Lullabies and billable hours: KARIN WALDHAUSER looks at childcare options for freelance writers.
It’s an assumption that’s made time and time again: if I work from home, I won’t need childcare. Optimistic mothers and fathers picture themselves tapping away at the keyboard, perhaps rocking a moses basket with a foot as they type. Or skyping a colleague while the toddler sits engrossed in picture books.
The thing is, very few babies are born with a better-be-quiet-because-mummy’s-working programme. And you can almost guarantee that if you arrange a Skype interview at 1.30pm because your baby always sleeps until 2pm, she will wake up at 1.25pm.
So will you need childcare as a freelance writer working from home? Absolutely.
The real question is: How much childcare will I need as a freelance writer? We explore the options.
“Always, always have a plan” – Rick Riordan, author
Laureen Miles Brunelli, work-at-home-mom expert, recommends looking closely at your family’s economic situation, how many children you have, how old they are and how well you deal with distractions to help you decide how much and what kind of childcare you need.
No matter how big- or small-scale you want your freelance writing career to be, it’s always a good idea to include childcare in your business plan. Creating a simple business plan will help you figure out how much you can earn working your planned hours. Then you can set goals, detailing where you want to be in a year, in five years.
Planning this way will help you work out when to reassess your childcare needs.
Option one: full steam ahead, you want to be a full-time freelance writer.
If you want a full-blown, full-time freelance journalism career, then you’re going to need childcare. As Carol Tice from makealivingwriting.com says “They say being a mom is a full-time job because…it’s a full-time job. And so is freelance writing.”
It’s important for you and your clients to know that you’re regularly available at certain times. This is your chance to do interviews, make phone calls or meet with clients. You may not need 8am-5pm childcare, but you do need regular, solid blocks of time.
Option two: you plan start small and grow the business as the children grow.
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, the cost of childcare might be prohibitive, especially if your children are very young. This is the time to get creative. Are you able to enlist any teenagers from your neighbourhood for a couple of hours babysitting after school? How about a childcare swap with another stay-at-home parent? As your business (and your child) grows you will be able to afford more structured childcare.
Option three: I want to earn a little extra and keep my skills up while the kids are young.
If you’re happy to keep your writing business small-scale, then you might get away with not paying for childcare. Kate Orson, freelance writer and regional editor for Hello Switzerland magazine, has her two-year-old daughter at home with her, apart from a couple of hours a week when she does a childcare swap. “I can work spontaneously whenever I have a spareminute”, she says. The downside is that writing sometimes eats into family time, as she fits in work in the evenings or at weekends.
As with all parenting decisions, only you know what suits your family best. Juggling work and family commitments is always difficult, but with good planning and reliable support you can make your freelance writing business work.
About the Author
Karin Waldhauser, a mother of three-year-old twins, lives in Switzerland. When she’s not removing pieces of Lego from her feet, she is learning German and co-editing a small parenting newsletter for English-speaking families in Basel, Switzerland.