Freelance friction. When working evenings and weekends eats into ‘family time’.
This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a CORKER of a question from ‘Detective Grace Ace’ aka Anonymous. She says:
“Looking for a pep talk please!
I have just changed from a fixed hours contract (22 hours/week) to setting up on my own in a different field. My husband and I have two preschool children and I have always been responsible for childcare.
They are in playschool four days a week so I have 20 hours a week of regular work hours. With two kiddos, inevitable illness, appointments and holidays, it always falls to me to reduce my hours to pick up the slack.
When I was working fixed hours and needed to make up time in the evenings or at weekends it was fine. But now I can set my own hours, my husband asks me not to work evenings or weekends as it eats into family time. All the while wondering when I will start earning money…
I have tried explaining what the childcare implications would be if I worked a 9-5.
Feeling pretty squeezed, but this business is something I want very much and makes me very happy. Just need to figure out a way to get my family more on board!
Guessing this sounds familiar to some of you?”
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:
[00:01:07] – 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.
[00:01:18] – Steve
Hello, yes! Welcome to another one.
So this is where we take your questions and do our best to answer them. Be it about freelance life, parenting life, the juggle or a mixture of the two. We then like to take your comments from the week before’s question, and read them out because you have way better things to say than we do. So that means we have to start this episode by going back to last week’s episode. Last week’s episode was…
[00:01:41] – Frankie
How to feel like you’re moving up instead of just along.
[00:01:44] – Steve
Oh, it was Maia with all the ‘what is success?’ And her peers she left behind.
[00:01:52] – Frankie
Sam Brown says:
“I feel like I’m the you of three years ago. Also a copywriter et cetera. There’s so much in that ‘et cetera’ and I completely feel your pain. Where’s the shiny Instagram page or the lovely boost from other people taking photos of our work?
I’m approaching the end of my first year as a freelancer and I’m going to give myself a review like I would have received when I still worked in-house as an editor — actually looking at all the clients I’ve worked with, pitches I’ve won and nice feedback I’ve had will hopefully kick that imposter syndrome and the feeling of sort of just getting by.”
[00:02:21] – Steve
Barney Harsent said:
“I think there’s something uniquely solitary about writing the words on the screen of the last bit. So much of it is thinking, mulling and letting things sit over time. It can mean (and it absolutely does for me) that the line between you and the work is gossamer thin.”
[00:02:39] – Frankie
You can tell we’ve got copywriters in the house. Gossamer — that was beautiful. I don’t even know what that means. Do you know what that means?
[00:02:44] – Steve
Gossamer is a type of tights, right?
[00:02:46] – Frankie
Oh, is it?
[00:02:48] – Steve
Surely this is the bit that you should know.
[00:02:52] – Frankie
Ruth Buckingham says:
“Brilliant episode this week and can completely relate to Maia. Have also been freelancing for coming up to four years after a successful corporate career. I think Frankie suggested a big up yourself folder when I raised my doubts, but I think that would be a really good idea for you, too.
There’s also a feeling of losing a bit of identity after leaving a corporate job. But I’m sure many of your ex-colleagues are totally blown away with what you’re doing. They just don’t necessarily express it. Good luck with the reflection and planning for next year!”
[00:03:18] – Frankie
Yeah. So I did an Instagram post that said “big up yourself” which now makes me cringe but anyway… It’s basically where you collect all the good stuff that you’ve got. The stuff that you should be collecting all the time, but never have time to. So testimonials, nice bits of feedback, projects that you’re really proud of, even nice things your kids have said about you…
[00:03:40] – Steve
[00:03:42] – Frankie
And put it all saved on your computer or print stuff off and put it by your desk somewhere.
[00:03:48] – Steve
Do you know what you could do? You could take twelve of your favourite ‘big up yourself’ quotes and create a desk calendar for 2020 with them on.
[00:03:57] – Frankie
That’s actually a really nice idea. So every month you open a new one up that’s about you and how bloody great you are! Yeah!
[00:04:04] – Steve
Little gifts for yourself! What you have to do is promise not to look at it after you first get it and then you’ll probably forget what it says after March. And then you’ll turn it over and go, “oh yeah, somebody said that about me!”
Our answer to this week's question:
[00:06:28] – Steve
Okay, this week’s question is anonymous. Anonymous name. Anonymous name…
Okay, I’m going back to detectives. Didn’t let us down last time with Joe Walsh, did it?
Okay. Detective Lee Anson. Detective Nat Williams. Detective Grace Ace. Grace Ace…
[00:06:45] – Frankie
Yes. Grace Ace!
[00:06:47] – Steve
Okay, so this week’s question comes from Detective Grace Ace.
“Looking for a pep talk please! I have just changed from a fixed hours contract, 22 hours a week, to setting up on my own in a different field. My husband and I have two preschool children and I have always been responsible for child care…”
[00:07:07] – Steve
“…They are in play school four days a week, so I have 20 hours a week of…”
(laughs) This feels like one of those questions you used to get in Maths GCSE!
‘Detective Grace Ace was on a fixed hours contract for 22 hours a week. Her children are in play school for four days a week so now she has 20 hours a week. How many bottles of gin does she need to survive?’
[00:07:37] – Steve
“They are in play school four days a week. So I have 20 hours a week of regular work hours with two kiddos, inevitable illness, appointments and holidays. It always falls to me to reduce my hours to pick up the slack.
When I was working fixed hours and needed to make up time in the evenings or at weekends, it was fine. But now I can set my own hours my husband asks me not to work evenings or weekends as it eats into family time, all the while wondering when I will start earning money…
I have tried explaining what the childcare implications would be if I worked nine to five. Feeling pretty squeezed, but this business is something I want very much and makes me very happy. Just need to figure out a way to get my family more on board. Guessing this sounds familiar to some of you!
Yours, Detective Grace Ace.”
[00:08:32] – Frankie
I can basically feel the entire Doing It For The Kids community sigh in understanding.
[00:08:42] – Steve
“When I was working fixed hours and needed to make up time in the evenings or at weekends, it was fine, but now I can set my own hours, my husband asks me not to work evenings or weekends as it eats into family time…”
[00:08:56] – Frankie
“All the while wondering when I’ll start earning money.”
[00:09:01] – Steve
The thing is — and it’s so much easier said than done — when it comes to relationships, like, communication is key and I will put my hand up and say I am rubbish at it. Like, just last week when our kids were off school all week, I didn’t ever say, “oh, but I need to do this”. I didn’t put my hand up and explain to my other half what my workload was. I didn’t say, ”’is it possible that you could stay home on this day because of…?”
So for a start, if we don’t ever express it, it’s hard for us to then moan about it.
[00:09:39] – Frankie
Yeah. And how can we expect them to understand if we’re not explaining? Particularly if they’ve never worked for themselves — why would they understand?
[00:09:49] – Steve
They don’t understand what our workload is, and the fact that we have obligations to clients, and this never ending to-do list which is clocked up inside our heads… and at some point we just have to do that work!
[00:10:06] – Frankie
Yeah, it’s a good point in that when you work for yourself, the assumption is… well, not even the assumption! The luxury of that, is you have flexibility to work where you want, when you want, et cetera. But perhaps that means that other people who don’t work for themselves assume that also means you have flexibility in terms of those commitments?
But in reality, you still said you’re going to produce the work for your clients by X date. And yes, sometimes that is absolutely flexible and that can be pushed back, but sometimes that’s difficult or that’s a conversation that’s really stressful when you’re already dealing with sick kids and whatever.
Maybe because flexibility is like… inherent in being self employed? Therefore your other half assumes your clients can be flexible too. The commitments you’ve made can be flexible too. But that isn’t always the case.
[00:10:58] – Steve
And the fact is, if you decide — like I did on some things — to hire somebody else to do the work for you, to help you out with it, would that mean you’re not making that money?
[00:11:07] – Frankie
Earning less money? Yeah, exactly.
[00:11:10] – Steve
So, yeah, you’re keeping the relationship sweet, you’re keeping the work going. But there’s also an implication, there’s a knock on effect there as well. One thing is that we kind of have to communicate it…
[00:11:32] – Frankie
Over-communicate I think!
[00:11:33] – Steve
[00:11:33] – Frankie
Like, make no assumptions about what you think they know. Well, we talked about this really early on, didn’t we? It was like one of the first episodes was about the huddle cuddle, but if you haven’t listened to it you’ll be like, “I’m sorry, what?”
[00:11:43] – Frankie
But yes — like getting together once a week as a team, you and your partner, to talk about that week, what’s coming up, what your family commitments are, what each of your work commitments are, any social stuff that’s going on, birthday parties, blah, blah, blah. Just so everybody is across what’s happening at that time. But also it gives them an opportunity to say what they want to say too.
Maybe work for them is really stressful at the moment, but they haven’t told you because they don’t want to stress you out? Unless you talk to each other, you don’t know what’s happening in their life as well. And having that regular communication means everybody has an opportunity to talk about what they’re coping with at that time.
[00:12:22] – Steve
And on the occasions when we have to stay home and look after our kids because of school, then maybe sending an email or message or whatever, a text to the other half saying, “Hey, you know, I’m at home today with Blah, but I really need to do Blah. So this evening, can you be home for this? So that as soon as we’re done with dinner then I can crack on with that and you can put the kids to bed?” or whatever it looks like for you.
Unless we say it, they’re just going to continue the day as normal and go for drinks after work and it’s not entirely their fault if we’ve not expressly said, “well, actually, yes, I’m doing this today, but that means I need to catch up this evening!”
[00:13:01] – Frankie
But also I would add to that — not asking for permission, I’m so guilty of this!
It’s easier said than done… but not saying, “CAN I work tonight?” But “Because I’ve been with the kids today, I have to catch up with my client work tonight. Just a heads up.”
And you’re definitely right, it’s better to do that earlier in the day than them getting home knackered from work or commuting and the stresses of their day and then telling them that, actually, you’re going to piss off to work all night. It’s better to tell them that earlier in the day, right? Yeah, give them the time to come to terms with that, if that is an issue..
[00:13:38] – Steve
There seems to be a separate side of this question, which then is around working evenings and weekends and not eating into the family time. In some respects right, it is good to have that voice in your ear that reminds you that it’s not great to be working every night. It isn’t great to be working until midnight every night. To a certain extent, it is helpful and healthy to have that voice, but equally, we need to sort of counter it and perhaps compromise it and say, “look, let’s be realistic — if I’m going to do this and I’m going to earn money and contribute to this family… I only have this amount of time. Imagine doing your job in just that amount of time. I need to be able to work evenings and weekends.”
When it comes to working at the weekend as well — it can be very easy to just scattergun approach. Like, do bits and pieces as the day goes on and evening goes on. Maybe a different tactic to try is like… I’m going to work Saturday morning or Sunday morning, or I’m going to work all day Saturday, but I’m not going to work at all on Sunday.
[00:14:41] – Steve
And then that means you’re giving proper attention to that ‘family time’, but you’re also giving attention to your work, so you’re doing both of them properly. But it needs to be said to them, “I spend so much time with the kids during the week. How about Saturday is your day with the kids? I’m going to work, and then on Sunday we all have family time together, because otherwise I’m never going to get this business where I want it to be and where you want it to be as well.”
[00:15:05] – Frankie
That’s literally what I was about to say, in that… the concept of ‘family time’ is quite skewed to the person that works — in this instance — her husband that works an employed job. Because the idea of me making ‘family time’ at the weekend is actually slightly bonkers to me because it’s like, I spend so much time with my children during the week, like, SO MUCH TIME.
And yes, it’s nice to spend it all together, but because they don’t have that time with the kids during the week, I totally understand that perceived ‘family time’ at the weekend and in the evenings is precious, absolutely. But they don’t see that you’ve already spent lots of precious time with your children when they weren’t there.
[00:15:47] – Steve
I’ve said this many times, I’m sure… but I used to feel like I had to be around all the time at the weekend, I thought it was irritating me tapping away every now and again on a laptop in another room. I think that’s quite annoying and maybe seems quite rude? Turns out my wife was really happy to spend time with the kids alone without me! It took years to realise that, but it’s been quite liberating to realise that, when we finally talked about that. Because that means that actually I don’t need to feel guilty about saying, “I’m going to go and work this Sunday morning.”
[00:16:26] – Frankie
But also by the weekend and the evening you’ve done your shift when it comes to parenting. And so even if the kids weren’t sick, giving you some time on your own away from the kids is necessary — maybe you should talk about building in a regular slot on a Saturday morning?
So, for example, my other half takes my son swimming and then they inevitably end up in a cafe afterwards for cake. They’re out for a few hours every Saturday morning. And sometimes I work, sometimes I have a nap, sometimes I have a bath, sometimes I watch Strictly.
[00:16:58] – Steve
The crux of it is communication. The fact that, “look, it’s all well and good for you to moan about us not spending family time together, but you can’t also moan about me not earning enough money! And do you not think I want to earn that money and I want to grow this business? Because actually, I’m loving what I did and if I went back to work in a full time role, then this, that and the other…”
[00:17:19] – Frankie
It’s such a good point! Like, “do you think I don’t want to be earning money??” Kind of thing. So true.
It’s not rocket science, is it? If she only has X amount of hours a week and she does a certain type of work, particularly if it’s a service-based time-for-money business…
[00:17:35] – Steve
…which being a detective is…
[00:17:38] – Frankie
People ask me about how much money I make or whether I’m earning as much as I was when I was employed and I’m like, “hell no!” I’m not — because I work in a time-for-money type industry and I have no time and therefore I’m earning no money. That’s not an abstract concept to understand.
Either he needs to get on board with that and therefore step up to allow her more time, particularly when kids are sick, etc. Or maybe they need to talk about creating another way of making money, some kind of ‘passive income’ and all that jazz — packaging up what she does and selling it in a different way. But even if she’s going to do that, she needs time to build that stuff!
[00:18:20] – Steve
Have we done it?
[00:18:21] – Frankie
I don’t know. I think the conclusion is we don’t really know what to say, but we feel you, basically.
[00:18:27] – Steve
Yeah. Oh, God, we’ve got your back!