How to Find Time To Write as a Freelancing SAHM
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Wondering how to find time to write as a freelancing SAHM?
It can be incredibly tough to balance motherhood and a career as a freelance writer.
I’m a homeschooling mom of two who runs a freelance writing business and a personal blog. I also wrote my first novel (over 95,000 words) in the months after I had my second baby and moved overseas. Now I’m pregnant with baby #3.
Let me show you how I get it all done.
Prioritize: The To-Do List
I don’t use just any to-do list — I keep three main to-do lists.
As a freelancing SAHM, I’m not just managing a business.
I’m also managing a house, my kids, and our personal lives. I need to make sure we’re keeping up on our homeschooling curriculum and carving out time for necessary appointments, in addition to my business.
Over time, I’ve learned that the best way to create more time for my freelancing business is through being more efficient with my entire home life.
To Do List #1 – The On-going To-do List, Organized by Category
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I make lists.
I find it helpful to identify all the balls I have in the air and make a to-do list specific to each category.
At the moment, I have about five major areas of my life that have on-going tasks: my freelance business, my novel, my personal blog, homeschooling, and baby/house prep.
I use folders in Scrivener for this task, but you can also use a bullet journal, a notebook, or something like Trello or Asana.
When I add tasks to this list, I make sure to prioritize the items on the list. For example, I need to finish editing my novel before I start pitching to agents.
Here’s how this might look in Trello:
This doesn’t have to be fancy. For me, I just put items in numerical order. I can always change things around if needed. It’s the perfect place to brain-dump, too.
My freelance business task list includes items like completing a particular course on writing, working on my website, writing a blog post, and pitching a client.
Some of these tasks are recurring (pitching, writing a blog post) and others are one-time (writing the “About Me” page on my website). You can make two lists, if you like, for recurring and one-time tasks.
The important thing is to prioritize the items on the list according to deadlines, personal importance, or logical sequence.
To Do List #2: The Weekly Task List
At the start of every week, I make a separate to-do list with all the items I need to accomplish this particular week.
I check each category list and pull out the tasks that must be completed this week.
This might include drafting an article for a client, writing a blog post, editing chapters 8 & 9 to share with my writer’s group, and scheduling a doctor’s appointment for my kids.
This is also the moment to add any recurring tasks, like checking Contena for job leads or spending time networking on social media. I just make sure to specify how much time I want to spend on this task (for example, 20 minutes per day or send out 10 pitches).
It’s important to make each task measurable so that you can clearly check it off the list. This prevents you from spending endless hours scrolling through Twitter.
I keep this list in Scrivener, but you can create a separate weekly board in Trello or create a weekly to-do list in your journal.
To-Do List #3: The Daily List
This is optional, but I like to break down big weekly tasks into daily action items.
I add each action item to my daily to-do list.
I absolutely love TeuxDeux.com because it’s clean, simple, and cheap.
For example, a big task like “send out 20 pitches” might be broken down into four pitches per day.
Or perhaps my goal is to write a blog post for a client. I’ll break that task down into the component parts:
- Conduct keyword research
- Outline article
- Draft article
- Edit article
- Add graphics and links
- Proofread and format
- Send to client
- Follow up with client and share on social media, as appropriate
I can look at my daily schedule, figure out when I have time to work, and schedule in those specific tasks.
I love working this way because I know exactly what I need to do when I have time to work. This prevents me from wasting time orienting myself to a project, and I’m very clear on the sequence of tasks I need to complete.
Find the Time: Time Blocking
Time blocking is life-changing.
This is so much more than a daily schedule.
It’s about carving out periods of your day for specific tasks.
It’s not enough to just set aside two hours every afternoon for “freelance writing.”
You need to know exactly what you’re going to do during that time period.
I’m old-school, and I use Excel for this task. You can also create a time-block schedule in TeuxDeux or your scheduler of choice.
Here’s an example from a week where I was focused on building my website, homeschooling, exercising, and maintaining momentum on my book:
Every week, I put in the major blocks of time that are already scheduled, like appointments or family outings.
Schedule in Flex Time
Pro tip: I always add in 15-30 minutes for items that require commuting or just general re-orientation. For example, I can’t just sit down and start writing. I need 10 minutes to load a playlist, turn on my diffuser, get a snack, etc. When I get home from picking up my daughter from an extracurricular, I need 20 minutes to unload my purse, get everyone’s hands washed, get snacks for the kids, etc.
This method allows me to see my actual free periods of time. (Not just when I ideally want to work.)
The key part of time blocking is to stop working when you reach the end of a particular time block. If you haven’t finished a task, you move it to the next open block for that task.
For example, I might block out 1:30-2 for client emails and 2-4 pm to work on a draft for a client.
The only way I’ll have time to reach my draft goals is if I cut myself off from emails at 2 pm.
This is also a key part of creating a sustainable work/life balance.
I know that 6-7:30 pm every night is family dinner and hang-out time. I don’t bring my phone with me when I go upstairs to spend quality time with the kids. I am 100% focused on that task for that period.
First, make sure that you add in time blocks for administrative and recurring tasks.
Don’t forget to add in downtime in case you didn’t finish something that really needs to get done earlier in the week. I usually block out Friday afternoons as a general “finish weekly tasks” period.
Add in time for responding to email, networking, pitching, housework, dinner prep, or anything else that must get done each day. This happens outside of your general work blocks (aka, the actual writing).
Also be sure to add in time for family meals, adequate sleep, outside time or workouts, carpools, or whatever else takes up your time.
This is also a good reality check for how much you can actually accomplish in this season of life.
When you realize that you only have two hours a day to work, you might have to go back to that weekly to-do list and cut back.
This can be hard to do, but it’s better to be realistic and therefore produce higher quality content rather than risk missing deadlines.
Second, you also need to be realistic about your own work habits.
For example, I’ve tried working at night after the kids are asleep, but I’m just too tired to do any in-depth work at this time of day. I might be able to do some Pinterest work or Facebook scheduling, but this is NOT the time of day for me to send pitches.
If you want to find time to write as a SAHM, then you’re going to need uninterrupted stretches of time to actually write.
Your freelancing writing business is just that — a business.
If you’re comfortable working very part-time, then you might be able to make some pocket money around baby nap time.
But if you’re looking to generate a true side income, then you’re going to need long stretches of time for more thoughtful work.
I know that I can write a 2500-word blog post from start to finish in about three hours, if I’m not interrupted.
Conversely, that same post can take three days if I’m also on kid-duty that whole time.
We have a nanny who comes every weekday. (Note: we can only afford this because we live in Guatemala, where nannies are very reasonably priced. We’ll have to come up with a new option if/when we return to the US.)
I homeschool in the morning while the nanny helps with the house and keeps the toddler entertained, but she takes over in the afternoon so I can focus on in-depth work that requires concentration.
If hiring childcare is not in your current budget, then enlist your partner or in-laws to give you 3-5 hours of uninterrupted time at least once a week.
The bottom line is that if you want to grow your business, you’re going to need help. I know investing in childcare is a huge deal — trust me, I get it. But this is a business investment.
When you have more time to work, you’re going to generate more income — which will help pay for that childcare (and more).
Every so often, I go back to check whether my weekly tasks are in line with my overarching business and family goals.
As I fill out my weekly schedule, I ask myself:
“Is this task in line with my goals? Will this help me generate income/help my clients/connect with my kids?”
For example, I would absolutely love to start a blog just about novel writing. But this doesn’t help me grow my business or connect with my family. So it’s not on the list right now.
On a more mundane level, I’ve found that ironing doesn’t help me with either of those goals either. I just don’t do it. If my husband wants ironed shirts for work, he can do it himself or send it out to a service. #sorrynotsorry
How do you find time to write as a SAHM?
Were these tips helpful?
Would you like your own editable block scheduler or Trello board to help you organize your business and home life?
Let me know in the comments!
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