The Secrets To Working Productively From Home (Even With Kids)

By Abbi Perets

For the past 17 and a half years, I have worked from home. I have five children, currently ages 7-17, and these days, I have a pretty solid 6 hours, 5 days a week when my children are in school. And even when my kids are home, they are fairly self-sufficient. But just a few short years ago, my kids were ages 0-10 — and one of them has significant developmental disabilities. 

In all the time that I have worked as a freelance writer, I have never missed a deadline. How is that possible? Back when I was a new mom of one tiny baby, I discovered a few secrets to working productively from home, even with kids in the picture. 

In a nutshell, if you want to be productive when you have small children who need full-time care, you must be smart about planning. Yes, a big part of why many people choose to freelance is to spend more time with family. But if you want to be a successful freelance writer, remember that you are also a businessperson — not just a parent with a side hobby.

Here are three important steps you can take to work more productively from home, even when you have young children:

1. Set up a dedicated office space.
I’ve lived in 6 different houses over the last 17 years. In every one of them, I have designated a specific office area for myself. In my first tiny apartment, my “office” was a little half-room that would have felt small to Harry Potter. My computer and printer took up my entire desk, and I had to squeeze into the tiny space between the chair and the desk to get in and out. But it had a door. 

In one house, I had a gorgeous, spacious room with built in bookcases, room for a comfortable couch and a treadmill, and a separate closet. The downside? The glass French doors that let in the light didn’t lock, and my kids were in and out 97 times a day. 

In another house, I didn’t even have a closet for my workspace. Instead, I commandeered a corner of the dining room table. Every morning, I set up my “office,” and every afternoon, I packed it up and put it away so that we could have dinner. But by giving myself a set space for work — instead of grabbing my laptop and working from the couch or my bed — I put myself in a work frame of mind. 

2. Designate your work hours — and hire reliable childcare.
When my first baby was born, I quickly realized that babies need a decent amount of care and attention — and so does a freelance writing career. I hired a sitter to watch my daughter for four hours every morning. During that time, I closed the door to my tiny little office and worked. The rest of the day, I took care of my baby, but those four hours were reserved solely for work. 

In different seasons of my life, I have had different schedules. When my husband and I bought a house in Southern California and our budget was stretched to the max, I had to cut back on childcare hours. So I found a high school student who could take my three kids to the park for 2 hours every afternoon, and my husband was responsible for another 2 hours every evening. It wasn’t easy, but we made it work so that I had my four hours every day. I also put in another few hours on Sundays as needed — say, if the sitter missed a day or my husband had to work late one evening.

3. Plan your schedule realistically. 
At the end of every week, I sit down with some markers and plan the next week. I start by listing everything I need to get done — for example: 

  • Draft guest post for Jacqui
  • Finish article for Kate
  • Proofread and send white paper to Emma
  • Edit material for Sarah

I refer to my notes and emails to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything, and then I go back through the list and note how long each item will take me. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so my estimates are pretty good. If you’re new to freelancing, I recommend allowing more time than you think you’ll need — maybe even twice as much time. 

Then, I go through the list and schedule every single item on the appropriate days in my calendar. I block out the time in writing because that is the only way I know I’ll be able to get the work done. 

The whole process takes about half an hour each week, but it gives me a true plan, and a real sense of what I can commit to during the week ahead. If I see that I have filled every available slot, I already know that if anything goes wrong — an emergency trip to the dentist, someone home sick for the day, whatever — I’m going to have to make up that time in the evening or on the weekend. I can also see that if a girlfriend invites me out for lunch, I need to decline — and if a client wants something turned around immediately, I’m going to have to get super creative. 

On the other hand, if I see wide open swaths of time, I know this is a good week to put in some extra time on my marketing or one of my long-term personal projects — or enjoy the freelance lifestyle and catch up with a friend in the middle of the day.

If you want to be productive, you need to give your business the respect it deserves. Take your work seriously, and you’ll find that you can get more done. 

Abbi Perets is a freelance writer with a passion for parenting, technology, health, and business, and you can find her work all over the Internet. She also owns and offers a free course on how to be a freelance writer. 

The Seriously Fun Way To Boost Your Blog

By Hipster Mum

There is a brilliant scene in the recent film version of the Great Gatsby where the main character, Nick Carraway, walks through a spectacular celebration. “Gossip columnists alongside gangsters and governors exchanging telephone numbers,” he describes marvelling at trays piled with cocktails, feather-plumed movie stars in shimmering frocks and glitter falling over everyone like snow. “All weekend, every weekend, the whole city ended up at Gatsby's.”

A great party is like that: something that everyone wants to be part of. And looking around at the success of party blogs like Hooray, Party With Lenzo, A Subtle Revelry, 100 Layer Cake and more - it’s clear that right now the pull of a great party is stronger than ever.

But what makes a stunning celebration? And how can you throw one that looks ah-mazing in a teeny space without breaking the bank? This is where bloggers come in. Where magazines and large websites might have big budgets to throw grand soirees, real people don’t. Real people look for inspiration and solutions that are, well, real. As bloggers we’re in the perfect position to experiment and document the secret sauce behind a celebration that works IRL - and thanks to the popularity and timeliness of the topic (hello Christmas and summer holidays!) - any content we create has shareability built-in. I know, because this month it happened to me.

Earlier in October through Instagram I connected with Kate and Ashley Lawrence - two sisters with an expanding tribe keen to launch their own children’s fashion website, billieandkate. When we were brainstorming how to promote their brand I suggested we throw a Halloween party and they jumped right on board. A few key elements to set the scene:

1.    Food

Collaborating via Pinterest, we stumbled across some delish inspiration - props to Kate and Ashley for bringing the ideas to life!

2.    Decorations

decorations - 1.jpg

We put the word out to local party supply shops and were so excited when the brilliant Shannon Kilford from Born to Party  and Alana from Poppies For Grace came on board. These guys are the decoration masters - their work made such a difference to the look and feel of the shoot!

3.    Clothes

I left this one to @billieandkate - and they killed it. Particularly when it came to the accessories. Often it’s the extras - think hats, sunglasses, etc - that take a good shot and make it remarkable, compelling and ultimately, viral.

4.    Photography

It might not be something you think of first, but great photography is an essential ingredient for blogging any party celebration - hell, it’s an essential ingredient to blogging in general! Not only does a good photographer know how to snap the little details that will make great pics on social, they also know how to collaborate and cajole guests, to encourage and coach them to get the best shots possible. That said, while a good photographer will show your amazing work as it is; but a truly rad photographer will make it look even better. I love snapping parties - and have a special fondness for kids celebrations in particular - so if you have a project in mind, get in touch!

Happy Halloween! (With big thanks to Billie (12 months), Valentine (15 months), Winifred (7), Willis (8), Hutch (10) and Eden (11), Kate and Ashley)

Jade Warne is a photographer, writer, mum of two and blogger at Hipster Mum. Through her blog she offers a creative guide to parenting and features two parts Tina Fey, one part Amy Poehler plus a pinch of Louis C.K! Check out Hipster Mum on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and and hit her up for collabs, freelance work & tacos anytime!

Kim Wardell of Design Life Kids // Behind The Blog Scene

When I first starting blogging personally in 2010 I did so to capture the beauty of the mundane. The often forgotten, boring moments that create our every day movements. In short I started blogging to find the beauty in the every day. 

When I first found out that Kim Wardell of Design Life Kids had the same tag line for her shop I knew that I had to have her as a guest in our 'Behind The Blog Scene' series. This series is dedicated to women bloggers and business owners from around the globe, carving their own path. Women that inspire and prove without a doubt that anything is possible when you follow your heart.

Kim has taken a life-changing moment - the passing of her husband - to turn her grief into a family run business with the seal of approval from her two daughters. Her store and story are one to be admired and I am thrilled to have her inspiring words with us here today....

Describe your blog in 3 words… 
Modern, Design Minded, Raw
What is your blogging manifesto?
Have fun and only write about things YOU want to. Not every post has to be a happy one, but once you lose the love for what you do, then your blog loses it's magic.
Top 3 blogging essentials?
A dream, an iPhone and time.
My biggest blogging moment/milestone was....
There were two actually. 1: Sharing the loss of my husband. 2: When I announced that I was to transition from full time blogger to fulfilling a dream and opening shop DLK in Oct 2014. 
Best piece of advice I've been given?
Cry when you want to, smile when you have to and find the beauty in the every day.
I'm dreaming about traveling to...
Sydney, Copenhagen, Japan, California, Korea... south of course.
Best piece of advice to a newbie blogger?
We eat with our eyes first. Whether it's food, decor, photography or fashion; it's very much the same. So keep your aesthetic bright and clean and eye catching, then you'll be able to bring in the reader.
If I wasn't blogging I'd be...
Running a store filled with my most favorite things... which is where I'm at now.
Behind the scenes of my blog looks like...
An office full of inventory boxes, crumbs from breakfast on the floor and two little babes running around happy as can be.
This year I'm most excited about...
Bringing on new lines and seeing where the shop goes! I'm also excited to start sharing more about what's going on in our life now and featuring new artists/designers from around the world on the blog.

Event // One Fine Baby

There is a huge difference in wanting to do something, dreaming about it, talking about it - and actually doing it. Taking that leap and creating action is a step I hugely admire in other bloggers and business owners. It's not an easy step, it's always scary, daring but the end result can be something incredible.

When I first heard about the launch of One Fine Baby, from the talented trio behind One Fine Day, I immediately knew it was going to be a huge success. I'm lucky enough to know these creative women personally. I know they have worked hard and pooled their creative talents and business skills to create a thriving business that is constantly reinventing itself and paving a new path for events here in Australia. I'm proud to have seen their success blossom first hand and can't wait to see their new venture take shape.

I'm even more excited to see it in person on 16 & 17 August when the show launches in Sydney. Are you going? I'll be there along with a ton of other bloggers (with or without kids) ready to soak up the most stylish children's products around.  It's Monday so get inspired and if you're sitting on the fence about to turn your dream into a reality I hope these ladies motivate you to take the next step. If you want to find out more about these biz savvy chicks or about One Fine Baby, check out their website where you can scoop up tickets.