Juggling work and caring responsibilities – top tips for freelancers

by OFER TIROSH 22/03/2017

A recent Tomedes survey found that flexible working hours was the second most popular reason given for becoming a freelance translator (after love of language). For many freelancers, the ability to work around their childcare responsibilities or other caring commitments is a key part of why professional translation is their career of choice. 

However, juggling work and caring responsibilities isn’t always easy. As such, below are some top tips to help you ensure that you, your clients and those you care for all get the best out of the arrangement. 

Divide up your tasks

Certain tasks require more concentration than others. Just like office-based workers, who have to cope with the distraction and interruptions of chattering colleagues and ringing telephones, most home-based workers can manage a certain level of distraction. 

One easy way to juggle caring and work responsibilities is to divide up your tasks into a list of those that require full concentration and those that don’t. This will vary from person to person. A freelance writer, for example, might need to concentrate fully when writing an article, but be able to promote that article on social media with only 50% of their attention engaged. For a freelance translator, translation work is likely to require their full attention, but sending marketing emails out to former clients could be done while keeping one eye on a toddler. 

Divide up your time

Breaking the day into chunks can work well for those trying to juggle looking after school age children while working. School children are used to a timetable structuring their day, so breaking working days over the school holidays up into activity blocks can work well. Following an hour of intensive play time in the garden with an hour of quiet reading time can provide blocks of quiet time at regular intervals throughout the day. This can help freelancers to enjoy periods when they can concentrate fully on their work without feeling guilty that the children aren’t having fun. 

Set challenges

Children love to be stretched and challenged by exciting new activities, so plan ahead for times when work and childcare need to be juggled and have a list of tasks that the little ones can complete on their own as a challenge. From art projects to planting flowers in the garden to building a complex Lego structure, completing a task from start to finish can provide children with a wonderful sense of achievement. It can also provide freelancers with some quiet time to focus on their work. 

In the same vein, encouraging children to keep a scrapbook or diary of their activities, by writing about them and drawing pictures to show what they’ve been up to over the holidays, can provide much-needed working time while also producing something that the youngsters can be proud of creating. 

Assign chores

For older children, assigning chores in exchange for additional pocket money can be a good way to keep the home in good order while also freeing up time to work. Older children and teenagers will enjoy having more pocket money, and helping with chores is a good way to encourage them to learn responsibility and develop a healthy work ethic. 

Providing other forms of rewards can also work well. From a magazine to a trip out for something to eat, rewards can work very well in juggling work and caring responsibilities. Just ensure that each reward is earned before it is given – the motivation to behave well in return for a treat at the end of the afternoon is great than that for a treat that has already been handed over first thing in the morning! 

Include dedicated time

Juggling working and caring responsibilities successfully has to include some dedicated time for the children or others being cared for. Just as clients need your undivided attention at times, so do children. Set some time aside when your laptop is closed and your phone is out of bounds, so that you and those you care for can fully enjoy your time together. That way, nobody should feel that work always comes first and they come second. 

Final thoughts

What are your top tips for balancing working freelance with caring responsibilities? How do you ensure that you meet your needs, as well as those of the people you care for and the clients you work for? Leave a comment to share your experiences. 

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