A freelance mum’s survival guide for working from home

Fancy the idea of working in your pyjamas? Find out why working from home is not for the faint hearted, and how to make a success of it with our homeworking survival guide.

Working from home may seem ideal if you’re a mum who wants to work full (or part) time but still fit in the school run. But as Samantha Downes (who has worked from home as a freelance journalist for many years) warns, it’s wise to beware of what you wish for!

Working from home is not for the faint hearted

No commuting, flexible hours, lots of tea breaks and being able to down tools when you’ve done your work without feeling you either have to slope off guiltily, or sit in front of a screen for an hour longer. Working from home can be great.

I’ve worked from home, on and off for just over a decade. I’ve worked from home as a single thirtysomething, as a married woman, as a mum-to-one, and then later, mum of two daughters.

It’s been an interesting experience and having crashed and burned a few times I think I have finally found my ‘working from home’ groove. But let me tell you, it’s not for the faint hearted (or easily stressed).

How to work from home (without going insane)

Here are my tips on how to work from home – whether you’re an employee, freelancer or run your own business – without going insane.

  1. I don’t do the school run (every day) – a typical day starts at 7.30/8am after my children have had breakfast and are dressed. My husband or my mum will take them into school, and my mum will pick them up most days. This means I can put in a 10 hour day – with lunch break and gym visit/run. I even get to do a bit of housework (more about THAT later).
  2. I binge work – see above, being able to work 10 hour slots on some days means I can take time off -if the children are ill, or I’m feeling too pooped to work. (Learn a simple strategy to do a day’s work in just 90 minutes here.)
  3. I’ve accepted childcare is not cheap – unless you have teenagers who can occupy themselves or are responsible enough to look after younger siblings then you need to have good childcare in place.
  4. I’ve learned to be flexible – I even breastfed my younger daughter while writing my column for Woman’s Own magazine. I just used the dictation function on my computer!
  5. I’ve realised being a mum is my most important job – sometimes you have to down tools and concentrate on being there for your children; everything else will get done.
  6. I take time out – whether it’s a Pilates DVD or a run or even a very snatched visit to the gym, sometimes a gentle walk – I make sure I get out. Nuffield Health gyms do 30 minute classes which can be brilliant if you need motivation to work out.
  7. Social media can be a distraction but it can also be a lifeline – when one of my contracts came to an end Facebook helped me find new work as did Twitter, but you need to be careful how much time you spend doing ‘non-work related communicating’.
  8. I work in my dressing gown (some of the day) – I may get dressed in my work-out gear so I can go for an early run. I’ve found jumpsuits surprisingly practical; with special mention to the four Baukjen jumpsuits I have which I rotate on a weekly basis (they were all bought in the sales). Marks and Spencers do decent gym gear which doesn’t look too inappropriate when I have to answer the door; after my shaggy dressing gown got too many laughs from our local postman.
  9. I aim to put on make up on and do my hair – Aveda Shampure dry shampoo is fabulous (mainly for its baby powder smell) in between hair washes and a good BB cream such as Olay or Bobbi Brown, always makes me feel a bit more groomed (and professional!)
  10. I don’t stress about housework – if it gets done, it gets done, if it doesn’t well… there’s always another day.

Read more tips on working from home

Need more advice on making a success of homeworking? You’ll find plenty of tips and experience in these articles:

Samantha Downes is a freelance journalist and the author of several finance guides and books.