Wow, not sure where they went, but the last few years have been a heady mix of my children growing older and starting school, and my new-found independence as a freelance comms professional. August is a special month for me, kids off school, birthdays, wedding anniversary and my business anniversary too. This year, it’s been four years since starting my freelance life and Little Bird Communication. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.
And with these celebrations always comes a little self-reflection (well ok quite a bit, but that’s the way I keep everything in check). How’s it going, is it going in the right direction, is my business any nearer my planned destination, will it ever get there…, what should I be focussing on, is that still right and reasonable? These are all questions I ask myself, quite regularly, but probably more so when it’s the milestone month of August.
August is a month when most freelancers who are parents are pushed to their limits. With kids off school, the juggle of work and home life is brought into sharp focus, the two clashing and vying for your attentions. Late nights, early starts, full days out with the kids, it’s all part of it. Often business steps up too as everyone else takes time off. Your clients are looking for extra support to help them meet their objectives while their teams have temporarily shrunk. The freelance path can get a bit wobbly at times, as life hurtles past, or you may get distracted by the scenery and the greener working options on the other side as it were.
Learning how to make that balance work for you is vital. I’m lucky to have a brilliant network of freelancers who I meet with regularly, and we all share our current challenges, ideas and solutions. No-one seems to have a solution for August and its onslaught of competing priorities and demands upon us freelance/parent types.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as it’s been a tricky August so far, but I don’t actually know that there is a solution. Today, having been up since ‘whatever o’clock’ and putting in a few hours of work before slapping a few sarnies together, throwing wellies, buckets, nets and towels in the car, getting kids dressed and clean (ish), and getting them in the car, not forgetting the dog too, we set off for a few hours in the forest. We had fun. Then we came home, I worked some more while the kids played, we had dinner, I joined a conference call, then put the kids to bed, I worked some more, then I called it a night (about now)… I don’t know that there’s a job that would let me do all that, or at least that I would not feel guilty about doing all that (some people just like to see you there, in the office, don’t they).
My friends who are employed or look after their kids think I’m bonkers. Can you get someone to help you, can you say no, can someone look after the kids for you, oh my goodness you work so hard… they say. No not really, I say. I chose this route, this is the career path for me, and while what I do pays some bills and more, I don’t really consider it work. That’s probably the bit that some people think is bonkers. I am really busy, I do have to juggle, I’m often thinking of my work and projects when I’m on the beach, but I love what I do and when it all comes together, and I can sit back and think I was a part of that, I helped make that happen, that’s brilliant. And I got to hang out with my kids while they were on their holidays, helped them build sandcastles and make memories.
Okay, so the life of a freelancer is not perfect, but what is? What this is, what freelancing is, is a choice. A choice of lifestyle, a choice of balance, a choice of career path. I get to choose when I work, I get to choose to spend time with my family, I even get to choose the work I do. I work late nights and early mornings to make sure I can do that. At times it’s really stressful, it’s often challenging, but it’s also blooming marvellous, so I’m sticking to my plan and following my ambition.