The freelance writer’s guide to working in the school holidays
If you’re a freelance writer with kids, school holidays can be a tricky (and sometimes, frustrating) time.
Let’s be honest. In the freelance writing game, it’s very often ‘feast or famine’ — either too much work or not enough. And for the first few years, it’s very tempting to say ‘yes’ to any work that comes your way, until you are well-established in your field.
As luck (or Murphy’s Law) would have it, my busiest times have usually been during school holidays. This has often meant a stressful holiday period, trying to balance meeting deadlines and holiday fun. It is further compounded by the fact that writing for a living isn’t as simple as sitting down for a few hours and ‘getting it done’.
The zone — a near impossible place to find with kids around
Writing often means needing to be in the ‘zone’ — feeling the inspiration and getting the words to flow freely, rather than trying to extricate them one by one. As a health writer, I also need time to research my topic.
As any writer would know, the zone isn’t something you can turn on and off. It’s either there or it’s not. Sure, there are things you can do to help you get in the zone, but with a couple of noisy (and sometimes arguing) children in the background, getting there can be difficult. Even if you manage to find your way there, that magic place where the writing comes easy, can be shattered in an instant with the words “Mum, I’m hungry” or cries of “Stop it! Leave me alone!”
In the past, working during school holidays has meant early mornings, late nights and working across the weekends. By the time school term started up again, I was in need of a holiday myself. But of course, everything else that had been put on the back-burner while I was juggling work and school holiday activities was beckoning.
A different approach
After a couple of years trying to juggle deadlines, business activities and school holiday activities, I realised something had to give. So I started saying ‘no’ to new projects for those couple of weeks.
Instead, I work intermittently while I can, on things that are not urgent. They also don’t require me to be ‘in the zone’ so much, which means that I can make the most of snippets of time that becomes available.
Attend to non-urgent but important tasks
Things I focus on during this time include updating my website, researching for upcoming articles, planning out the remainder of my year, setting goals, planning social media posts, updating my folio, learning new things that will have a positive impact upon my business, as well as building relationships with key people.
Quite frankly, it’s been great. Instead of fitting school holidays (and the kids) around work, I’m fitting in my work around them. The great thing about this approach is that I don’t feel guilt. No guilt about not spending time with the kids when I’m working, and no guilt about not working when I’m with the kids.
Do less and be more productive
Interestingly, the quality of my work is a lot higher because I’m focusing more on what I want to get done, rather than the ever-present ticking clock when it comes to deadlines. I also don’t have to deal with the problem of how I’m going to fit it all in. There is a lot less frustration, because writing deadlines are not in the picture. It’s an arrangement that seems to work for me, and one that I will endeavour to employ in future school holidays.
Do you need to pull back in the holiday period?
It’s very easy to get caught up in the busyness of work and family life It’s even more easy to be swamped by the juggle that is work and school holidays. One thing I have learnt however, is that sometimes we need to take something out of the picture in order to have more balance, more fun and less stress.
And funnily enough, having that bit of time off means I am more than ready to get stuck into work when the kids return to school.
If you’re a freelance writer trying to juggle kids and school holidays, try pulling back a bit to see what a difference it can make to you.
NOTE: With only one school term left this year, and my diary filling up, opportunities to work with me this year are dwindling. If you don’t want to miss out, contact me TODAY to see how I can help you.