Freelancing, Family and Flexibility

Family comes very near the top of my list of values. I was close to them growing up (despite the occasional teenage tantrum) and when I left for college, I used to phone my mum every night.

I’m 25 now, so the last seven years have meant a gradual shift of my relationships with my parents and siblings. Instead of being my parents’ kid, I’m now an adult in my own right. And after getting married a few weeks ago, I’ve become officially part of a new family.

But that doesn’t mean that my emotional ties to my relatives are any weaker. If anything, my relationship with them has grown stronger over the past few years. And the fact that I’m a freelancer has definitely helped, in a couple of key ways.

Location Flexibility

I can work from anywhere with an internet connection. I’ve written blog articles at conferences, at airports, in libraries and in coffee shops. Of course, I prefer to work from my desktop at home, with everything set up the way I want – but the fact that I’m not tied to a particular place of work has made family life so much easier.

When Paul and I lived in London, I could visit my parents in Oxford for a week or more at a time: vacation allowance wasn’t an issue. Usually, I had emails and writing to keep up with, but I still had plenty of time to spend chatting to my parents, hanging out with my siblings and going shopping with my granny.

A few months ago, we moved to Oxford (with a lot of help – practical and financial – from my parents). Yes, the move involved a bit of upheaval, but my work continued essentially uninterrupted. If I’d stayed in my “normal” day job, I’d have had the hassle of finding a new job in Oxford.

Time Flexibility

As well as having no regular place of work, I don’t keep regular hours. This isn’t just a consequence of freelancing itself, but of the way I’ve chosen to set up my business.

I very rarely get phone calls from clients – most communication is carried out via email. Most of the editors I write for aren’t even in the same time zone as me. So there’s no need for me to be at my desk during office hours like Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.

I’ve also set up some passive income streams (if you’re a writer and interested in learning more about those, Thursday has written a great ebook called The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Passive Income). I quite literally make money while I sleep: I’ll often wake up in the morning to find that I’ve sold an ebook, or that some advertising revenue has come in. This gives me a bit of extra flexibility over my time, as my income doesn’t dry up altogether if I don’t work for a week or two.

Having such an open schedule has meant that, in the past few weeks, I’ve been able to do things like:

  • Walk down the road to my granny’s for a cup of tea during the daytime (when my parents and brother are at work)
  • Take a weekday “off” to enjoy Paul’s birthday with him
  • Meet up with more extended family (my aunt, uncle and cousin) during the day time, while they’re on a school break
  • Have my sister round during the day time, while she was on summer vacation from university

These are all little things – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. I love my work, but I also love my family. Having the flexibility of freelancing means that my family don’t have to fit into my evenings, weekends and limited vacation time – I can spend time with them more frequently.

My family have all been hugely supportive of my freelancing. They have a lot of confidence in me, which has helped me stay positive even in the stickier moments of running a small business – and their encouragement has meant a huge amount to me. I’m glad that I’m now in a position to give something back.

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(Image from Flickr by Liz (perspicacious.org))


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5 Responses to “ Freelancing, Family and Flexibility ”

  1. This sounds a lot like my life, Ali. I’ve been freelancing for several years. Although the first couple of years I worked longer and harder than I ever did in an office job, I’ve been tweaking things so I can have a balance with family and social life. I’m still working on upping the passive income, though I’ve made a good start. I agree with you about Thursday’s book – it’s got some great tips!

    • Ali Hale says:

      I find that my workflow is very different from a “typical” job – I often work at the weekends, for instance. Good luck tweaking till you find the balance! I think it’s a constant process of adjusting and re-adjusting as different work & life factors come into play.

  2. Thursday Bram says:

    I have to agree with you. There have been so many times over the past few years that only the fact that I was freelancing and was flexible made me able to do certain things for my family. It’s an extreme example, but I was able to help give my grandmother in home hospice care and I treasure that. If I and other family members with flexible work had been in real jobs, she would have spent her last days in a hospital that could do nothing for her.

    • Ali Hale says:

      It’s great you could be there for your grandmother — at emotional times of turmoil, the last thing you want to have on your mind is your vacation allowance or your boss.

      Although it’s not so extreme, something similar applies to parents whose freelance lifestyle means they can easily stay home with sick kids: in a stressful situation, at least you know work isn’t going to be a pain too.

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    > I’m not tied to a particular place
    That’s great. It sounds like you found a way to free yourself up from the ties that can bind.

    I’m a fan of driving from life style. I think if you become a slave to a life style that works against your values, you die a slow death.

    Driving from your life style doesn’t always make life easier, but it does make it more fulfilling and sets you up for more moments of happiness.

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