The Wealthy Freelancer has two excellent posts by Dianna Huff on “Tips for Making Money as a Work-At-Home Freelance Mom.” Part one is here and part two is here. Having freelanced since my daughter was an infant, I heartily agree with almost everything Dianna says, but I’ll chime in with some of my own agree/disagree thoughts here:
- I can’t agree strongly enough about the need to present a professional image when you are a work-at-home mom. If you want to play with the big guys, you have to play by the rules of the business world, which do not include having a screaming child hanging off your leg while you’re on a conference call. There are ways to work around this; try to steer your clients toward using e-mail to contact you, etc. But in my opinion, a work-at-home mom absolutely needs a) a dedicated business phone line or phone number and b) some block of time where she knows she can be uninterrupted in the office.
- I have to slightly disagree about the day care issue. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I couldn’t stomach the idea of putting my daughter in day care when she was really little, and I felt that one of my main reasons for freelancing was to be able to spend more time with her. Granted, a major factor was that my husband was able to take a year off working after she was born, but even after he went back to work, I really preferred to use an in-home babysitter who came several mornings a week while I was working. Between 2-3 hours with the babysitter and my daughter’s afternoon naps, I was able to get in a pretty decent work day without using day care (and no, I’m not trying to ignite a debate on whether group day care is positive or negative for very young kids, just saying that it didn’t appeal to me!).
- A shared frustration: as Dianna alludes to in several of her points, I wouldn’t trade working at home for anything, but I do think that we work-at-home moms are often caught between the world of the working mom and the world of the at-home/full-time mom, without exactly fitting into either category. It frustrates me as well when people seem to feel that because I work from home, it’s unreasonable that I can’t volunteer for their activity/pick up their child/have a lengthy phone conversation during the work day because I’m, um, working! However, I do really enjoy that when my daughter needs or wants me to participate in a school activity during the day, I can almost always be there.
- I also think it’s important, for those translator-moms who have very young (below school age) kids, to realize that things get a lot easier as the kids get older. There was a point when my daughter was 3-4 years old when I was working at night 5-6 nights per week in order to have her in half-day preschool instead of full-time day care, and I felt as if I was constantly teetering on the edge of sanity. At that point, I really debated whether I was doing anyone any good by freelancing, or whether I should just put her in full-time day care and work regular hours. Now that my daughter is in school for a full day, life feels much more normal; I work while she’s at school, then we spend the afternoon together doing something fun. A couple of nights a week I work for a couple of hours, but I feel that this is a worthwhile trade-off for the extra time that I have during the day. Fortunately, my husband has been able to negotiate a 4-day work week with his job, so he uses his day off to spend an afternoon with our daughter too, giving me one day a week when I can put in a long day without arranging for extra child care.
Other translator-moms, any advice out there!
Kelly Wester says
It’s very amusing to have one’s life mirrored back in other people’s blog posts (both this one and Diana Huff’s original two)!
My own timeline for childcare has been somewhat extended because my husband and I homeschool our daughters. I had to wait until our youngest got old enough to understand my need to be undisturbed at work. It took a while, but now the girls are 12 and 9. When I have a translation assignment, I announce it loud and clear, help them organize their studies, play, and activities for whatever number of hours/days I think it will take, and off they go. (There is an unspoken agreement that I will spend all meal and coffee breaks chatting them up, will not use free time to talk to any of my own friends on the phone, and will work long hours to get it over with more quickly – but it works right now!)
Now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, I back you up in saying that the kids really do grow up, and we work-at-home-moms really will have years and years to pursue our professions.
And about home/business phone issues, I am soon going to make my cell phone my business phone. I rarely use my cell phone for personal use anyway, and it’s already a dedicated number dialling directly to me.
Karen Tkaczyk says
I too work from home so that the children don’t need day care. That’s the whole point: finding something interesting to do that contributes financially yet means the children get the attention they need from a parent when they need it. Multi-tasking is mandatory, of course, to make it work, however undesirable.
I’ve trained the school to treat me as a working mum, not a stay-at-home mum, but it did take a while for them to understand.
When I have to catch up or I take on a lucrative job I won’t be able to fit into my normal week, I work evenings and lose sleep. Not recommended.
Next year my youngest will be in Kindergarten so I’m still dreaming of regular peaceful six-hour working days.
One thing that neither of the posts mentioned: I have to plan for days when I will get no work done. If I’m booking a job due two or three weeks out, I need to plan a day where I’ll translate close to nothing to balance out the inevitable bad days. It happened on Monday this week, so it’s fresh in my mind. I sat down at my desk to open the day’s file at 8:30 pm having been to two doctors, one dentist, the post office, the bank (to send a work-related wire transfer), having attended my webinar for my ongoing prof dev course, handled all my email in between the dashing in and out, and dropped off and picked up for the after school activities. I decided not to bother starting translation that night.
Corinne McKay says
Wow, Kelly! There is definitely a special place in heaven for mothers who work from home and homeschool, amazing!! You could write a blog post just about that; and I agree, when my daughter was really little it felt as if my life would be a blur of taking care of her/working/cooking/having some tiny shred of my own life forever, but now that she’s even a little older, things are much more sane. Thanks for your comment!
Marianne Reiner says
Great post as always and of course close to the heart and home here too!
I started freelancing when our daughter was about 1 mainly for all the reasons you mentioned and also because I had an insane boss (a woman, with 2 older children) who could not stand that my child could get sick and need me without a week’s notice!
We chose to have our children in daycare and preschool and it works great for all of us. I love to be able to attend the kids’ occasional school activities without having to ask permission to anyone.
The hours the kids are away are spend hard working. I don’t answer our home phone or personal emails. I allow myself 30 minutes top for a lunch break. And if I need to work the occasional evenings, I do, but only after the kids have gone to bed.
I, too, dedicated my cell phone to be my work phone. Before I did that, my daughter, when she was 2, once answered my work phone while I had stepped away for a minute (and did not realize she had entered my office!). I returned to find her in grand conversation with one of my clients! That client became one of my best one!
Freelancing and being my own boss is the best thing I did for my family and I and I hope life circumstances will never force me to change this.
Качество друзей тоже надо учитывать. Дональд Трамп, например, на двадцатку потянет.
Jennifer Baker says
I have two children, and over the decade I have spent as a freelance translator it has been the best profession I could have chosen. I very much agree with your comments about presenting a professional front. I personally keep “office hours” from 6am until about 2pm, when my Italian clients are still working. Over the years I have been able to tend to sick children, attend all of their school events and, last but not least, work in my pajamas, one of the greatest perks of all.
Corinne McKay says
@Karen, great point about the catch-up time; I think that this happens much more frequently than for people who don’t have kids and it’s important to factor it in for longer projects especially.
@Marianne, you’re so right about eliminating distractions during the work day; especially important when you’re on a somewhat limited schedule as it is. Love the story about your daughter and the client!!
@Jennifer, thanks for pointing out the time difference factor. I find that (at least at the current exchange rates!) it’s a double win- euro clients are paying more these days, and the fact that I’m generally out of my office from about 2:30-5:00 is no problem for them because they’re asleep (while we’re working in our pajamas!!).
I started freelancing long before I had kids, but was so grateful that when I did have my first child, I already had the swing of it down (though, of course, am always learning new things about how to make my business more efficient and make even more money). I did take the first year of my oldest son’s life totally off from work to spend with him. After that, he went part-time to day care and started full-time when he was older, and now he is school. Same with my second son – except that he did not get the year off (
I too very much appreciate being able to do my errands or attend the kids’ functions or take them to the park when I have time to do so (no projects ongoing or client obligations). After all these years, I think I’d have a heart attack if I had to ask a boss. My corny joke is always, “I asked my boss if I could come – that would be me – and she said yes.”
I also like the flexibility of being able to work while traveling. I hardly ever get a full vacation from work, but I appreciate very much that I can go to France for 5 weeks or Alaska for 3. What a perk (even if I do have to work during some of it)!
Although I have heard of this happening, I personally have never had people discount my time because I “work at home”. Maybe I am just meaner than Corinne and they are afraid to ask. 😉 As I know all of you do, I do quite a bit of volunteer work already and pick and choose what to spend my (limited free) time on.
Girl power to all of us – the super mommy entrepreneur freelancers!
Judy Jenner says
My hat is off to all of you ladies, super-moms, super-entrepreneurs, and multitasking goddesses. I only have a furry daughter, 90-pound Luna, and I can barely handle her. I usually do prevent her from barking when I am on the business phone. I better not be on the phone at 2 p.m., because that’s when Luna wants “dinner” — it’s earlier every day now that I am a full-time freelancer.
Agreed with Eve — go women!
First of all! Thank you Corinne for a nice and inspiring blog. I have myself written an article for the Nordic Division about being a freelance translator with small children and your views are exaclty the same as mine.
If you feel like reading more, you can go to:
Corinne McKay says
@Eve, thanks for those great points! Especially the part about being able to pack up and work from anywhere is really valuable. And you are not meaner than me at all 🙂 it must be your excellent business acumen that makes people afraid to ask for a discount!
@Judy, love the comment about Luna and I think that a dog is probably almost as much work as a kid sometimes! Don’t let her talk you into too many extra treats.
@Tess, thanks for the link to your article, it is really interesting to read your perspectives too! It must really have been an adjustment coming from a country that has real maternity leave and vacation 🙂 Thanks for pointing out some of the benefits of your kids seeing you working, I agree that although I try never to let my work come before my kid’s needs, I also feel seeing me work hard at a job I love is important for my daughter too! Thanks for your comment!
Just to clarify…. I am not so lucky as to never have anyone ask me for a discount (not to say I give it…hee hee). I meant that no one ever says “You work from home, so you have free time” – I mean they never dismiss me as “working from home”. 😉
Dianna Huff says
Thanks for the wonderful comments on my two WAHM posts for the Wealthy Freelancer blog.
With regard to the day care issue, I really think women have to do what is best for them and their individual situations.
Having lived through it all — and now looking back — I can say with total conviction that using part-time daycare was the best option for my family (although at the time I had loads of guilt about it).
Great post and nice to meet a group of translator WAHMs!
Corinne McKay says
@Eve, thanks for the clarification; you keep holding out on those discounts, whatever the reason!
@Dianna, thanks for hopping over, I’m glad you enjoyed the post since I really enjoyed your two! I agree, whether you do day care or not, it brings up all kinds of complicated feelings: guilt, stress, indecision, feeling torn between your career and your kids, etc. but you just have to make the best decision you can with the information that you have. It’s just so much easier once the kids are in school, I think! Thanks for commenting!
Great comments everyone. I too am a freelance translator work-from-home mum with two small toddlers and I love it! Starting up the translation business was the best thing I ever did and it’s enabled me to spend quality time with my kids as well as earn a reasonable second income to help with the family finances. And I can fit in a run every day, work in my pajamas, eat lunch at my desk if I feel like it, listen to the radio while I work…..it’s fabulous!
The main advantage that it gives me is the flexibility to manage my little daughter’s diabetes – she has Type 1 and needs insulin injections with every meal. She is only 2 and the pre-school she attends doesn’t have a nurse, so I have to go there at lunchtime 4 days a week and inject her. She was only diagnosed 3 months ago and I was SO thankful that I am a WAHM rather than going out to work, as it would be impossible to maintain a full-time job with daily insulin injections, regular hospital visits, calls to the school, dropping everything to go and sort out hypos, etc.
So my two kids are at pre-school 4 mornings a week each (each having one separate day off to spend the morning with me) so I get 3 full mornings of work each week. I am lucky enough to live in Singapore and have a full-time helper at home who often babysits the kids in the afternoon while I work. I get to take them to their gym classes, music classes and swimming lessons, planning my working week around the kids. And even when I am working, shut up in the “office” (my bedroom) while the kids play with our helper in the afternoon, I’m still there for them – I can come out and cuddle them if they fall over, or sort out a fight, or come and admire their paintings or the train track they just built, or whatever.
However, I very often end up working late in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed, meeting European end-of-day deadlines and squeezing in a few extra hours if I’ve got a big project on. That can be a killer, especially if my little one gets up in the night as she often does!
In August my eldest will be 4 and will go to “big school” as he calls it, 5 days a week, so I’ll be able to fit in more work during the day and hopefully the late nights will ease off a little. But I feel that those are a small price to pay for being able to work from home and be there for my kids while they are little. I still get days when I feel guilty for leaving them with our helper all afternoon after they’ve been at pre-school all morning, but my husband reminds me of the alternative – it’s either that, or I go out to work full-time, which would be impossible given Isabel’s diabetes requirements.
Great to see that others are doing the same and gaining the same benefits!
It’s wonderful to read some success stories about moms/translators! I am also a translator and mother of two and have been trying for the past four years to make this work with very little success. I get so swamped in house/kids stuff that most days I can only sit down in front of my computer once they are in bed (and I live in France, so that’s not 7.30 or 8.00 but rather 9.30!). I am coming very close to giving up, especially because in France it costs money to be a freelancer… so it’s very encouraging and reassuring to see that some people out there manage to make it work. Thank you ladies for sharing. And thank you, Corinne, for your wonderful blog!
I stumbled upon this post here, and am so glad that freelance translation seems to be a good option for moms who want more quality time with their kids. I’m a complete novice to the industry, but am very interested in exploring the feasibility of it. I have two not so young kids – 5 and 7, but the lack of time with the kids I feel currently with my 9 to 8 full time job is becoming more intense each day. Being a translator will be a complete change in my career. Thankfully I’m much more interested in language than accounting, so I’m very willing to give it a shot if it means I can spend more quality time with my kids. I guess what I want to ask is that, do you find yourselves under deadlines that are so tight all the time, that you don’t really have that much free time, which would then sort of defeat the purpose for freelancing? Do you really have the freedom to pick and choose your work to maintain that delicate balance of work vs. family? If you’ve turned down enough work because it interfered with family time, will clients start to turn elsewhere for their needs? Is the income really amount to much at all? Rates are so competitive these days.
Natalia Aleynikova says
Great to e-meet a person whose experience and thoughts are so similar to your own! I am a mom of a 3-year old boy, and I absolutely agree with you regarding the day care issue. In my case I have a husband working at home as well, and we do one common work. So it helps a lot. I had an opportunity to stay at home with my baby as long as I wanted and needed. When my son grew enough so that I could leave him with a baby sitter or grandparents I started working a few hours a day. Now I have almost a full-time job and at the same time my son is still nearby. Now I see that it is my boy who is seeking to communicate with other children, so in a few months he will start going to a child care centre. And you know, I am really happy that I work at home because it let me stay with my baby and not give up my professional activity!