As self-employed parents, you have unique control over your schedule — so there’s always a way to accommodate your kids’ needs during the school year, even while you hit project deadlines and crush client calls. You may be thinking, “What are all of the other self-employed parents doing with all this time?” Well, you’re in luck, because I spoke with a few and found out their best tips and tricks to boost productivity and maintain a work-life balance during the school year:
Work in Chunks
Now that his two kids are in school, Jim Wang makes full use of the time between 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. “I’ve found that you can schedule everything work-related within that period,” says Wang, the founder of Wallet Hacks. “And while I don’t necessarily use it all, having that block of time during the week means I can schedule tasks and events with more certainty than before.”
Wang plans out his day so that he spends mornings on more creative tasks that require deep focus, like writing and brainstorming. That means his afternoon can be spent on less mentally taxing tasks, such as calls and data analysis. And since his kids go to bed around 8 p.m. each night, Wang knows he has a few hours in the late evening to finish up any other work-related tasks, if necessary.
Are your kids are involved in more extracurricular activities than you can count? Make sure you make the most out of that time, as well. Julie Schumacher, a Chicago-based copywriter and founder of Well Turned Words and Forth Chicago, a networking group for female creative entrepreneurs, uses the extra time when her daughter has soccer practice on Thursday afternoons to wrap up her work for the day.
Block Off Your Schedule
When your kids’ school schedules come out, immediately block out days you want to take off for school-related events, suggests Schumacher, whose husband is also self-employed. “That way I’m not having to reschedule things when school stuff is in play,” says Schumacher. And because you are your own boss, you don’t need to clarify why you’re unavailable during a certain time period. “Clients don’t need to know if I’m unavailable because I have a work meeting or a PTO meeting.”
Prioritize Your Time Based on Your Values
“Carve out chunks of time for yourself, your kids, your partner and your interests outside of your work, and then try your very best to adhere to your schedule,” says Jeff Bogle, a photographer, podcaster and travel/lifestyle writer on Out With The Kids. As spending quality time with his family is a top priority, Bogle blocks out the hours immediately after school so he can check in with his kids and help them complete any difficult assignments.
Use School Functions to Build Your Community and Network
Build your communities when you can, where you can, suggests Schumacher, who started her company when her little one was just six months old. “When I started my business, I felt like I was missing out on a lot of evening networking, conferences, panels and workshops because I was often exhausted or working late because of a missed nap,” she explains. “Quiet that buzz of missing out.” Instead of having some serious FOMO, approach school and community functions as a way to seek career opportunities. “Volunteer at your kid’s school or in your community doing the things you’re good at. Six years in, so many of my favorite projects have come from someone I met on the playground, or from someone who heard about me through an old friend.”
Set Boundaries Between Your Work and Personal Life
“It’s important to set boundaries as a freelancer, or you won’t have any separation or balance between work and life, and that’s not fair to you or your family,” says Bogle. Maintaining the right balance is particularly difficult when you freelance. If you’ve ever found yourself in a boom and bust cycle, you know all too well the downside of blending your work and personal life. Make sure you prioritize your relationships with your spouse and kids, and carve out time for them.
As you can see, there are plenty of self-employed parents out there who make the most of the extra time they have when their kids go back to school — and you can, too. While it may still feel like a juggling act to achieve a work-life balance, these tried-and-true tactics will help you be a successful freelancer and an available parent.