Freelance Ain’t Free

Working at home is certainly the life for me. Filing taxes for four different jobs, keeping detailed inventory records, wading through piles of receipts, and dealing with a bottomless e-mail inbox for three different accounts. Oh, what fun! Seriously, though, freelance is very fulfilling work, and it’s definitely worth all of the extra burdons that nobody really talks about. But I’m beginning to feel the strain.

For me, being an entrepreneur and a freelancer means my work takes over my home, and essentially, my life. In my living room, I stash away craft supplies and materials where most people might store treasured collections or media equipment. The bottom of my dining room hutch is packed full of papers, and an entire bedroom is packed with Fine & Dandy Vintage inventory. My office is also the dining room, and my break time is filled with baby talk and Fisher Price toys.

I recently filed my taxes, and after promptly rewarding myself with some chocolate, I began to evaluate my freelance life. You guys, as Mikey Burton so aptly screen printed, freelance ain’t free. It’s a lot of work, and can cost a lot of money to even get things started. For me, I don’t think it will never be super rewarding financially, and it’s difficult to stick with it when I’m being pulled in many different directions with my family life and work life. I’ve been considering cutting back some, but I don’t want to give up anything. I love everything I do! And I find it very fulfilling.

It’s stressful at times, trying to balance so many little jobs here and there, along with my family and social life. I try to keep my mind straight by only working on certain jobs on one day, and not even acknowledging that the others exist until another day when I face their duties. I’m not sure if that’s good, or a bad thing, but it’s helping to keep me sane. Some days, I admit, I feel like I’m floundering, but others I feel like I’m on the top of my game. But more often than not, I am amazed that I made it through another day and wonder if I will be able to make a dent in tomorrow’s to do list. My days are flying by, and I seem to look at them more as another list to conquer than another day to enjoy and feel fulfilled. And that realization has made me really think about cutting back.

So where do I draw the line? Do I decide what to stick with based on what brings in the most money for our family? Do I cut out vintage-selling and win back some square footage for our home? Do I quit doing wedding photography, and focus more on the quality of this blog? I know I won’t give up on design, and I’ll probably never stop blogging. But somethin’s gotta give. And as a lot of new mom’s who’ve gone before me have discovered, it’s going to take some time to figure out.

(Pssst! See me wearing Mikey’s Freelance t-shirt here!)

18 Responses

  1. maddie says:

    What a candid post that I know many readers will appreciate. I don’t know if this will help but sometimes looking on the other side gives a new perspective to the situation at hand. At least you don’t work at a 9-6 (usually more) job where you work for someone else and not yourself. You are so talented and get to use your creativity every day. Many people look up to you :)

  2. I know just how it is Mandi! I was doing online teaching, social media projects and writing a company’s blog but I got over whelmed really quick trying to be a good momma and wife too! Now I just write the company blog which is much less money but it takes much less of my time! It was a rewarding cut back though for me :) ill pray for you as you go through this transition stage! All the best, Em :)

  3. anoushka says:

    you gotta take each day as it comes. i think there is a lot of pressure on young new mothers nowadays to prove you can have a baby and keep up the life you had before but really you gotta relax and pace yourself and have faith in yourself that you will get everything done eventually.

  4. Amen to your article. I was just talking with some other mommy entrepreneurs (I have a 3 month-old at home) and we were talking about how to do it all. I won’t pretend to have answers for you. But I will share what has resonated with me in the past couple of months – hopefully it helps.

    1 – You are NOT alone. (You just make it look more graceful than most) :)

    2 – Delineate between what is important and what is urgent. ANYTHING that isn’t either of those gets knocked off the list. Be ware of urgent items – they have a tendency to creep up on us, and FEEL important, but they are not. The happiest people make time to do what is important. I mention this strategy here too –

    3 – You are your own worst critic. So lighten up on yourself a bit!

    4 – Did I already mention, you are not alone in this!

  5. Becky says:

    There are only so many hours/minutes in a day, so yes, something’s gotta give. For working moms, sleep becomes over-rated (or at least severly under-utilized).

    You could and probably will need to cut back on some of the work. I find that it is easier to get things done at home when the baby is an infant (and sleeps a lot or is perfectly happy nestled on your lap while blogging), but all bets are off when the schedule is not filled with as many naps and the child is mobile and demands more entertainment and active interaction.

    It may not be an option, but perhaps you could get a sitter for even a half day each week. It is surprising to see how much you can get done when you have uninterrupted, scheduled time to do your work.

  6. Courteney says:

    I had to close my etsy shop last fall because it was one of too many things I had going on, and I was tired of trying to find places to stash all my product! On top of that, despite loving having a shop, I was racked with anxiety every time I shipped something out because i was afraid someone was going to give me a bad review for something random.
    I totally get wanting to focus on fewer things. Makes life less stressful. ;)

  7. Jami says:

    You should check out Things, by cultured code. It’s a to do, project management software that runs on a mac. (I don’t work for them, I just love the software) I’m a graphic designer / social media manager for a small curriculum company and I have like 97 projects going on at any given time. Things is the only thing that keeps me sane… and keeps me from sticky note overload. Anyway, I love your blog and I think you’re fabulous. Take Care, – jami

  8. I face the same difficulties. I was working full time for a company. I had a nice+quite demanding role. I kept it going untill my boy was 1,5 years old but it was just too much to handle. So I decided leave that job and to work from home instead. i am a graphic designer/illustrator and my boy is now nearly 4. It must be said he was never a happy baby sitting on my lap leaving me work on my computer (gosh, is there someone really able to do that???) but the more he gets old the more he likes/needs/want quality time and attention. It’s wonderful to give him that but very difficult to juggle this quality time with work (+ home chores). Nursery and school do help, but there are colds and flu when you least espect, maybe just on your tightest deadline!
    Getting organised is very important, I am trying hard to develop a routine that works. i am afraid I have no secrets or suggestions. just wanted to tell you I undertand you :-)
    Keep it up, wish you and all us working free-lance creative mums succes!

  9. jennifer says:

    This is a challenge I am beginning to take on. I have been a SAHM for the better part of 7 years with a few “breaks” to work outside of the home. Now I am homeschooling and beginning a blog and hoping to start an etsy store so that I can do something other than just raise kids, lol. WIsh me luck, ha

  10. abbie says:

    I just discovered your blog through A Beautiful Mess (I think?) and really love this post. I left the stress of a full-time job in an ad agency to pursue a career in music. But of course to make ends meet I’ve had to tack on more jobs, including and Etsy shop and giving voice lessons. Some days I wonder if I’ve just replaced one form of busyness for another. But then I remember how amazing it feels to be my own boss and direct my own destiny – and it all seems worth it. Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  11. Moorea Seal says:

    Ugh… I feel ya!
    I decided to just go on permanent hiatus from blog design, graphic design, and illustration when I stopped working for Freckled Nest. I just couldn’t handle blogging, my jewelry business, blog design, freelance graphic design and illustration AND having sanity and a life outside of my computer. I decided that working one on one with clients just isn’t for me. The percent of time I spent just communicating via email or skype or what have you FAR outweighed my time actually creating.
    I found a lot of my identity in juggling it all, being the girl of all trades. But I feel so much healthier now that I am just focused on jewelry, blogging, and online curating. I hope you find the best balance for you and your family. You are a freakin’ champion juggling full time momma plus all of your work plus just regular house and life stuff!
    xo Moorea

  12. Jenn says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I am like you – I have my hands in way too many things at any one time! It is hard for us creative and talented individuals to stick one thing…. I don’t think it’s in our nature :) I think you are doing a great job at balancing everything from what it looks like to me. And if I have any advice to offer you – I’d say whatever you do, DON’T GIVE UP! (because other people will, and you’ll be the only one left)

  13. Di says:

    How about perspective from someone outside your average readership? I won’t say insight because that sounds too pretentious and I certainly don’t want to be that.

    I love all the blogging you “kids” do – I say kids because I’m old enough to be your mother. I’m so in awe of your generation’s creative thinking and entrepreneurship. I’m often jealous that I didn’t have these online opportunities to earn income while I stayed home with my kids. But realistically, it’s probably better that I didn’t.

    Like most creatives, I’m the kind that thinks everything in life is just SO exciting. I want to do it all! However, looking back to the years I was raising my four kids, I can see many times I had my hands in way too many things. Coincidently, many of those interests waned over time. What I thought was so important then turned out to be not really a big deal after all (many of them were fads of the day, which, as we know, come and go).

    It’s the other things–enjoying your kids and husband, a stress-free household, time together as a family, your kids’ activities—those are the things that really matter. Those are the things you and your kids will remember 20 years from now. Those are the things that will have the most meaning and give you the greatest joy.

    I know it’s so very cliche. But when people say the time goes fast, it really does. I wish I could say this to my kids, but I don’t want to be bossy. So I’ll say it to you instead: Simplify your life; don’t try to do too much; keep God, your kids and husband as your top priorities; smile and enjoy this awesome life we have. Really, these are such very fun times!

  14. heyjenrenee says:

    Ugh, I am reminded of this every year … and we just did our taxes last night. UGH. Soooo not free!!

  15. Valarie says:

    Hi Mandi,

    I am freelance too, so I totally understand juggling multiple jobs at once. I also focus on some clients one day and the others the next to keep me sane. For some reason, I had no idea you do wedding photography. I’m also a photographer and I love looking at photos. I would love to see your work to get inspiration. Do you have a link for that somewhere.

    Warm wishes,