Friends, Romans, countrymen, if you’re reading this article, then you have probably been there. And by “there”, I mean sitting at your desk, looking out of the window (or at the wall, if your office doesn’t have any windows) and thinking, ‘Stuff this, I’ve had enough. It’s time to hand in my notice, go freelance, spend more time with my family and generally live the dream.’
But is quitting your job and becoming a freelance parent really the land of milk and honey that mums and dads with a boss they hate/commute from hell/brilliant idea for a company/desire to work from home/dream of retiring before the age of 134 think it is?
As someone who has been living this ‘make some cash, while cleaning poo off your fingernails‘ parental fantasy for the past two years, I feel like I’m in a brilliant position to tell you that… …you too can make £600 a second from your sofa without lifting a finger or changing out of your pyjamas.
Sorry, I’ve been reading too many of those clickbait “make money like me” comments you see at the bottom on online articles. What I actually meant to tell you was that… …there are both positives and negatives to jacking in your job and going it alone. A comment that sounds spectacularly unhelpful, until I reveal that I’ve listed said pros and cons in an easy-to-digest fashion mere millimetres below the words you’re currently reading. Ready for them? Great, then here goes…
The pros of being a freelance parent
Put in a holiday request only to find that a vaguely organised colleague has already booked the days off? Forced to use up half-a-day’s annual leave because it’s your little one’s setting in period at nursery? The freelance parent has no such issues. Due to being our own bosses, we have the opportunity to holiday whenever we like, for as long as we like.
You set your own hours
Working 9-5, what a truly prehistoric way to make a living. As a freelance parent, your day has no set beginning, middle or end. So you’re free to: complete the nursery drop-off without stressing about being late for your train; take an hour out of your morning or afternoon to go to a baby class; or pitch some ideas while doing the night feed.
You enjoy your work more
Okay, okay, so this is more of a hunch than a guarantee. But, let’s face it: if you’re going to give up a secure position with a set wage in favour of going freelance and starting each week at zero, the chances are you’re going to pick a profession you like. And if you don’t? Well, then the word masochism springs to mind.
Everything you do has a price
This sounds a bit mercenary, but hear me out. When you are a freelance parent, there’s no muttering or getting angry about “why” you are in the office until midnight finishing off this report or that presentation. The answer is simple. You are doing it because the report is worth £250 and the presentation is worth £475. And while money isn’t everything, in this context it is extremely motivating.
A better work/life balance
Oh god, is he going all yoga pants and mindfulness on us? No, I’m not. I’m simply saying that being a freelance parent has enabled me to get far more involved in my son’s early years than I would have done if I’d been commuting to an office each day.
The cons of being a freelance parent
When an employed parent takes a holiday, they still get paid. When a freelance parent takes a holiday, they earn absolutely nothing. In theory, this doesn’t matter as, “You’ll make it up over the course of the year.” In reality, you panic, accept a little bit of work and end up in the bad books for answering emails by the swimming pool.
Although there are a number of benefits to the lack of structure that freelance working allows (see above), there is also one major downside. It’s called guilt and here’s how it works. You feel guilty when you can’t look after your kid because you need to hit a deadline and earn money. You feel guilty when you can’t hit a deadline and earn money because you need to look after your kid. And you feel really, really guilty when you’re too hungover to do either.
More than a year on, I stick by the stuff I wrote in the article ‘Dear Father Hood: is it possible to work from home with a baby?’ You can read the full, glorious post here, or make do with the following summary. It’s hard to work hard when your kid’s in the house, because you will hear them cry, you will get dragged in to help and you will feel left out.
Add in the items on your ‘You’re at home, so here’s some stuff to do’ list (e.g. call the builder, complain about the internet speed) and the lure of social media, and it’s quite frankly a miracle if a freelance parent finishes a sentence without having his or her concentration broken.
You can’t just dial it in
I’m not saying that most parents who have full-time jobs are able to get away with being little more than a zombie occupying a desk after a rough night of bed-wetting and wake-ups. Wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying. If you have a job, you have the opportunity to do slightly less than usual without it affecting the amount of money you take home at the end of the month. Freelance parents have no such luxury. If we do the bare minimum or nothing at all, we risk either losing a client or earning zilch. And, according to my accountant, neither of these is a good thing.
Your earning potential is limited
I’ve been freelance for nearly a decade, and, from a financial perspective, the two years that my son has been around have been by far and away the least lucrative. Some of this is due to a downturn in the industry I work in, but a lot of it is due to a change in my priorities. Simply put, I used to hit tight deadlines by working at all hours of the day and night. Now, I’d rather feed my son breakfast or, you know, catch up on some sleep.
And that’s it. Those, in my experience, are the positives and negatives of being a freelance parent. If you enjoyed the article, please share it far and wide. If you didn’t, please share it far and wide. Now on to the next post. Catch you soon…