You can only be so prepared for life with a new baby. Throw your career into the mix, and you’ve just whipped up a delicious cocktail called High Anxiety!
I’ve been through it and come out the other side to tell you it is entirely possible to go back — and with a bang! But you’re going to feel like you failed before you succeed. And then, if you work for it, it will all end up OK.
What other advice can I give you? These four tips for going freelance with baby:
1 Gather your contacts
Obvious, yes. Make a spreadsheet, Word doc or Google address book with any and all professional and personal contacts that could be leads for your post-baby career. By personal contacts I don’t mean your third cousin in Florida— unless she’s in the same industry as you. What I mean is don’t underestimate the connections a relative or friend may offer.
My most fruitful gig since going freelance came through my older sister’s best friend. How seemingly random is that? She was the Director of Marketing, I was a freelance Copywriter. Bingo.
2 Practice your Pitch
Going freelance can be tough. Going remote or “offsite” freelance can be a real bitch. The one thing I didn’t practice or prep before I dove back into work was my elevator pitch.
“Hi, So-and-So: Hope all is well. Reaching out to let you know I now freelance from home, so keep me in mind if anything pops up!”
Eh. It works. But it also sounds boring and a little obtuse.
Are you going through a phase? Did you get fired from that sweet gig everyone knows you had? Are you on house arrest? Oh, you’re a 30-something woman? You probably had a baby…
Instead of letting your contacts (especially those without a window into your personal life) speculate, lay it all out there — in a super succinct way.
This is way easier said than done, so practice it now. Draft a handful of emails for former colleagues, bosses and friends, and craft the 3-sentence summary of why you’re going remote freelance. (If it’s boring, you get two sentences. See above.)
3 Give yourself PLENTY of time
This is so key. I tried to jump start my freelance work just two months postpartum. I was home breastfeeding and watching my newborn rock in a swing or nap for long stretches of time (daytime only, of course). I had free time on my hands, why not write… for money?
Nope. Too soon.
Once you feel like you’ve come out from the newborn fog, start sloooow. Finesse your emails to contacts. Work on your site. Read up on industry news. Browse remote job openings.
Most importantly, do NOT get down on yourself when the perfect gig doesn’t drop itself into your hormone-softened lap. And, if one does (miracle!), make sure it’s not too stressful or time-consuming. Odds are, as soon as the work starts flowing, your perfect little baby will become a high-maintenance nightmare.
4 Line up your helpers
If you’re going to be hardcore about this, you’re going to need some help. If you don’t have family nearby and can’t bear to hire a stranger to help with your precious bundle (which is totally fair), prepare your partner for what’s to come. They are going to have to step up their baby game when they’re not at work if you’re going to use all possible free time looking for or doing freelance work.
If you are going to enlist help, it’s never to early to start discussing options with family and friends or searching for and interviewing a sitter/ nanny. We lived far from family when my first was born, so when she turned four months old, I signed onto Care.com and started interviewing sitters.
The bonus with remote work? If you have the space, you can bring someone into your home and still work in a quiet room.
Ideas for enlisting friends/ family:
- Make your needs clear — and ask for them to do the same. Don’t be scared about sounding too formal. Ask for your mom’s/ best friend’s/ playgroup mom’s schedule and share yours. From there, pick a few hours or days that work for your family and pitch a babysitting schedule to them.
- For friends, you may be offering some pay or swapping childcare duties. In any situtation, my favorite line is this one: “I’m excited about this, but only if it works for both of us — please let me know when I’m asking too much, and I’ll do the same.”
- Set a date to reassess the situation. A trial period or check-in date is an easy way to give you (or them!) an out if the situation isn’t ideal.
Of course, everyone’s experience is different. So, I’m curious— what would you add to this list?