For anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer, my advice is to plan, plan, and plan some more. This applies double for mums and dads. If you have children you may have more financial pressures and more need to make a success of freelancing. You are also likely to have less time to work in, and no time to go back and make up for mistakes that you made when starting in business.
To make sure your freelance business is set up correctly, go on a start up course at your local enterprise agency. You will find out about whether you are best starting off as a sole trader or a limited company. You may get the chance to speak one-to-one to a business adviser about your plans: make sure you ask for an appointment if not. And chat to the Inland Revenue, who have a team of friendly and helpful advisers for people embarking on self employment. You’ll make a better start armed with all these facts.
As a parent, the other thing you need to plan is childcare. Some parents manage to work without it, but you will find yourself working evenings and weekends to make the most of time when your partner is available for childcare. This can lead to a fairly joyless relationship. Try to set up some regular childcare: if you want to avoid costly care while starting up do a regular playdate swap with a friend or get grannie to commit to a time to help out each week. At the very least this gives you a chance to make vital calls without little voices in the background. As your career takes off you may want to find a childminder or nursery, or just take things slowly until you get a whole six hours a day when your child starts school.
Working freelance as a parent is an amazing experience: you will find that you can cram more in than you ever did as an employee and still be there when your child needs you.
Antonia Chitty is author of Family Friendly Working(www.familyfriendlyworking.co.uk), A guide to Promoting Your Business (www.prbasics.co.uk) and a number of other parenting and health books. She has a book on earning a living from writing, The Commercial Writing Guide coming out in July 2009. You can find out more about her own freelance writing career at www.antoniachitty.co.uk and her PR business at www.acpr.co.uk