Blogging doesn’t have to be strategies and planning

As I mentioned earlier this month, I recently followed some bloggers on twitter with the goal of inspiring me to blog more. It’s kinda worked: I have a lot of ideas floating about my head at the minute. Whether they’ll making it into an actual blog post is another matter, but step 1 complete. Winning!

However, one of the side effects of this is that I’ve realised how much the blogging world has become dominated by the concept of blogging for fame & money, and as such how everything has to be about optimising for this. Content marketing plans, social media strategies, optimal hashtag usage, best posting times, the right theme, the best bloggers to comment-spam in the hope of increasing your following which increases clicks and eyes and revenue and… aargh!

I’m not sure if people realise but *dramatic pause* blogging doesn’t have to be like this.

It is possible to just open your little blog admin panel and write about something. Write as the words appear in your head, without thinking “should I stick another keyword in here”, or “how many giant photographs should I use to reach peak hipster lifestyle blog status”. Don’t edit the shit out of it, don’t dress it up with fancy words and metaphors… just write.

Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t think about those things occasionally. Heck, the giant lifestyle blog photos are winning me over. I sometimes bung some hashtags on my insta-snaps and look ma: I’ve fixed my broken theme. But maybe, just maybe, once in a while: let go.

Working in my pants and other tales from self employment

I’ve been working for myself (either fully, or alongside employment) for over four years now. I like to think that I’ve got to grips with what it entails to work for yourself, be your own boss, rock the entrepeneur lifestyle etc etc.

My "desk" yesterday. Note the remnants of the kid's breakfast to the right of my diary.
My “desk” yesterday. Note the remnants of the kid’s breakfast to the right of my diary.

Of course, I’m talking out of my bum.

It’s not all ‘pant suits and heels’, working 4 hour weeks and jetting off around the world to luxurious locations every month. It’s more like working in your underpants til noon to save time getting dressed and regularly clocking in at 11pm to meet a deadline the following day. (But I took the kids to Wales in August if that counts as luxurious.)

Don’t get me wrong, working in my pants is a pretty big advantage to self-employment, and I like being able to work on what I want with people I want to work with (within reason), but it’s not all unicorn farts and glitter.

One of the biggest cons to being my own boss is not having any back-up if something goes wrong. And that “something” is usually mental health related: because if I’m having a bad-PMDD month and can’t drag my butt out of bed to even put pants on, what do I do?

It sometimes means I let clients down, and I’ve lost projects AND even clients because of it. And I’m not sure how to say to a client “sorry, I couldn’t work on your thing because I was in bed” without sounding like a lazy arse.

I’m learning to juggle. It’s taken a long time but I’m getting there. If my anxiety keeps me bedridden one day, I let the client know I’m otherwise engaged and I get up at 5am the next day to catch up. If the thought of a phone call induces a panic attack I e-mail and rearrange. If the brain fog descends and I can’t think straight, I adjust timescales with clients and then power through some basic admin or schedule social media posts.

The important thing through all of this (and I’ve learned this the hard way) is always to keep the client up to date. I don’t have to tell them I’m basically insane, I just need to manage their expectations and communicate my intentions. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned — both working for myself and for others — is that a client who knows what’s going on is MUCH more flexible than a client left in the dark. Sometimes I just have to accept that I’m not working at my best and accept the bollocking that comes along with it.

At the end of the day though… you can’t beat working in your pants.

17th September

Creative blog post title, huh?

I’ve just come back from Gloucester, where I ran the Great Highnam Court 10km with Katy (again); slightly slower this year with 01:07:23 but I managed to not twist my ankle this time. It has made me realise that if I can run an injured 10km faster than I can right now, I probably need to get off my arse and log some more miles on my feet. I haven’t run more than a handful of times this year and it shows (both speed, and the fact that I’m a fatty fatso at the minute)

In non-running news, I have very recently overhauled both my mail form site and my professional portfolio (which I’m particularly pleased with):

Jem’sMailForm.com
jemsmailform-com

JemTurner.co.uk
jemturner.co.uk

I like the consistent branding/styling and the use of ‘my’ colours from my old logo/branding which I’m hoping to replicate over here in due course replacing this temporary grey theme which I had to throw up to get round some issues with Google. On the flip side, I now actually rank for my own name again which is nice (albeit making no difference to traffic levels, sigh).

Anyway, that’s all my exciting stuff out of the way. Best crack on with some work, my overdraft isn’t going to pay itself off.

An Insight into PMDD aka Today I’m Crazy Because…

Today is day 12 of my cycle, so over the next few days I will be at peak hormone anxiety-ridden mess. To put this into perspective, this is how it’s affected my day so far:

  • I turned down the opportunity to work for a local agency today because I couldn’t face people. My usual day rate is £400, so this isn’t just like turning down the last slice of pizza.
  • I took a phone call from a client, arranged a meeting for tomorrow AM, spent a couple of hours after that panicking that they wouldn’t be happy with the quality of my work (despite being my longest standing client of some 11+ years) and proceeded to hide from a follow up phone call.
  • Noticed another client on twitter chatting to a tangentially related business and convinced myself that they were going to ‘leave me’ for a better alternative. Had a panic attack. Cried.
  • I ate an entire tub of pringles because I had an overwhelming carby salty craving and then convinced myself I was going to be fat forever thanks to my poor diet choices and the meds I recently gave up.
  • Masturbated. 6 times. Thanks, ovulatory libido increase.
  • Got angry at Gaz because he didn’t reply to a text message this afternoon (despite the fact that he is, you know, working) and convinced myself it’s because he doesn’t love me, and goes to work to get away from me. Cried.
  • Had a small glass of prosecco because it was the only thing I could think of that would calm down the anxiety enough for me to function this afternoon. Convinced myself I am an alcoholic that’s going to die of massive liver failure. Cried.
  • Realised I hadn’t thought of suicide ‘properly’ since coming off the meds. Thought about suicide. Cried.
  • Pondered what I did to deserve life throwing so much shit at me (completely ignoring all the pretty cool experiences and stuff I get to do). Cried.

I am unproductive and unpredictable, up and down and anxious. I see no worth in myself or my creations and can’t understand why people like me, let alone love me.

& I’m already having doubts about my choice to drop the meds, instead of increasing the dosage.

I guess I should hurry up and investigate that rabbit hole.

Glamour, Glabrousness and Glad Rags

Glamour
I recently did a nudey/boudoir photoshoot for Gaz’s upcoming birthday. It was supposed to be a surprise, but there was little point in attempting to keep it a secret after he saw me in full make-up – he guessed straight up what I’d been up to. I can’t tell if I’m predictable or he’s a genius.

Either way, I was blown over when I got the pictures back this week. There are a couple I particularly like, but they’re all pretty good. Here’s my favourite (now featured in every social media profile I own):

jem-shoot

What particularly shocked me though, was that having been told that they’d “not done much” to the photos, I spent a couple of hours poring over them second-guessing which bits of me had been photoshopped, smoothed out and tidied up.

As someone who considers herself to not have any major body issues, it sure made me realise I have them in spades just like every bugger else. And all this because I thought I looked “too good”. Jesus wept…

Glabrousness

Glabrousness (from the Latin glaber meaning “bald”, “hairless”, “shaved”, “smooth”)

From glam to glabrous (OK, I only picked that word because it was alliterative): I completed my Brave the Shave challenge for Macmillan on August 31st. Supported by friends and family, they removed what little hair I had on my head, rendering me bald.

brave-shaver

With the online donations and collections on the night, I’ve raised about £350. I’d love to hit my target of £500 and it’s not too late to donate, so if you feel so inclined you can pop a few quid over via my Brave the Shave page.

Glad Rags
On Saturday night I did something I’ve never done before: I voluntarily applied make-up to myself and went out. AND I wore high heels.

Just so we’re clear here, the aforementioned made-up look for my boudoir shoot was only the second time in my life I’d worn make-up, and was entirely not my doing. (The first time was when I went on the tellybox and they PLASTERED me in the bloody stuff.)

The plan was a cocktail night with the gorgeous, glamorous Lilian and her equally gorgeous other half Gary (oh, and my other half). Not wanting to be out-glammed I threw on some heels that I’d bought from LASULA for SIX QUID (yes, SIX), a sexy AF peephole playsuit and a touch of badly-applied lippy.

I probably looked like an outtake from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I felt like Bambi on ice…

bambi2

but the buzz from doing something new and different was awesome. Even the waiter accidentally dumping two cocktails all over me couldn’t dampen (puns!) my party spirit.

Admittedly drinking half a bottle of wine and my share of 21 cocktails wasn’t a brilliant idea but that just gave me an excuse to eat a huge fried breakfast the following morning. Rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

And you never know, I could be a make-up blogger before you know it.

lolol

Twenty-somethings

I followed a bunch of bloggers on twitter today. My grand plan is to follow, be inspired by their energy and regular posting, and thus start posting regularly again.

Hahahahaha.

Realistically, however, I’ve already noticed a worrying trend amongst these ~cool~ bloggers: they’re all young twenty-somethings with no kids, no mortgage and very few of the responsibilities and boring bits of life dragging them down.

(That’s not a diss on these bloggers, rather just a reflection on my own boring existence.)

Of course this made me think back to my own heady days of popularity and millions of pageviews and comments and general life-validation through the medium that is the blog, and I realised I too was a young twenty-something with no kids, no mortgage and few responsibilities.

Obviously the key to being a successful blogger lies somewhere in that revelation… time to sell the kids and the house I guess.

Recipe: Chocolate Orange Cake

A blogger I follow on twitter recently tweeted a link to her frugal chocolate orange cake made with a jar of value marmalade (amongst other things).

I didn’t have time to read through the recipe when I first saw it, but it came to mind when I was stood in my kitchen earlier this week desperate for some comfort food. With a full jar of ‘reject’ marmalade in the cupboard (Oliver asked for it, and then decided it was too tangy) I was inspired to experiment. And tada, I came up with my own (not frugal) chocolate orange cake recipe…

chocolate orange cake slice

Ingredients

For the cake
250g butter (room temp)
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
80g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb. soda
370g jar of marmalade
3 tablespoons milk (optional)

For the filling/icing
2 tablespoons shredless marmalade
250g butter (room temp)
500g icing sugar
2 tablespoons orange extract (I used this one from Tesco)
orange gel food colouring (optional)
dark chocolate chips (optional)

Method

BAKE IT
Turn the oven on to preheat – 160 degrees C (150 fan oven).

Cream together the butter and sugar until completely combined. Next, add the 4 large eggs and gently mix.

Add the jar of marmalade and stir in, slowly adding sifted self-raising flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder as you go until all of the dry ingredients are mixed in with the creamy sugary eggy goo.

At this point you may find the mixture is quite thick/stiff – I added a splash of milk at this point to loosen it up (approx 3 tablespoons) but it would be fine without.

Pour the mix into lined, buttered 9″ sandwich pans and pop into the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes depending on how good your oven is. Test by inserting a skewer (or a piece of dry spaghetti) into the centre of the cake: if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

Leave to cool completely before turning out of the pans.

DECORATE IT
Make your delicious orangey buttercream icing by mixing the butter, icing sugar, orange extract and food colouring. I suggest adding the icing sugar slowly or your kitchen will look like an explosion in a cocaine factory. If you don’t have food colouring, or want to avoid the E numbers, the icing will be fine (just paler).

Once the cake is completely cool, spread the shredless marmalade on top of one of the cake layers. Spoon roughly a third of the icing onto the shredless marmalade, spreading carefully so as not to cause the orangey marmalade goo to ooze down the side of your delicious chocolate orange cake.

Place the second cake layer on top and refrigerate for about half an hour (it’s easier to ice a cool cake).

After your half an hour is up, spread a very thin layer of icing around the outside of the cake and on top, cleaning off the knife/spreading implement between each go. Don’t worry too much about crumbs – this thin layer will catch the crumbs making it easier to add the rest of the icing. Refrigerate again for 10-15 minutes.

Spread the rest of the icing evenly around the sides and top of the cake. Finish off with a handful of chocolate chips. Tada! One chocolate orange cake.

chocolate orange cake

Progesterone, PMDD and a rabbit hole

(Please note this post is more so that I can refer back to important links and notes later on, rather than for you guys. I won’t be offended if you’re not interested or find the whole thing a little TMI…)

I’m currently pre-menstrual and, as with all periods (pun) of pre-menses symptoms, I have sore boobs, massive mood issues and something I’ve never given much thought to before: I have small fluid-filled lumps on my hands. After consulting Dr Google, I have learned that cyclical skin issues such as mine are often related to progesterone intolerance/allergies. Given my previous issues with progesterone (after taking the mini pill, 2014 and Depo Provera side effects, 2008) this wasn’t a surprise.

What was a surprise, however, is that progesterone intolerance and PMDD can be closely linked. Leading me down a rabbit hole of hormone related articles and gynaecological fun facts, I’ve discovered a couple of learned leading gynaecologists (Professor John Studd, Mr Nick Panay) who specialise in PMDD who have experience treating it with hormone therapy: battling the side effects with more of what the body tolerates and less of what it doesn’t.

I’ve also discovered and ended up knee-deep in blog posts by a lady who had a hysterectomy to relieve her PMDD after hormone therapy following a private consult with one of the aforementioned specialists.

My curiousity is piqued. I know that the combined pill does offer small improvement to my symptoms (which lends support to the idea of hormone therapy being of use) as does weight lifting (which is known for its testosterone boost) but I had no idea that all of my issues were specifically linked in with progesterone problems. I don’t particularly want to take pills every day for the rest of my life, hence being sterilised, but neither do I want to put up with mood swings, anxiety, depression, pain and suicidal thoughts that leave me unable to function for three quarters of a month.

I have a lot of reading to do, I think…

Cold Turkey

I had a massive panic attack on Saturday night.

Partly fueled by a few too many vodkas, and partly by confronting a ‘demon’ that I’ve never been able to tackle before, culminating in an explosion of anger and frustration and ending up with me unable to breathe and choking on tears.

It’s not the first time it’s happened and they seem to be increasing in frequency since I started taking my meds. What with that, an increase in suicidal thoughts (don’t worry, I wouldn’t) and a few other things, I feel like I’ve swapped one set of symptoms for another. Not only that, but I can feel some of the old problems creeping back in and the thought of having to up my dosage or change meds fills me with dread. I don’t want to spend my life jumping from one pill to another.

So, the panic attack gave me the perspective I needed to make some decisions, and while I feel I’m currently bouncing from one epiphany to another any focus in the short term is a good thing. Ultimately I’ve decided to stop drinking (again) and to stop taking the fluoxetine. Cold turkey.

I’d rather deal with the ups and downs of the PMDD right now than the uncertainty and negativity. I will increase my running again as that helps my mental health, and basically hold on tight for the foreseeable future.

I reserve the right to change my mind when I turn into Ragezilla though.

Ohai August

You’d think having not blogged for over a month I’d have a huge array of exciting developments to fill you in on.

Unfortunately, however, my life is just chores, bum-wiping and work, and I’m too lazy to make anything exciting up so you’re not disappointed by my very existance. But in a nutshell (for those interested in the monotony and the mundane) I have:

  • Agreed to do the Macmillan ‘Brave the Shave’ to help raise money so that they can support those suffering from cancer. A charity close to my own heart after they supported my maternal grandmother in her final weeks. I’m not sure what bravery is involved in voluntarily removing one’s hair, but if I can make a few quid doing something fairly simple, it’s all good.
  • Wasted a LOT of hours (when I should have been cleaning, parenting and/or sleeping) playing Stardew Valley. It’s the only game to have held my attention for longer than an hour in well over a decade. Love it, and love that it’s 100% by a lone indie dev. You can see what my farm looks like if that’s your bag.
  • Drunk too much, eaten too much, and exercised too little. And have put on about 10lbs for the privilege. Currently holding myself accountable by posting daily(ish) sweaty selfies to instagram. Feel free to nag me if I skip a day.

In addition to that, my essure has been signed off (the mysterious pain and bleeding stopped) and Oliver has finally finished nursery and is due to start school in September. Scary to think of my baby boy being old enough for school, but it couldn’t come soon enough. Paying out hundreds of pounds a month for childcare is gut-wrenching and not in any way helpful for overpaying the mortgage.

I reinstalled my laptop recently in a desperate last-ditch attempt to speed it up before I give up and replace it (which I can ill afford to do). After clearing out a few years of accumulated shite, converting to free open source software to cover stuff I no longer have the license to (Photoshop), and using Chrome as my primary browser (from Firefox)… well, it seems to have done the trick. Touch wood.

I decided a while back to redevelop this blog and my professional site into one big site, but after getting to 99% completion I decided against it at the last minute. Pondering how commercial and personal identity fit together isn’t a new thing — I’ve waffled on about it on here for years — but merging still makes me feel censored when it comes to discussing things of a more personal nature, so it’s not yet a path I’m willing to go down. This does mean my pro site will get a mini makeover (as soon as I have time to do it) though, woo!

I guess that’s all folks. See you again next month.

Multi Level Marketing: Scam or Dream Ticket?

Anyone active on social media in recent times has likely come across network — or multi level — marketing schemes, potentially without even realising it. Usually, these schemes sell health and “wellness” or diet products, with sales persons claiming dramatic health improvements or weight loss, but crucially without any science to back these claims up. When they can’t sell you the products, they try to sell you the lifestyle: a lucrative business model guaranteed to generate thousands of pounds a month.

Recently popular competitors in the UK market include Arbonne and Forever Living, although there are several out there (Herbalife, Juice PLUS+, Avon etc)

A modern day pyramid scheme

All of the multi level marketing companies rely on a pyramid structure to work: for a sales person to make enough profit to be worthwhile, each sales person needs to recruit other sales people, who in turn need to recruit other sales people.

Because the sale of physical products are involved, this differs from a pyramid scheme in the legal sense: a pyramid scheme promises profit on the basis that each person involved will pass on money to those further up the chain with nothing to show for it. Nonetheless, the principles are identical: person A recruits person B and C, person B and C recruit D, E, F and so on…

After a given point, person A doesn’t even have to sell products: they can live off the hard work of person B and C’s sales and recruits (and so on, down the pyramid). Unfortunately, the system relies on an infinite number of people available to buy or recruit, which is impossible.

A saturated market

If we assume that nobody can sell or recruit fast enough to require infinite people, you still have the problem of a saturated marketplace, and even more so the lower down the ‘chain’ you are.

Let’s say your Auntie Joan sells you some cream, which you think is great, and you want to sell it too. Chances are Auntie Joan has already sold to or tried to recruit the majority of your family. So you’re now reduced to selling to family on your partner’s side, colleagues or friends. But your mate Elaine has already got a cream distributor in her local area that she’s loyal to, and you can’t invade her patch, reducing your potential sales area down further.

Most MLM sales people will only have a certain amount of friends – only a few of these will be interested in buying products. Even fewer of those friends will want to be recruited and those that do get hooked in struggle to sell within the same social circle. The chances of making a sale or hooking in a recruit decreases as the popularity (and size) of a scheme increases unless you’re “lucky” enough to get in early.

Lifestyle bait

The key promise of these multi level marketing schemes is a type of lifestyle bait: promising the reward of time with loved ones (playing on common feelings of guilt amongst parents, particularly mothers), the suggestion – both directly and indirectly – that you could earn thousands of pounds per month, and the reward of the house, car, boat, holiday, etc of your dreams (appealing to greed).

The reality is that even if you’re lucky enough to get into one of these schemes early enough to not be affected by the saturated marketplace, you have to work very hard for a long time to be earning significant amounts of cash. Working hard means not spending time with your family, and even after putting all that time and effort in, is not indicative or a guarantee that you’re likely to cash in at the end. The success stories (the people posing in front of their brand new cars with comedy size cheques) are usually early adopters who’ve worked 12+ hour days, and can now cash in on the sales and recruits further down their chain.

Doomed to failure

In 2008, multi level marketing expert Robert FitzPatrick studied 11 different MLM networking schemes in the US, including ones that have a presence in the UK — Arbonne, Herbalife to name but two — and discovered that 99% of all distributors in these companies earned on average less than $13 a week in commission income, which isn’t even enough to cover the minimum purchases that distributors are required to make. That’s £10 to you and me, at the time of writing. Can you survive on £10 per week?

In 2015 FitzPatrick published a new report showing that more than 99% of distributors still don’t make any profit from multi level marketing schemes, and what’s more, the major MLM schemes, such as Amway, Avon and Herbalife (amongst others) have reached global saturation and now face a no-growth future: or in other words, there is no way for the distributors to recruit enough people to continue selling down the chain to compensate for the millions that quit every year.

Too good to be true

Remember the old adage: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it were possible to make thousands of pounds per month while spending all your time with your family, and not having to do a day’s hard labour, everybody would be doing it. Unless you get in early (too late) or have an infinite number of friends (unlikely), it’s likely that you will fail to profit from multi level marketing, and worse, could potentially financially suffer from buying in this late in the game.

Network AKA multi level marketing is not a ticket to your dream lifestyle.

Work at Home Jobs for Single Parents, and Making It Work

In May 2014 I ended a twelve year relationship that I’d been in since I left school, and suddenly had to face the prospect of caring for two children and working full time outside of the home, doing all the household chores, shopping for groceries, etc etc. All the usual “mum” stuff but all on my own. It was scary, and hard, and eventually something had to give. I had to return to working for myself from home to give me the flexibility I needed as a single parent to juggle all of my responsibilities as well as allowing me to reduce my reliance on childcare and wraparound school care in order to reduce my monthly outgoings.

I am lucky in that I have a skill that is easily transferable to home working. In fact, I can work from virtually anywhere: well, anywhere with power, wifi and a supply of coffee. But if you’ve been out in the workplace in a non skilled profession or have been a stay at home parent for years, you may not have access to such a marketable skill. So where do you begin if you have limited experience or no prior work at home experience?

5 Low-Skill Flexible Work at Home Jobs for Single Parents

  • Customer support assistants – working for a third party via a virtual call center or online management, respond to customer support requests via email, phone, helpdesk software etc
  • Sales reps – working for a third party selling physical or digital products (sometimes relies on cold calling and sales bonuses, only recommend if you have proben sales experience)
  • Website/App testing – get paid to test websites and phone apps with existing tech equipment most people have at home
  • Data entry – ideal for those who are fast and accurate at typing
  • Audio transcription – listen to audio files and type what you hear (fast/accurate typing also required)

Alternatively, if you’re actually the next Stephen King, have a creative streak, or have managed staff and offices, you might be suited to more skilled roles:

8 Skilled Flexible Work at Home Jobs for Single Parents

  • Crafting/creating – create products at home and sell on marketplace websites like etsy, Supermum’s Craft Fair, etc
  • Copywriting – write copy (text) for others (avoid ‘content mills’ who pay poorly for badly written, churned out text)
  • Editor/Proofreader – proofread other people’s copy quickly, spotting mistakes that others might miss
  • Tutoring – turn your experience into online lessons, webinars, or 1-to-1 tutoring for other people’s benefit
  • Social Media Management – use knowledge of social media to represent the identities of 3rd party companies
  • Virtual Assistants – use office/PA skills to manage and assist other people
  • Translation – if you’re skilled with multiplate languages, translate documents
  • Personal Training – offer diet and fitness tips online through webinars, limited access paid facebook groups, private blogs

Of course, finding a job that you can do from home is just step one. Breaking into a new industry, or starting again from scratch, can be intimidating. It’s even harder if you have to do this while keeping odd hours around school days, children’s nap times and the like.

Getting started working at home as a single parent

So, first things first… you need to figure out if you’re going to work for yourself as a self employed sole trader, or find a company that allows remote home working in the position/career area you’re interested in. If you are going to work for yourself, be sure to read our guide on how to register as self employed. It’s easier than it sounds, can be done online, and is absolutely crucial to ensure your work and income is legal. The last thing any single parent needs is a visit from the tax man! Alternatively, if you plan on remote working for a third party, check out our guide on the ins and outs of remote working.

Once you’ve decided on how you’re going to work, you need to find someone to work for. Workingmums.co.uk has a directory of home working jobs, and The Guardian has a small list too. Be wary of jobs that sound too good to be true: for example, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to turn over thousands of pounds a month in a sales position unless you’re putting in 16 hour days, which is nigh on impossible when caring for children.

If you plan on working for yourself, you need to figure out how you’re going to market your services. We recommend that you start with a business plan with clearly identified goals and a brief run down on how you plan on achieving them. Once the business plan is ready to go, our tips on using twitter for business are a good start for publicity.

When you know how you are going to work, who for, and what your plan of attack for your business is, you can start thinking about how you’re going to fit this into your day. As a seasoned work at home parent my key times for productivity are:

Pre-6am: if I can manage to make it across the landing and down the stairs without waking my early-rising 7 year old, the early hours of the morning are perfect for tackling small jobs that need your utmost concentration. Don’t even think about opening your email or social media though: nobody expects (or deserves) a response at 5am, and this is key quiet time for maximum efficiency.

Daytime naps: unfortunately both of mine are too old to be convinced to nap now, but when I was working at home with a young baby, naptime was a great time to get boring (quiet) tasks finished up… and sometimes I’d manage a hot coffee too. If your baby is one of those awkward fussy ones (is there any other type?) use a sling to keep baby close allowing you to get things done with the comfort of your warmth and smell right there.

Post-bedtime: if you’re not absolutely knackered (and you probably will be for the next few years) and your children have a good bedtime routine which guarantees some alone time past a certain hour, you can plot in a couple of hours work post-bedtime to check off the low-concentration jobs, last emails, social media scheduling: the bits that don’t need 100% attention, because nobody has that to give after a full day of juggling children, chores and work.

Fitting it all in as a single parent

There are two key points to fitting everything in as a single parent. The first is to have something you can “sacrifice” if something else eats too much of your time: in my house, children and work are my priority (in that order) and so the first thing I sacrificed if something went wrong was chores/housework. Yes, sometimes my house looks like I’ve been invaded by an army, but no, I don’t care.

The second key point to fitting everything in is to try and stick to a rough schedule. I know schedules and routines are boring, but if you know what you need to do at 10am on a Monday morning because it’s the same thing you do as every other Monday morning at 10am, that’s one less thing you need to actually mentally process.

With that said, it’s really hugely important to remember that it is just impossible to “have it all”, and attempting to have the perfect everything 100% of the time is going to leave you burned out, stressed and disappointed. I’ve written before on the having it all myth (few mild swear words!)

Networking when you have children

After your home working plan is in place and you know when you need to be doing what, the next step is to ensure that you’re constantly seeking out new contacts. This is just as important for home workers in remote working situations as it is the self employed with their own business (because you don’t want to miss out on a potentially better role just because you’re stuck at home with the kids now!)

There’s a huge network of mum-and-children networking meetings across the UK through services such as Bizmums who offer child friendly networking, so you can go out and meet new people without needing a babysitter or childcare fallback, which can be difficult to source as a single parent.

What now?

With your home work setup running, you and the kids in a loose routine to keep you all sane and (hopefully) the work rolling in, what now?

  • Regularly review your progress, compare it to your business plan and goals
  • Never stop seeking opportunities to grow
  • Share your experiences with others: supporting other work at home parents, especially single parents, is incredibly rewarding

Good luck.