So you've decided to go for it: You're working from home as a freelancing mom or starting your own business. You made this big change for a reason. What was your motivation--more money? More time with family or to pursue a hobby or other outside interests? If you are honest with yourself about why you're doing it, you'll be able to make your case to anyone who questions you, and to get your supporters on board.
The following tips can help you transition to freelancing.
- Discuss your plan with your spouse or significant other.
- Get the whole family excited about your project.
- Lay down ground rules, especially for kids
- Spend quality time together outside of work.
- Take care of yourself.
After you have defined your goals, the next step is to get everyone in your home on board. Most likely your family members are your biggest cheerleaders anyway, and it would be difficult to succeed at this new venture without their confidence and support. Start with your spouse or significant other. This person, already a partner in your relationship, should be ready to support your business ventures too. Have a one-on-one discussion to outline your goals, and to address potential issues that could arise from your decision to effectively change careers.
Things to discuss with your partner:
- Household responsibilities, such as cooking and cleaning
- Accounting and financial issues
- Child care details, including transportation to school, appointments, sports or other activities
- Vacation plans and time off
Most of all, be aware of how your routine affects their schedule. You risk problems when you don't communicate about these issues and, ultimately, one or both of you could resent the other. You might start to feel that you're not being taken seriously, or that you don't have enough time to get everything done. Your partner might start to feel taken advantage of, for having to assume more family responsibilities. Ironing out the details early goes a long way toward avoiding misunderstandings and conflict later.
Next, the kids. Depending on their ages, there are a number of ways to broach the subject. If they're resistant to change, tell them that Mom's going on an adventure, and you're taking them with her. If they're old enough to understand, explain your "new job" to them, giving them a tour of your office (or other space). Perhaps you make crafts to sell online; you could enlist the kids to volunteer once in a while, teaching them to contribute to the family business.
Of course, you'll probably have to establish some boundaries with everyone, including your partner. When you work from home, it's easy for one of them to pop their head in..."Mommy can you help?"..."Honey, I have a question."...etc. You may need to establish firm working hours, or else fit in the work whenever you have free time.
If you don't mind the interruptions and can continue working without feeling distracted, then, by all means, have an open-door policy. Otherwise, you'll have to make it clear that when you "go to work," you're unavailable at certain times of the day. The kids will have to ask Dad for help. The same goes for being respectful of your time and work space. Ask them to avoid making noise right outside your door, and designate any equipment or other office items that are "off limits" to curious hands.
This assumes, of course, that you have a separate room in which to work. Many moms work from their dining room tables, bedrooms, and other open spaces. In this situation, ensuring peace and quiet is more challenging. So you should insist on your own private, quiet space, especially if you'll be communicating with clients or co-workers.
It's easy to let your work consume you. Try to avoid this, because you're freelancing at home for a reason, aren't you? You want to be your own boss and have the freedom to work when you can. To stay grounded — otherwise known as having work-life balance--be sure to establish rituals that have nothing to do with working. Schedule a family dinner or game night once a week. Plan a vacation together. Anything to take your mind off of work and let your family know that they are still your priority. Since your schedule is presumably more flexible, take any opportunity to attend your kid's game, or school musical--events that you might not be able to attend if you had a demanding job outside your home.
Finally, there's a saying that, if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else. Whether you have a cold, an injury, or just a lack of sleep, it will be difficult to take on other family responsibilities at the same time. Trying to multi-task is a surefire way of burning yourself out. You may think you're being efficient, but studies and news reports have shown that slowing down to focus on one item at a time is preferable to giving a little bit of attention to several things at once.
Deciding to freelance or start your own business can be intimidating, overwhelming, and just plain stressful. You shouldn't have to go it alone, though. By following the tips above, you can get your whole family on board with the new routine. Knowing you have unconditional support will let you go forward with confidence to pursue your new business venture.