Nope. Freelancing is a much better option.
What? You want some reasons? Wow, tough crowd. OK. Here are four.
Reason 1: Freelancing lets you put your children first
I’m going to guess that one reason you’re reading this post is that you’re wondering whether it’s possible to be a working parent without feeling like you’re letting your children down or missing out on their lives. Let’s face it, the feeling of coming home at 6:30pm and reading a bedtime story (“Just a quick one, darling, I haven’t had dinner yet”) while trying not to be tired and irritable is a pretty good recipe for parental guilt.
Even if you’re working part time or from home (and we all know how thrilled employers are for you to do that), you’ve still committed those hours of your day to a third party. When the special assembly or sports day rolls around, you’ll be using up those preciously finite days of annual leave to make sure you’re there.
Feeling a little constrained?
Freelancers set their own constraints. They can decide where their non-negotiables lie (picking up from school, working 3 days a week, not working in school holidays, etc) and fit their work to that schedule without consulting anyone else. When something comes up, they can usually forget the schedule and do what’s best for them and their family (including ditching nursery and going to the park on that gloriously sunny day).
Let’s be straight here – as a freelancer, of course there are occasions when you just have to meet a client’s deadline or risk losing their future custom and potentially damaging your brand. However, having to put your children second on an occasional basis sure beats doing it as a matter of course.
Reason 2: Flexible working just isn’t that flexible
“But everything will be alright when my flexible working request is approved!” I hear you cry.
There are a lucky few, who have fabulously family-friendly employers and who can swan in and out of the office when they feel like it as long as they deliver the goods. I’m a massive advocate of such smarter working (where your employer judges you on results, regardless of when and where you work) but I’m sorry to say it’s just not happening for many UK workers yet. High profile failures of such initiatives in the US have only served to show how far off we are from absorbing smarter working into our own culture.
No, the majority of flexible workers in this country are simply happy to have persuaded their employers to control fewer of their waking hours. So you work three fixed days a week, or you’re allowed to leave at 3pm or you can work from home one day a week (but you’d better do twice the amount of work to show it isn’t affecting your productivity). This isn’t flexible. They just control you for slightly less time.
But that’s OK because ‘flexible’ workers get all the best career boosts and pay rises, don’t they?
No. They make it through a working week full of subtle (or not-so-subtle) comments about their lack of commitment. They forego the lunch hour or chit-chat with colleagues that their full-time colleagues enjoy, because they so desperately need to show that part-time work can be successful. Often this is made even more tricky by the fact that they’re given five days worth of work to achieve in their four days in the office.
Gosh that was a bit ranty, wasn’t it? I do apologise. You may have noticed I’m a little frustrated at the lack of respect that employers often give to ‘part-timers’ (even the phrase has become a derogatory term).
I probably don’t need to hammer this point home, but I’m going to anyway. As a freelancer, you have ultimate flexibility because YOU are in charge of when and where you work. The beautiful irony is that when you tell a client that you’re only available two days per week, that just turns you into that oh-so-attractive scarce resource that they simply must have. A bit like dating.
Reason 3: Freelancing makes you LESS vulnerable in this economic climate.
There’s no real need for me to point out that no job is secure these days. You can receive notice of the dreaded consultation one day and arrive at the gates of job-hunting hell the next . At that point, you have to dust off the CV and start on the long road of trying to convince another employer to commit to your annual salary on the basis of that bit of paper.
For a freelancer, the unexpected end of a contract is no big deal. A savvy freelancer sets themselves up so that they’re never dependent on just one source of income (much more on that in future posts) and also purposely designs their working life to cater for the ebb and flow of both business and family life (again, watch this space for how). What’s more, the freelancer just needs to crank up their perfectly tuned marketing engine and they can have a new client within a matter of days. After all, it’s a lot easier to convince a business to commit to a few hundred pounds so you can wow them with your skills, than it is to ask for a whole year’s salary.
Reason 4: Freelancing is the one bit of the juggling act where you are in control.
So, life with children is pretty chaotic, right? As much as you try not to let it happen, your little darlings dictate an awful lot of what you do with your time (please say it’s not just me). Cooking, laundry, ferrying to various sporting activities, monitoring school bags for random letters to which you should have responded yesterday, picking up endless bits of Lego – there’s just not that much time left for you. And I do mean you. I don’t mean your other half, or your mum or the home insurance that needs renewing. I mean you. Remember that person you were before you had kids? Someone with hobbies and interests. Someone who actually woke up at the weekend and thought, “Hmm, what shall I do today?” Someone who made their own decisions.
Freelancing is all about you. It’s about designing a brand that reflects every aspect of you and about designing a working lifestyle that you love. Not just settle for. Love.
Where do you think you might get your best work done? At home? In the garden? In the local coffee shop? In a buzzing hot-desking space in the city? In a villa in France before the rest of the family wakes up for a day on the beach (OK, I got a little carried away there).
How about timing? Some people find that their most creative efforts only come after midnight. Others love the calm silence of the household at 6am. As a freelancer, you can fit your work to your own rhythm. Some core hours in the daytime when your children are being cared for elsewhere, then the remainder of your working hours whenever you like. Or you might set up a work blitz for a month, generating so much income that you can then kick back and enjoy the long school summer holidays.
Hate a certain part of your work? Don’t do it. Outsource it. Don’t take on clients that want it. Whatever. It’s up to you. There’s no employer to insist that you give a presentation to twenty people/analyse that mass of data/write up a 200 page report that no-one will read (please delete as appropriate).
OK, there might be bits of running a freelance business that you love less than others (selling yourself and keeping track of expenses being a frequent pair of offenders), but at least you’ll understand the benefit (and if you don’t, then why are you doing it?).
Take back that bit of control for yourself. Create your own brand and business from scratch and make it work. The sense of achievement will be all the greater when you know it’s all down to you.
So, there’s the four reasons. I could think of another to round up the numbers, but I reckon you’ve got the gist by now. It’s all about the freedom and flexibility to create work that suits you and your family.
There’s a high chance that you’re now shouting at the screen, ‘But what about not being able to find work/not having any skills to freelance with/ clients not paying you on time/not getting all those cosy benefits you get off employers?’
Fear not. You won’t get a rose-tinted view of freelancing here. I’ll be going into the gory details of each of those issues (and more) in future posts. I’ve experienced all of the above and STILL believe that freelancing is a great choice for parents. Sign up below and you’ll get both sides of the story over the coming months. Are you in?