Today’s guest is Amy Ragland, a freelance marketing writer and content strategist in Wichita, Kansas. She writes mostly for financial services clients. Amy and her husband have two daughters, ages 13 and 11.
Amy began freelancing in 2002, before she was married. She began freelancing on the side when someone asked her to do a particular project. For a long time, it was only a side hustle and sporadic “play money.”
After she had her children, she stayed home full-time with them for three years. Freelancing helped her keep her brain sharp, bring in a bit of extra income and feel like she was contributing financially to the household. Later, she began full-time freelancing to have a more flexible schedule as a parent.
Freelancing allows her to structure her days so that she’s most focused and productive when her children are in school. She can also make more money in less time than when she was an employee.
The flexibility also allows her to volunteer and get involved in her kids’ school activities and events throughout the day. Pre-pandemic, Amy took her kids to school and picked them up, which she felt was important.
Another flexibility perk is the ability to help out her parents, in-laws and her grandmother, who live nearby, if they need help with something.
Amy is someone who likes to have a plan and for that plan to work out. The “topsy-turvy” aspect of the pandemic has been frustrating. She is used to having quiet and being able to concentrate on writing, and that’s been difficult with her kids at home.
Freelancing can also be lonely. Amy tries to protect her writing hours so that she can do her work done during work hours and focus on her kids after school. But that doesn’t leave much time for connecting or meeting up with other freelancers. She recommends being very strategic about reaching out to others so you aren’t isolating yourself and not getting into a rut of work-family, work-family.
Freelancing as a parent changes as children get older. Now, Amy’s kids can stay home by themselves so that (pre-pandemic) Amy could meet up with someone for coffee or run an errand.
As Amy’s children got older, it became easier to say, “Go away now, I need to work.” The kids respect that, and she doesn’t have to supervise them 24/7.
During the pandemic, many freelancers accustomed to being home alone now have partners, children and/or roommates at home now. Not getting enough alone time has been difficult on Amy.
Amy’s daily structure has changed during the pandemic. Her husband is considered an essential worker, working for an electrical contractor, so this spring Amy was trying to run her business while being thrust into full-time schoolteacher.
Her “mom guilt” went into overdrive because she felt like she needed to work, but then she felt guilty that she was ignoring her kids.
The pandemic is also difficult on kids, who have suddenly lost their daily routines and structure. Amy tries to remember to give everyone—herself included—grace. “Grace” is also tied in with letting go of our expectations. You may need to give yourself some grace and let go, or adjust, some of your personal and professional goals this year.
Early in the pandemic, Amy talked with her children about what their new daily routine would look like. She doesn’t allow her kids to stay up late or sleep in. Instead, they aimed to stay on a fairly structured routine, which has helped them during the pandemic. She also began to delegate more household chores.
Amy uses the Pomodoro technique. Pre-pandemic, she would work for about 1 ½ hours with a 30-minute break. But she has adjusted that to now work for about 40 minutes. She can tell her kids she has to work for 40 minutes and that they can talk to her after that. That helped lessen the interruptions and helped Amy stay in a writing flow.
For self-care, Amy makes sure to find some alone time. She will go into a room and close the door and read a book, even for just 20 minutes.
Amy also reminds herself that she got into freelancing for the flexibility and to be available to her family. She tries to be very conscious right now of how many freelance projects she takes on. She tends to say “yes” to everything in general, and right now it can feel “foolish” to turn away potential income. But she works to stay tuned in to her time limitations.
Amy has adjusted her business during the pandemic also. She typically does quick-turnaround projects for clients, but right now she has asked her clients to give her a little more notice.
Freelancers who might not have a lot of work right might want to take the opportunity to try something new they didn’t have time for before.
Amy tries to look for the silver lining during the pandemic: What lessons can she learn right now? How can she improve her business and become a better person?
One positive thing Amy has noticed: Her daughters have gotten along pretty well during the pandemic. She has watched them become buddies and take care of each other. She and her husband and daughters have also done more activities together as a family, like doing puzzles and taking walks. They bought a basketball goal for their driveway and have been playing HORSE nonstop.
The biggest advice Amy can give freelancing parents is to be strategic with your time. That will get easier as your kids get older. Set yourself up for success. Structure your day to take advantage of the best time to work. When her kids were little, trying to plan to work during naptime often got derailed, which was frustrating. But Amy shifted her mindset to be more strategic with her time throughout the day, which made her feel more in control with her day.
Create Excel spreadsheets with the regular resources and links you consult for your business (so you aren’t Googling the same info every time).
Writers can also create an Excel spreadsheet for the articles they write (include date, client, topic).