Four tips to run your freelance business successfully when you become a mother
When you run a freelance business everything depends on you. But when you become a mother, things get more complicated.
After years of building your career and growing your business, you may suddenly find yourself at a crossroads. Is it possible to keep running my business after giving birth? Will my customers not abandon me if I take maternity leave? Can I cope financially?
Combining parenthood with work is always a great balancing act. But the life of a mother who runs her own business can be more intense on each and every level. Lack of security tied to full-time salaried employment, limited or almost non-existent maternity leave, doubts about how to keep both your customers and your family happy, combined with high costs of childcare may all be reasons for a constant headache and emotional roller coaster long before the child is born.
How can you prepare for this new lifestyle? Can you prepare at all?
There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for success. If you want to or have to work after giving birth, you could probably start from fitting in your projects into your baby’s nap times. But this approach won’t take you far. At some point, there won’t be enough baby sleeping hours in a day to complete all your projects. Sooner or later you might be overwhelmed by exhaustion or your responsibilities as a mother and business owner. So, what comes next?
In my search for the right solution, I’ve interviewed 15 women from around the world and various industries. Seven translators, a yoga school owner, virtual assistant, voice coach, parenting website owner, an art curator, owner of event designing company, a solution strategist for mothers and a brand stylist told me about their ups and downs, challenges and rewards in their adventure with freelancing and parenthood.
Although their approaches to business and motherhood might differ, as well as their definition of ‘success’, ‘good childcare’, or ‘work-family balance’, they all agree: You can have it all. But first, you need to make some tweaks in your work- and lifestyle. For example:
- Prioritise your self-care. You can’t run a sustainable business and be energetic with your kids if you neglect your well-being. Even if it means working less in the evening to get more hours of sleep, or asking someone to stay with your baby to finally have a chance to go for a run, have a long walk alone, or do just about anything that you truly enjoy. If you’re sick or in a bad mood, your business and your baby won’t thrive either.
- Learn to ask for help. As a new mother, you can still run your freelance business successfully, but you’ll need to start asking for help. A good solution is to involve an assistant or team up with a colleague who could help you out in unpredictable situations such as when your baby gets sick. In such moments, it’s good to have a network of trusted colleagues who could save you and help you deliver your services on time.
- Learn to say no. Once you become a mum your priorities will probably change. You’ll have to transform the way you work and spend your time to be able to tend to your child. Sometimes this will mean saying ‘no’ to proposals and customers you’d otherwise be happy to work with. Last-minute projects might not be an option anymore, so you’ll need to learn to assess your possibilities correctly, reject or negotiate longer delivery times.
- Change your workstyle. Being a freelancer means you can be flexible with your time. It’s you who decides when, where and how long to work. But when you’re a mother, it’s your baby who takes on this role. Staying 12 hours a day in front of the computer may not be the best strategy anymore. But that’s a good thing. Working in small pockets of time—when your child sleeps or is with her father, babysitter or grandparents—will help you be more productive and focus on what really matters. Finally, the work time will be the time for work, not for mindless scrolling through social medial or never-ending chats with your friends.
There’s of course much more you can do to combine running your freelance business with taking care of your baby. All the inspiring stories of the interviewed women, plus my ideas on the transition into the life of a self-employed mother, are now compiled into a book You’ve got this: How to continue your freelance career when you become a mother.
It contains tips and ideas on how to regain your focus on work, generate passive income, maximise small pockets of time or prepare for the many unexpected challenges that may occur in your business and private life. Hopefully, our experiences will help you find the right strategy that will fit you, your business, and your family.