Ever wonder how work at home moms balance freelance assignments, family life, a day job, and everything else?
If you’ve ever thought, “What’s the point? It’s just too hard,” you’re not alone. Trying to juggle diaper duty, day-job deadlines, grocery shopping, and freelance work can be a challenge.
But work at home moms tend to have a few things in common when it comes to carving out time to get freelance work done.
They’re scrappy. They know how to multi-task. They know how to network with other moms. And when push comes to shove, work at home moms can turn a 15-minute block of time into a productive work session.
Know any work at home moms like this you can model?
In a recent Freelance Writers Den podcast, we talked with two work at home moms who have built thriving writing careers in the middle of busy lives. Here’s how it’s done:
Lessons from two work at home moms
Freelance writers Shannon Salinsky and Meagan Francis both know what it’s like to be work at home moms.
- Shannon Salinsky is a mom who’s building her writing career while working full time as an inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Meagan Francis is the author of four books, a contributor to big-name publications like Salon and Good Housekeeping, the founder of the Life, Listened podcast network, and a mother of five.
They’ve figured out their own ways of doing things to make it all work, like:
- Moving through mistakes and setbacks
- Balancing work and parenting
- How to keep writing when life gets crazy
- Finding longer blocks of time to write
Want to get better at your own freelance juggling act? Find out how in this Q&A:
Q: What child care arrangements have you made, and how did you manage the costs?
Meagan: I’ve done different things. My brother and I switched off child care at one point.
There are lots of creative solutions. It doesn’t have to be day care. You can get a teenager to come in after school.
When I made just a few hundred dollars freelancing, child care ate up a good chunk of that. I always focus on earning more because that makes questions like, “How would I justify paying for child care?” moot.
Q: As a parent with a full-time job, how do you make time for freelancing?
Shannon: I pretty much juggle up. I do interviews on my lunch hour, and I write anytime I have a free moment.
We’ll take our daughter ice skating, and I’m sitting with my laptop writing furiously while they’re having daddy-baby time. Or for 15 minutes that she’s engrossed in a video at home, I’m frantically doing my writing and research.
When I have to get out of the house, I go to Starbucks and write.
Q: How did you write when you didn’t have child care?
Meagan: I did a lot of driving around until the little ones fell asleep. Then I sat outside a hot spot to have wi-fi in my car. I did all kinds of crazy juggling.
Once my kids were inside the car watching TV, and I’m doing an interview in the parking lot outside because it was the only time we could connect.
When you want something badly, you’ll go the distance to make it work. Either I made it as a writer or I had to go back to an office. I was willing to be scrappy.
Q: How do you handle constant demands for attention?
Meagan:Sometimes if I set the computer aside and give them my attention, it reboots the afternoon. They’re happy to play by themselves, and I don’t feel so conflicted.
My kids have gotten good at respecting my schedule. I’ll say, “Mommy has to work. After that, we’ll do something special. How can I get you set up so you’re happy for a while?”
Q: How do you keep from taking on too much freelance work?
Shannon: I haven’t learned that lesson yet! I don’t say no to anybody.
But I do stick with easy assignments. Most of my work is with one regional publication. It doesn’t require a ton of research or interviewing, and the deadlines are manageable. It’s a good comfort level for me as a new writer.
I’ve refused to get into blogging. I don’t have time. I get clips in other ways.
Q: How do you cope with afternoon interruptions when school-age kids come home?
Meagan: As freelancers we can’t emulate someone in an office who works until 5:00. I try to not work from the time they come home until dinner. I wouldn’t get anything done anyway.
Q: How do you handle sitting all day at work, then going home and sitting down to write?
Shannon: I recently got a treadmill desk. I’m three weeks into it and I probably walked 25 miles. I highly recommend it. You can type and walk much faster than you think.
Q: How do you get kids to understand you’re working and not playing online?
Meagan: My son actually told husband, “Mommy’s job is just emailing with her friends!” You have to educate them. Shutting my office door helps them realize, “Oh, this is work.”
I need to be on social media, so that can be confusing to them. You have to be clear that this is your work and they need to respect it. The more I hammer that point home, the more they get it.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a freelancer?
Shannon: I gave too much information about my day job when I pitched a blogging gig at an airport. They got scared when they learned I was a federal aviation inspector.
These are two different gigs. I am a writer. Period. They don’t need to know everything I do during my day job.
Also, if you mention your full-time job a new editor, they’ll get nervous that you can’t complete your assignment. They don’t need to know. You may write for them for months before the cat’s out of the bag.
Q: How do you avoid spending so much time meeting your family’s needs that you never write?
Meagan: When you’re starting out, you’re not making money, and your spouse may not see any benefit yet. It’s hard to get them on board and say, “I need you to handle the morning driving.”
But you have to treat your job like it’s non-negotiable. You might need to simplify your life temporarily. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to keep it going. Kids don’t stay babies forever, either.
When we have little ones we feel like we have to take them lots of places. But if I’m running around, I never have the focus I need. So there are just two days a week that we go out.
The time fairies won’t wave their wands and grant you eight hours. I’ve been waiting a long time, and it doesn’t happen.
The secret to success for work at home moms
Shannon and Meagan face different challenges, but both of them make writing a priority in spite of all the distractions. They’re proof that you don’t need endless uninterrupted hours to make it as a freelancer. You just need to take full advantage of the time you’ve got.
Maria Veres juggles freelancing, motherhood, and two side jobs in the Oklahoma City area. She contributes regular Q&A blog posts to Make A Living Writing.