Helping Your Family and Friends Make the Adjustment
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Most of the topics we’ve dealt with in this section so far have been entirely oriented around you, the freelancer. But as the saying goes, “man is not an island”. (Woman isn’t either.) Most of us have important people in our lives: family and friends. Generally, individuals who are closest to us will be impacted the most by the move to freelancing. Fortunately, these folks can also be the greatest source of support as you undertake this exciting challenge.
Your spouse or “significant other”, if you have one, will almost certainly be the one most dramatically affected by your decision to become an online freelancer. However, it’s important to realize that this isn’t a case where you make a decision and the other person has to deal with the effects. A good relationship is a partnership, after all: the choice to become a freelancer will begin with you, but the decision to undertake this path has to be a mutual one.
Involving your companion in making the decision to freelance means that he or she has some “skin in the game”, and that in turn makes it easier for him or her to adapt to changes that occur as a result of your new career. That said, expect conflicts to arise from time to time, especially at the beginning.
One potential problem is related to the tendency for freelance workloads to ebb and flow as you find and complete projects. You need to help your partner understand that your free time will vary over time. On the one hand, if you are relatively idle at any particular moment, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have work to do, or that something is wrong. And on the other, it also means that those very busy periods when you seem to have no time for the family won’t last forever either.
One of the advantages of being a freelancer is flexibility. If your spouse works a full-time job, expect him or her to “lean” on you more when it comes to dealing with “life issues”: the car that breaks down, the kid home sick from school, etc. This is entirely reasonable, as long as in turn you are able to make clear that you need to have your dedicated work time respected. There’s lots of potential for mutually beneficial give and take here: you stay home to meet the cable repair guy at 11 am; your husband watches the kids that evening so you can get that demanding client off your back.
The degree to which children are impacted by your decision to become a freelancer depends in large part on their age and the nature of how you pursue your career. Older kids usually can make the adjustment pretty easily, and of course very young ones won’t really know what’s going on. It is generally those in the middle—preschoolers and younger grade-aged kids—who will have the most difficulty.
The main issue with kids is time and availability: they tend to expect that both of these are at their disposal whenever both you and they are at home. :) This is especially true if you are working outside of normal school or day-care hours; for this reason, part-time freelancers may actually have a more difficult time with their kids than full-timers do.
Luckily, kids are adaptable, and over time will get used to mommy or daddy needing “quiet work time”. Keeping a predictable and consistent schedule can help with this a great deal, as can having an office or room with a door that you can close. You can even put up a sign saying that you’re working and shouldn’t be disturbed. (Of course, this all assumes that your partner or someone else is available to give the kids care and attention.)
One nice way to compromise between kids and projects who both demand your attention is to give some to each. Tell your children you’re going to work for a couple of hours, and then take a break for a while to play a game or go outside for a walk.
Long periods off of school can be problematic, especially for full-time freelancers: those Christmas breaks and weeks off school in the summer can be a bear. Children may need repeated, firm, but kind reminders that even though they are on vacation, you are not!
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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