, consider breaking the project down into different stages. Would it be possible to outsource some of it (especially those fiddly admin tasks that take you forever, but a VA could blast through in an hour?) and just concentrate on those where your expertise lies?

You might find that this works out much cheaper than trying to get a childcare place and connecting with fellow freelancers can help you build a network of reliable people to outsource to.

Don’t forget that this can include other parts of your life too. For example, investing in a cleaner can mean all spare time can be spent on your business rather than domestic jobs.


Get Appy

There are a few really clever apps that can help you with productivity to maximise the free time you do have.

Firstly, download Otter, a voice transcription service which allows you to just speak into the microphone and export the text: use it for transcribing blog content, articles or even emails. It’s a lifesaver if you can’t get your laptop out and although you do need to make a few edits, can make working on written content so much easier.

Daily Planner is an app that allows you to set easy daily habits into your day and tick them off as you do: could you commit to spending ten minutes each morning before the kids get up on your accounts instead of a few hours a month? What about another ten clearing your inbox before you shut your laptop for the night? Ten minutes a day on these adds up to around five hours a month and you’ll feel smug come the tax return deadline.

The beauty of scheduling apps is that you can write your tweets in the middle of the night and have them ready to go for the week ahead. So, use apps such as Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your social media across the week or batch write your emails each evening and schedule them to go out at a more appropriate hour the next day.

There’s no denying that attempting to carve a place for yourself in the freelance world without regular childcare is tough but we hope these tips have given you some inspiration to make the most of the time you do have to keep your business ticking over.

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