In my last post I asked if single parents can successfully work at home and make a living writing online or blogging. In this post some reasons why you might try, and some basic tips.
Why would you try something like freelancing as a single parent, especially when the odds are stacked pretty high against even non-single parent writers?:
- You have a small baby and would like to stay home to care for him.
- You’re homeschooling your kids – hard, very hard. Been there personally and it’s soooo hard. But it’s one reason.
- You don’t have reliable transportation to another sort of job.
- You can’t find work that fits with your kid’s schedule.
- You just feel that writing is the gig for you.
Personally, I stay home and write due to my son’s school. We were unschooling, then when the ex got way too lame for his own good let alone mine, I left and my son was still at home with me. That was way too much stress, and just plain too hard on me, so now my son attends a free school. It’s perfect for an unschooler, but there are no after school programs, and so I need to be available for him from 3pm until bedtime. Before I split with my ex, I was a PT at-home writer, so the transition to FT was a little more natural for me. If I don’t work at home my son will have to go to public school, because no decent jobs end at 3pm (like his school) and for me that’s a horrid thought.
If you have a choice, another job is way easier though.
But say you don’t have another choice. Some things that can make it easier to work at home as a freelance writer and single parent include the following…
Be extra organized: You need a great schedule plan that included work time, kid time, chore time, grocery time, and all the stuff in between. I plan everything. It might seem anal, but without the planning, I’d be lost.
Drop some expectations: Your house doesn’t have to be spotless, you don’t have to make homemade bread, or do tons of crafts to be a good parent. Some things have to fall aside. It’s better to work, make money, and spend quality low-stress time with your kid, then it is to stress over what you could be doing better.
Plan for emergencies: If you get sick you’re pretty much sunk. If you can, as soon as you can, set aside some money for emergencies, plan who might be able to help out with your child if you need it, and always try to work a little ahead of schedule. I also suggest a hearty collection of DVDs. My son doesn’t watch much TV, but when I’ve been sick, the DVDs have saved my life. Don’t forget to plan for kid issue days too – sick days, snow days, all of that is way worse when you work at home and are a single parent.
Don’t take crap jobs: I don’t think any writers should take $3 article gigs, but if you’re single aim really high. If you take only low paying work you will be stressed and you won’t have any free time with your child or for yourself. Don’t settle and learn right away where to find the best gigs that pay the most. (more on this in a post later this week)
Don’t put all your eggs in one gig basket: As a single parent you don’t have the luxury of this risk. You may have one great gig that pays all your bills, but what if that gig folds? Plenty of websites, networks and even major magazines fold leaving people without pay. Always have more than one job going for you, or some alternative ideas on the back burner.
Have a chill and older child or decent help: This is not a choice obviously, but count you lucky stars if you’ve got a chill kid. My son is way chill, and if I have an emergency deadline, he’ll play with Legos and mostly leave me alone so I can get my work done. If a client calls, he gets that he needs to be quiet. This was harder when he was little. If you have an excited child or a baby, i.e a child who demands attention, you will need to find alternative help – your family, a baby sitter, someone who can entertain your child at least some of the week so that you can have alone time to work. It also helps to be totally frank with your child from the get-go. My son has known for years that computer time = money = groceries and rent. It’s not too much reality for a kid, they get it.
Know when to quit: Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts you may need to get a different sort of job. Believe me, I’ve been there. Writing has low times and high times. Late this last year even I was planning on tossing it in (bad last year) and looking for a salary writing gig outside the home. My son would have to change his schedule, and I’d hate that, but I also like my son to have cool stuff like food and heat – you know? Thankfully, I recently got some lucky writing breaks and offers which may be very helpful for my current situation. Not to be a downer, but when it comes down to it, your kids deserve more than shaky ground because you don’t know when to quit and look for something more stable.
Are you a single parent who writes? What tips do you have that make your job easier?