We’re big proponents of treating your freelance writing career like a business. That means defining your goals, creating a plan, and establishing regular work hours. But for those of us who are parents who work at home, summer changes everything. The 9-to-5 schedule we adopted from September through May often doesn’t work as well between June and August when we’re shuttling kids to summer camps, doctors’ appointments, and the local swimming pool. If yours is the house where everybody likes to hang out, you also need to figure out when to schedule client conference calls so you’ll have the least amount of background noise. Concentrating on your work can be tough when iPods are blaring, video games are beeping, and America’s next top model is strutting down the television runway.
So what’s a freelance to do? Here are some strategies:
1. We find it comforting to retain some aspect of our regular schedule, even if we have to get up an hour earlier than usual. So if you prepare for your day by sitting in your easy chair with a cup of coffee while reading the morning paper, by all means continue this regimen. Eliminating familiar rituals will only make you cranky and out of sorts for the rest of the day.
2. Take it one day at a time. Summer schedules often change on a daily basis. If you anticipate and plan for the fluctuations, you’ll be better able to handle them. Flexibility is the key.
3. Save complex work for times when distractions are few. Is your house quietest between 5 am and 9 am? What about 9 pm to 2 am? You may find it easier to concentrate at these odd hours when you’re not being bombarded with other demands.
4. Be up front with your clients. As freelances we are often elusive, disembodied voices on the other end of a telephone. You can share a bit about yourself without revealing too much to your clients. They’ll appreciate your honesty. If you can’t participate in a conference call because it’s your turn to car pool that morning, say so. Your clients are often caregivers themselves who have to deal with the same demands as you.
5. Don’t feel guilty for taking some time off. As freelances we don’t have the luxury of paid vacations; when we aren’t working, we aren’t generating income. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take an occasional day or week off now and then. Getting out of the office and away from the phone is a great way to recharge. Just leave the guilt behind!
Photo credit: Cyndy Kryder