8 tips for freelancing from home without ignoring your kids

Today is an unusual day for me. I’m working from home.

As many of you know, I’m not a full-time always-work-from-home freelance designer. I have a full time job too. (Don’t hate me, remember?)

But today, I’m working from home. All day.

It’s bringing back some memories of when I first started freelancing and I spent the entire day working from home.

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And being home with my wonderful wife and adorable baby boy reminded me of a question posted as a comment earlier this year. Tristan writes:

I’d … really like more tips from other freelancers who are parents! The work life balance and such.

Today, as I try to keep my 18-month-old boy’s fingers from pressing “publish” on this post before it’s finished, I want to talk a little about balancing home life with work life–especially balancing work time with spending quality time with the ones you love.

As you read, please add any tips you have from your own experiences too, since my only “experience” is only 18-months old. Leave a comment to add to the list.

Tuh-may-toe, tuh-mah-toe…

Please keep in mind as you read, that whether I talk about kids, spouses, or significant others, it doesn’t matter. What really matters is balancing your home-work lifestyle. The object of this post is to help you balance the amount of time you spend designing and working compared to the time you spend with the people you love.

So here we go…


8 tips for freelancing from home without ignoring your kids

1. Set strict hours. It can be easy to get sucked into work. I’ve done it. I’m sure you’ve done it. Likewise, it can be easy to get sucked into spending time with your kids and family. If you plan to freelance from home for an extended period of time, set strict hours and stick to them. At least until you get the hang of what it takes to work from home and be profitable.

2. Find a dedicated workspace. Distractions are the number one productivity-killer no matter where you work from. So if your distractions (like mine) come in the shape of an adorable toddler who just wants to play, you may need to lock yourself in a dedicated workspace for a few hours each day.

Finding a dedicated work space can also help you stay focused get more done in less time–leaving more time to spend with your family.

3. Take time out every once and a while. While you should have strict work hours, it’s ok to take a time out every once and a while (perhaps I have let the pendulum swing a little too far today since my son has interrupted me for playtime at least three times since I started this blog post).

Taking a few minutes every now and then will make working from home worth it.

4. Moderate both sides. Working all day isn’t healthy. And playing all day (arguably) isn’t either. Moderate the amount of time you spend every day working and spending time with your kids.

A healthy work-home balance is exactly that: a balance.

Take time to find the right balance.

5. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. As long as you’re working from home, there will always be two opposing parties : your clients and your kids.

And you have to learn how to say “no” to each of them. Don’t be afraid to tell a client “no” if they ask you to work during a family event you’ve had planned for months.

And don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones you have a deadline to hit and you’re locking yourself if your office for a few hours. Everyone will understand.

6. Make every second count. While this cheesy piece of advice seems to scream “family time,” I’m also talking about making every second count when you’re working too.

Make every second count when you’re with your family or loved ones by giving them your all and taking work completely off your mind.

But when you’re working, give your clients your all and make every second of work count toward the profitability of your business.

7. Re-evaluate frequently. Take time now and again to re-evaluate your home-work experience. Is it still working out for you? For your family? For your clients? If it doesn’t seem to be working, maybe you need to rent an office space for a few hours each day to be more productive. Or maybe you need to work less hours to give your kids more attention.

Take time every 6 or 12 months to reevaluate your situation.

8. Embrace interruptions. Lastly, embrace interruptions.

Again, it goes both ways: it’s ok if your kid grabs your cell phone while you’re talking to a client. And it’s ok if a client calls while your hanging out with your family.

Decide which interruptions are appropriate and then learn to embrace them. They make life spontaneous and exciting.

Ok parents, chime in!

If you’re working from home and trying to balance your home life with your work life, chime in and let me know what other tips you have.

I’m sure Tristan would love as much advice from you as possible. Leave a comment on this post and let us know what you think!

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  1. Great topic. There’s been a lot of trouble on this one, but mostly with my wife. My toddler turned out really mature about this stuff and rarely tries to pull me out of the office or try to raid it (just once or twice a day). Talking to them and being both honest and reasonably consistent about when it is time to work and when it is time to chill is key, I think.

  2. Great article. I have two sons – a two year old and a 10 month old who are both very active and demanding of momma’s attention. I agree that setting time aside for your work life balance is key to being productive. I have a lot of help from my husband and mother in law who watch the kids for me on designated days so I can focus on building my design business from the ground up. Otherwise it gets frustrating to try and sneak in some work when you really should be focused on the kids.

  3. Great article. I am a freelance designer and full time stay home mom with no nanny. For now I only do contract based jobs that have minimal or no face to face client meetings.

    My baby is 15 months old, I can’t say I have strict working hours (I think it’s flexible for fathers than mothers). My baby has to nurse and I can’t put a specific time to that. Plus every day she wakes up in a different mood. Some days she wants full undivided attention other days she can sit and play on her own. I rely heavily on nap times to do my work. If I have 2 jobs, I pick the simple ones for short morning naps and the more complex for long afternoon naps. Other times I have to work late in the night but make sure I at least get 3hours of sleep.

    For now up to when she goes to school, I have to make careful choices which jobs to pick and which ones to drop.

    Our jobs are important but so are the ones we love. I am always ready to drop EVERYTHING i am doing to be with my baby girl. As she grows, I’d like her to understand that my work is important and I enjoy what I do but she comes 1st and i will never be too busy for her.

  4. Thanks for this as I’ve felt so many freelance articles are written from the perspective of people with out kids – and meaning no offense to other commenters but kids are very different to dogs and boyfriends. I tried working from home when my three children were young and found it too hard so got an office based job. This was a good solution for me as it was part time and solved what for me was unworkable. Now that the youngest is at school, I work from home two days and in an office one day. I love the time when the kids go to school and the house is quiet and i can go to work, and i love the time i stop and they arrive home. I squeeze more work time in at night or before 7am – whichever time suits me. I choose to live on a low income which comes from not working full time so that i can be there for the kids when they are home from school, and to have time to volunteer at the school. This is my work life balance and it works for now. I don’t know how it will work as the kids get older and ‘cost’ more but also still need that time from me. For me, the kids will always take priority over work. I agree that it is necessary to continually reevaluate and work with partner to determine how to keep things balanced in line with your. Familie’s priorities.

  5. ♥ I have three daughters who are thankfully old enough to handle many things on their own. I sometimes sit in the living room on the couch and work while they watch their programs just to be in their presence and available if they want to chat. I share with them my successes and accomplishments with the work I am doing to include them. They are my group of mini-me cheerleaders. I also, take time out to cook dinner and make dessert with them, eat with them, and just sit around having girl talk for a few moments. I have two teens so they usually prefer to not be bothered any way. It is important to not get caught up in your own world too much because your kids can be screaming or attention internally or going through some problems with school, peers, friends and dealing with life. You don’t want to be oblivious to their feelings and put anything before them including work. They need to know when it comes to them, nothing else matters. Or else you may end up with a rebellious child who does things to get your attention. Balance is important and spending time to watch a news program to discuss current events, a great movie, or a funny sitcom goes a long way. Take walks to give you one-on-one time so that you can actually engage in conversation with minimal distractions. That also promotes a healthy active lifestyle. I could probably go on and on but I know they will be reiterated in the other great comments and advice being posted here. Thanks for reading my comment everyone!
    Frugal Diva Designz
    http://www.frugaldivadesignz.com – Under Re-Construction

  6. Thanks God my kids have a great grandmother…This is an ideal solution when you are freelancer with kids 🙂

  7. Wise words and great tips, I used to freelance and I think this advice not only applies to freelancers but those who work for themselves in general.

  8. If you get distracted very easily and have a hard time getting back on track, find a way to separate yourself from your kids for at least part of your work day. You’ll get more done and you won’t be battling guilt for not giving your kids more of your time AND for not getting more done. But if you can create space and time to focus on work, and a separate time to focus on your kids, you’ll probably get a lot more done and feel a lot more pleased about how you’re managing things.

    Furry “kids” are often easier to manage. Get ’em tired out and they’ll be happy to sleep by your side until it’s walk/play time again.

    I have two dogs, two kids, and a cat, and I’ve been self-employed for 12 years. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  9. EXACTLY! As a freelancer one just needs to remind oneself that it is the freedom to be with the family that we chose this solution. Of course, we also have to support the family. CHOICES, choices, choices! Anytime I have to travel somewhere for business that the family has not been we all go!!! I work in the wee hours of the night to be with them during the day. Then I sleep. It can be hectic but this was MY choice!!! I LOVE BEING A FREELANCER!!!! I would not change that for the world! My life is AMAZING!

  10. At this exact moment, I’m exclusively working from home. (Sometimes I take contract opportunities and then I work on location for a period of time.) I don’t have children, but I have a great boyfriend (Happy 13th Valentine’s Day, Dear!) who also works from home and 2 adorable, loveable, playful, attention-monger labradoodles. So there are plenty of distractions! (There are also video games, too.)

    We have a dedicated office. Sometimes, if I’m really busy or on the phone (inevitably the dogs WILL start barking while I’m on the phone), I close the door and ignore the rest of the house. Other times, I leave the door open and welcome the wet dog nose that pokes my elbow and we play tug of war, fetch, or just share some love before I go back to work.

    It also works that I get up early (8:30ish) and my boyfriend doesn’t get up until 10-11, so I get the mornings to myself (and managing the dogs) while he stays up later, maximizing our time on our shiny new desktop computer (we also have a laptop).

    1. I am in a similar situation, only me and my boyfriend also work full time beside freelancing or working on personal projects. I’ve gradually moved to the kitchen so it is my office now (and I don’t use it that much for cooking, lol). The reason is we live in a really small appartment and I actually have nowhere else to go. It feels wonderful that I could still be alone with my work and know that I could go to the other room and spend some time with my boyfriend. We also have a parrot and since recently a kitten, so they count as loved ones that require attention as well 🙂

  11. Great article! My two cents: if you have younger kids, having predictable naps is key. I rely heavily on nap time to squeeze my work in. If they are slightly older and don’t really nap much, a short block of “quiet time” might work.

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