Tips for freelancers thinking about starting a family.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Adam Pearson. Adam is a market researcher, he says:

“Hey Frankie and Steve!

Me and my wife don’t have kids at the moment. Screaming babies and kiddie tantrums in public places have been an excellent contraception over the last couple of years. But we definitely want to start a family soon. (Just don’t tell my mum. She’s obsessed.)

Do you have any top tips for soon-to-be freelance parents? Or things you wish you’d known or thought about before you had kids?

Thanks in advance. Hopefully we still want kids at the end of the episode…”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:22] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:00:36] – Steve
Each week we take a question from the Doing It for The Kids community, do our best to answer it and of course, also read out your comments to the last question on the last episode.

Last week’s question was from Kirsty with the baby massage, remember? It was all about not getting distracted or how to not get distracted by your competition whilst also keeping an eye on your competition.

[00:00:58] – Frankie
Bethany Carter says:

“Get distracted! There’s a lot to learn from what your competitors are doing and it can help you differentiate and stay competitive. Your potential clients may be shopping around, so it’s a good idea to know what else could be grabbing their attention.

Saying that, if you find yourself getting stressfed, then it’s not worth obsessing over. Have confidence in what you do and know that to someone else, you’re the competition and you’re doing amazing work.”

[00:01:19] – Steve
Oh, nice. “To someone else, you’re the competition!”

Ben got in touch. Hey Ben, he says:

“Such a great episode…”

Was it really?

[00:01:29] – Frankie
I don’t remember it being a great episode.

[00:01:31] – Steve
That was the one where you were in the car, right? We need to get you in a car in Somerset more often or just various different locations.

Ben continues:

“I just wanted to say how much I needed to hear your points on how YOU are the value in your business that the clients want, the actual you, your authentic self and you can be you, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

When my work is unstable, which is often, I feel a little torn up seeing how well everyone else is doing, but I have to try and focus on my own thing and aim to reap the benefits from the things I do that are specific to me alone.”

[00:02:07] – Frankie
Emily Wilson says:

“As someone whose work is entirely visual — painting portraits — it’s pretty much impossible to not see my competition everywhere I look. There are artists of all levels of fame doing it bigger and better, and I could genuinely go insane if I thought about them for too long.

When I feel myself edging towards the slippery slope of unworthiness, I have to force myself to see the bigger picture. Uncharitable though it may be, sometimes you need to think about all the people who can’t do the things that you do, as well as all the wonderful happy customers who already appreciate you and remind yourself that your product is totally unique to you.”

[00:02:37] – Steve
Thank you so much for your comments.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:11] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from Adam Pearson. Recently knighted… What was it? ‘New Freelancer of The Year’ or ‘New To Freelancing’?

[00:06:20] – Steve
Yeah! At the IPSE Freelancer Awards. Congratulations Adam!

[00:06:27] – Frankie
Adam says:

“Hey, Frankie and Steve.

Me and my wife don’t have kids at the moment. Screaming babies and kiddie tantrums in public places have been an excellent contraception over the last couple of years… But we definitely want to start a family soon. (Just don’t tell my mum, she’s obsessed).

Do you have any top tips for soon-to-be freelance parents or things you wish you’d known or thought about before you had kids?

Thanks in advance. Hopefully we’ll still want kids at the end of this episode.”

[00:06:51] – Steve
Don’t count on it.

[00:06:52] – Frankie

[00:06:54] – Steve
Oh Adam, do you know what… part of me feels like you should go into it blindly!

[00:07:01] – Frankie
I’m totally with you on that. 100%. Don’t think about it too much because you won’t do it. If that applies to both freelancing and parenting — just don’t overthink it because it’s risky, frankly.

[00:07:13] – Steve
You can prepare as much as you like.

[00:07:16] – Frankie

[00:07:17] – Steve
But it’s still going to be another shit storm. If you are able to already run your freelance business in a way where you’re quite flexible and malleable, that’s a good start. That’s quite nice.

[00:07:30] – Frankie
Yeah, totally.

[00:07:31] – Steve
Isn’t it quite good to start thinking about maternity leave quite early on?

[00:07:36] – Frankie
Yes, as early as possible in my experience. One of the things Adam needs to think about as a freelancer, thinking about starting a family…

As a dad, he’s not entitled to any support whatsoever. There are people trying to change that, but that is currently the situation. So he needs to be prepared for that on all levels. Mainly, hopefully, saving some money so that he can take some time off. I’ve heard of lots of dads that just can’t afford to do that and just work through — like, literally they’ve got a one day old baby and they’ve got to get back to it. But that doesn’t benefit anybody, really.

So, yeah, trying to prepare for that situation particularly is really key for him.

[00:08:10] – Steve
So there’s no paternity leave — so you might want to create your own?

[00:08:13] – Frankie
Yeah like, save enough money to take that time off or create a means to make money while you’re not physically working — selling something you’ve already created or whatever. The joy of it is that he can design how long that is, that’s totally up to him. So if he wants to take six months out of doing his day to day stuff and he’s put in the framework to do that, fantastic. That’s the flexibility of being self employed. You can be like, “Yo, I’m your boss! I’d like you to take six months off to be with your newborn. Let’s make that happen.”

[00:08:46] – Steve
And you’re like, “Okay, boss, that sounds good”.

But if you were a freelance woman listening to this…

[00:08:55] – Frankie
You’re entitled to a benefit from the government called Maternity Allowance. This is assuming you’re a sole trader rather than a limited company. I can’t speak for limited companies because I know you can kind of do your own maternity pay through your company, but I don’t know how that works.

So assuming you’re a sole trader, you’re entitled to government support called Maternity Allowance, which is something like £150 a week-ish. The only means of qualifying for that is you’ve worked a period of time before you have your baby and you can prove that you had an income of some kind and you paid your National Insurance contributions up to the point where you have your kid. And there’s a lot of Maternity Allowance chat in the DIFTK Community. There’s been some really good threads on it, so go and find them because there’s links to good articles and, like, Maternity Action and stuff.

So, yeah, there is information out there and there’s other stuff in the Doing It For The Kids Community on applying for Maternity Allowance. It’s scary and intimidating and hopefully we can all help each other, basically.

But for Adam, it’s a bit different because, as I say, he has, like… well, it’s a blessing and a curse in that he doesn’t get any support financially from the government, but equally, he can kind of decide what that looks like and what he does.

[00:09:58] – Steve
Other things we can say relate to some of the topics we’ve covered before or they sort of echo it.

So, for example — looking at your processes and making your business as efficient as possible, or starting to find whether there’s other freelancers who you can pass work to, particularly for you as a woman. Because you had other people that you passed your work to — you’ve said before haven’t you Frankie? Or maybe you might want to start considering whether you can build some kind of team. Like it depends on what you do for a living.

But if there’s a way that you can bring others on to support you, that might help you to grow your business, if that’s what you want to do, and to earn more money, which was always helpful when you’ve got a kid. But more than that, it can give you flexibility so that different team members can pick up different bits of work when time is tighter for you.

[00:10:53] – Frankie
I know Adam’s really active in freelance communities and stuff and I would say use those communities and draw on other freelancers. Whether that’s getting advice, or literally bringing them on to subcontract you or support you with your work — now is the time. When you have the babies — that is the time to use those people, definitely.

[00:11:11] – Steve
Maybe start to think about what will your work day look like? Where the hell are you going to work, basically? Maybe there’s a room in the house? But I would say, possibly, is there a co-working space nearby? Start to check them out. Or are there other freelancers where you can get together and create your own co-working space or just have that on your peripheral vision for a little while.

[00:11:37] – Frankie
One of my top, top tips is letting go of perfectionism. So before I had children, I was one of those freelancers that would work all hours of all days to produce the best stuff. And when I had children, I’ve suddenly only got two days a week to do my work in because they’re in nursery two days a week. It was like… Nah, forget perfectionism — I’ve just got to produce something. Good enough is enough, right? What I’ve done today is fine. I need to send that today because I have no choice because I’m not going to have any child free time until this time next week. You’ve just got to get on with it, accepting that you don’t have to be fantastic, you don’t have to excel every day. You just need to get your job done.

[00:12:18] – Steve
What I wouldn’t do is worry too much. Life is just going to happen and it’s just going to be different and you’re going to adapt. You can try your best to, sort of, plan for that — money is one of the best buffers that you could possibly build for yourself. But equally, have fun before you have kids with some of that money! I don’t want to encourage you just to hoard it away and not live your life right now. And who knows, it could take years to actually even have a baby. These things don’t always magically happen. Don’t just stop your life and spending your money and living your life as a couple and enjoying that just because you’re planning for something in the future.

[00:13:12] – Frankie
I definitely should have saved more. I cannot argue with myself on that whatsoever! I should have been saving way more. I mean, I’ve always been crap at saving money, but I really should have made that effort at that point in my life and I hugely regretted it when I was on maternity leave because it was pretty stark how lacking I was in money.

And as you say, people think that the impact of starting a family happens once you’re pregnant or once the baby has actually arrived, but that’s not necessarily the case. Like, in my experience, deciding to have a family can impact on your work way earlier, like when you’re trying to conceive, for instance, and maybe that’s not going quite as quickly as you’d hoped. That can actually impact on your state of mind and you can feel quite distracted and find work difficult to do etc. It’s like… you don’t really anticipate how big an impact that process is going to have until you’re living it. Again, maybe don’t worry about it too much until it’s happening, but it can have an impact way ahead of when you think it might.

[00:14:09] – Steve
One thing you might want to do is… when you’re planning what’s going to happen, when you finally have that kid, is to reevaluate how much life will cost you and therefore what your day rate or your project rate or whatever is.

[00:14:23] – Frankie
Yes, put up your rates now!

[00:14:28] – Steve
Basically. And then double it!

[00:14:29] – Frankie
Yeah. No, seriously, do that.

[00:14:35] – Steve
I certainly wouldn’t feel worried about the effect that being a parent will have on your freelance business. It can have many positive benefits. If anything, it’ll probably be a real boost to it.

[00:14:47] – Frankie
Could not agree more. Like all the… particularly women that I know and speak to and have met through Doing It For The Kids are more ambitious now than they ever were before they had children, which is a bit frustrating when you’re like… baby on one arm, running a business in the other!

But there’s something about going through that that’s quite transformative as a person and that impacts on your business a lot. A lot of people change businesses or they have a real pivot in terms of what they want to do or where they think they should be going, but I think everybody has that, like… just cut the crap attitude. It’s like, I don’t have time for this shit. I need to get rid of X, Y and Z and concentrate on either the things I love or I’m good at, or both! Or the things that are paying me the best or whatever it is. There’s a lot of like… get rid of the fluff, get on with what’s important, I guess.

[00:15:34] – Steve
Damn, I thought you were going to make that rhyme with fluff. That was a shame.

“Get rid of the fluff, get on with that…” And I was like, what?

[00:15:40] – Frankie
Stuff? Yes, that would have been better! Should we re-record? No.

[00:15:47] – Steve
Also, I think managing your workload and being able to say no to certain things is important. I hate to say it, but probably limiting the things that you say yes to that aren’t going to bring you money as well. You can be way more generous with your time when you have way more time. When you have kids, you realise that every opportunity has a cost to it and weighing up which of those you’re going to take is key.

[00:16:17] – Frankie
Yeah, because having a family… there’s another layer of things in the mix. So it’s like… I could accept that speaking gig that isn’t paying me anything, for example. I could have done that before I had children, but now I have less time — do I want to do that? Because it’s going to be taking time away where I could be earning money, but equally, do I want to do that because it’s taking time away from my family? It’s like another level of guilt.

[00:16:42] – Steve
We’re telling you you’re going to have to be really selfish. But the weird thing is, actually having children makes you really selfless, but you really have to be protective of certain things.

[00:16:55] – Frankie
You are at high burnout alert! Meep, meep, meep! Like the burnout alert goes through the roof when you’ve got kids.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I did find the transition, or the impact of, having children on my business quite frustrating. Because while Doing It For The Kids is full of lots of different people, a lot of those people started working for themselves after they had children. Whereas I was a freelancer already and I’d worked to build up my business already and had become used to earning a certain amount of money and having certain clients.

[00:17:27] – Frankie
Blah blah blah. And then you have a kid and a lot of that just goes, and I think I quite foolishly tried to plow on as though my life was going to be the same or I would still be able to do all the things I was doing before and I found that realisation quite hard. But again, it’s like, you don’t really know how it’s going to affect you until you’re in it. I guess be realistic on all sorts of levels and know that it’s only temporary and you’ll get back to where you were, if not better.

[00:17:59] – Steve
When you have a child, your instinct is to childproof the house. And of course, there are really sensible things you should do like a stair gate, sticking bits of plastic into plug sockets and covering over your pond… but you can’t cover every inch of your house and protect your child. Your child will learn by bumping themselves and it’s a bit like that with your company.

Adam, your instinct is to try and child proof your business. And there are certain things you can do, like saving and whatever we’ve talked about, but ultimately you’re going to adapt your business and the way that you and your wife and everything works as you go along. You’ll bump and you’ll correct and you’ll learn to walk again, or whatever the analogy might be. But, yeah, you can’t entirely child proof your business!

What would your advice be?

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