Freelancers & Mamas, Work When You Can

As a freelancing mama, it’s hard to find time to get everything done. During my first year freelancing, I struggled to find a balance. I was working when I should have been doing other things like cleaning, exercising, relaxing, or spending time with my family. I didn’t get to enjoy my self-made schedule.

I thought that working from home meant I needed to be working every moment that I was at home. This was exhausting because I’m home 95% of the week. I couldn’t possibly work during all of my waking hours. That wouldn’t be fair to my husband, daughter, or myself.

After a year, I got into a better routine and became more comfortable with the idea that I didn’t need to constantly work. I realized work was always going to be there. I wasn’t ever going to reach a point where I completed absolutely everything, emptied the 4-6 inboxes I manage, and wrapped up all of my personal projects and goals.

Instead of worrying about working all the time, I started working when I could.

I used these methods to find a better work/life balance.

Wake up earlier

One way to I was able to get things done without feeling the panic of needing to do other things was by waking up earlier. Sleep is very important and I make sure to get at least 7 hours per night, but I didn’t need to get 9-10 hours every day. Instead, I would wake up before my daughter and get some work done in complete silence.

I found that 1-2 hours of concentrated work, without my daughter, was often more productive than 3-4 hours of work with my daughter around.

I don’t particularly like getting up earlier, but I know that I always have the option especially when my workload is heavy.

Dedicate one evening per week to working

Thursdays are usually my working nights. I go down in my office around 7 pm and stay there until 10 or 11. I don’t do this any other day of the week (unless there’s an urgent request or emergency).

Only doing it one night per week makes it tolerable. If I did this every night, I wouldn’t have any time with my husband. I chose Thursdays because my husband and I stay up later on Fridays and spend time together. Even if I’ve had a frustrating night working, I always go to bed thinking “It’s OK, tomorrow night I’ll relax.”

I also sneak in a little more office time when my husband travels. He travels for work anywhere from 2-10 days per month. When he’s gone, I typically spend the evenings working after I put my daughter to sleep.

Do a little work on the weekends

Most weekend days, I go downstairs and shut myself in my office for two hours. I typically do this as soon as I wake up.

I do my 30 minutes of writing and then tackle client work for 90 minutes. I can get a surprising amount of stuff done in that time because I’m 100% focused on completing tasks. When I come back upstairs at 10:30 or 11 am, I don’t feel like I’ve missed any of the day and my stress levels are decreased because I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Work in spurts

It will be years before I can work for an uninterrupted eight hours again. I plan on continuing to grow my business and work for myself for the rest of my life. This means that I probably won’t be working eight hour days until my daughter goes into kindergarten in three years. At that point, I hope to have more children that would still be home. With the amount of children I’d like, I estimate 3 – 10 years from now before I would work full-time hours again.

Instead of worrying about how much I’m working, I grab 10 minutes here and there throughout the day. My daughter can entertain herself long enough for me to respond to a few emails or jot down some thoughts for a future project or blog.

My brain has learned to run on spurts. I’ve gotten so much better at getting focused immediately. In college, I would sit at my desk for hours before I began writing a paper. Now, it’s do or die. I use the 10 minutes or I waste it. And I don’t want to waste it.

Take on less

At some point, you may realize that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. As my daughter has gotten older, I had to become comfortable with taking on less. This has many perks. I’m able to take my daughter to lessons, mom’s groups, playdates or the library in the middle of the day without worrying about not being able to finish my work.

Having a decreased workload means that I only take on high paying, quality work. I’m no longer pitching for things on Upwork or accepting content mill jobs because it’s not worth my time.

It’s hard balancing a business and a family. Much like running a side hustle when you’re a full-time employee, you just have to find the time where you can.

You won’t always work a consistent schedule each week. Some weeks you’ll find more time and other weeks will be so packed with personal obligations that you may feel like you’re getting nothing done.

When you look at your accomplishments, try to take the long view. It doesn’t matter if today was unproductive if the past two weeks have been great. One of the greatest benefits of working for yourself is that you decide when you work – and you work when you can.

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How I Became a Freelancing Mama

After my daughter was born in June 2014, I took a flying leap into the unknown – not only the unknown of being responsible for raising a good person who would someday positively contribute to society, but also the unknown of finding a new job that allowed me to be home with my daughter.

For the first 15 years of my career, I worked for someone else.

My first job was working in a fast-food restaurant for a man who told me I laughed too much. While attending college, I worked as an assistant manager of a clothing store and an entertainment writer at the college newspaper. At that time, I was the trendiest I have ever been or ever will be again. After I graduated with a degree in English, I landed my first job with real benefits! I worked in a biotechnology company’s corporate library. I had always loved the library, but this wasn’t a safe haven of delicious-smelling old books, it was a cubicle farm where I compiled market research reports and purchased digital copies of scientific papers.

Over the next six years, I climbed my way from the lowest position in the department to one of the highest while completing an evening MBA program. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of my biological clock ticking so my husband and I decided it was time to start our family.

Newborn, mother, baby

After my daughter was born in June 2014, I took a flying leap into the unknown –  the unknown of being responsible for raising a good person who would someday positively contribute to society and the unknown of finding a new job that allowed me to be home with my daughter.

I could not imagine leaving my daughter with anyone. I surprised myself and my husband by not wanting to go back to my previous position. I was very ambitious and had enjoyed my job, but maternity leave had given me hours to assess my career trajectory. The prognosis was grim: my department had a flat management structure; I wasn’t using my true skills (writing, strategizing, and marketing) nearly enough; and, worst of all, I wasn’t happy. Looking at the tiny person in my arms, I realized that I didn’t need to make a change for me, I needed to make it for her. I needed to show her that you could enjoy your work and have a passion for what you do.

I wanted to give her the best possible version of myself. I discovered that version works from home.

After some scrambling, I found a job as a virtual assistant. The job was a blessing because it allowed me to see that I could manage my time while working from home, maintain a productive routine, and fulfill work priorities and personal goals. The job also satiated my love of learning because I worked with clients from all different backgrounds in a variety of industries. However, I didn’t want my earning potential or scope of work to be decided by someone else. So, I slowly built up enough clients to transition to full-time freelancing in March 2015. Then in June 2015, I set up The Sturm Agency and became an official business owner.

Since then, I’ve worked hard. I’ve gained and lost clients. I’ve learned some helpful time management tips. I’ve found tools that increase my productivity and rituals that help me get it all done.

Sometimes I feel like Superwoman, sometimes I feel like a hot mess, but I am always grateful. I get to do what I love while seeing my daughter grow up. I feel that I am truly getting the best of both worlds – motherhood and a career.

Ultimately my goal is to help other women who want to stay home with their children make a living wage working as freelancers. I want to share my knowledge and experiences in hopes that something I write can inspire or assist someone. I’ve been successfully working remotely since 2014 and full-time freelancing since 2015. I plan to do this as long as the universe allows me.

Thank you for visiting! I hope you leave here with a bit of knowledge you didn’t have before you found me.

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