My name is Anya and I’m a freelance scrappy mishmash… er, sorry I mean, I’m a freelance writer/editor and proofreader/project manager/pilates teacher.
So yes, a freelance scrappy mishmash for short.
I’ve been freelance for 9 years since I was made redundant from my “proper” job as a managing editor in book publishing and I’ve been scrappy ever since. In 2011 I had a baby and in 2015 another one and now the possibility of a “regular” job seems completely unattainable because of things like paying-for-someone-else-to-hang-out-with-my-children while I work “normal working hours”.
Sometimes it’s felt like walking through tall grass, often accepting work way beyond my comfort zone — saying “sure! I can do that!” [frantically Googling how you do that] — but it’s good. I get to pick my son up from school every day and hang out with my toddler enough to stem the “working mum’s guilt” that we all succumb to. I work from home, am currently writing a book and alongside that fit in freelance editorial work. I also teach pilates two evenings a week in a studio in our basement.
So here’s an overview of a freelancing day in my life pre-children, and what it’s like now…
Pre-children average freelance day
8.30am Wake up. Wander into kitchen and have a cup of tea. Listen to the radio.
9.30am Maybe hop on my bike to go for a swim or go for a run. Or not. Whatever takes my fancy. Think about the work I have to do.
11am Come back home to make lunch. Check emails and skirt around the details of various projects without actually doing any work.
1pm After lunch think, “ooh I’m a bit tired… Think I might read a book on my bed.”
2.30pm Wake up after impromptu afternoon nap. Lie on bed a bit longer. Think about the work that I have to do.
3.30pm Think more about the work I have to do, while having a cup of tea and reading the paper.
5pm Think more about the work I have to do, while getting lost in procrastinating on Facebook.
6.30pm Hop on my bike. Cycle to teach my evening pilates class.
8.30pm Home. Dinner. Think about the editorial work I have to do, while planning a 6-week block of pilates classes, in peace, with organised notebook and a glass of wine.
As deadlines draw nearer thinking turns to action, procrastinating turns into doing and I inevitably work late into the night and get it all done without missing deadlines by working weekends.
So so busy this freelance life isn’t it? Snowed under. Maybe I’ll have another nap.
Post-children average freelance day
6am Toddler wakes up after a broken night of feverish wakefulness but seems fine. He’s fine. Right? Internal wrangle about whether it’s ok to send him to childminder today but gaaaaah I have so much to do in this 6-hour window that he cannot be ill today.
7-8.30am Juggle breakfast, getting everyone dressed with checking a few emails to see whether my editor has read the latest chapter I sent her and schedule a work call for later on that morning to discuss a writing project. Reply to emails from prospective pilates clients while also brushing childrens’ teeth. Hastily double check that autocorrect hasn’t changed my name “Anya” to “anus” before pressing send…
8.30am School run. Pack toddler off with a dose of Calpol and hope for the best. Take eldest son to school.
9am Home via a coffee shop to get a much-needed caffeine injection.
9am-11am Storm through at least 5 hours’ worth of work in 2 hours without a hint of procrastination. Phone is hidden in another room and unnecessary emailing/Facebook opening/Instagramming is banned.
Occasionally gaze longingly at the bed remembering the good old days where naps during the day were a “thing”, when I really didn’t need any extra sleep.
Try not to think about the washing that could be done and the crusty breakfast stuff which is still crusty on the kitchen table.
11am Go down to make a cup of tea. Check phone. See a missed call from childminder saying Freddie has been sick and needs to be collected. Bugger.
12pm Back home with poorly toddler. Remember that work call is scheduled for 1pm. Pray that toddler will sleep at 1pm.
1pm Toddler isn’t going to sleep. Cobble together work notes and open computer while also breastfeeding toddler on lap and putting Thomas the Tank Engine on TV to vaguely distract him from grabbing the phone.
Manage to create an illusion of coherent-intelligent-person on the other end of the line for the duration of the phone call (despite no doubt unmistakable sounds of Thomas in the background), but realise that my notes are pretty much nonsensical because of juggling small child on lap and being so focused on sounding focused that I miss the important points and only write snippets of half sentences, which possibly have “Fat Controller” in them.
2pm In the absence of being able to work on the computer due to potential small person vomit, write some notes on my phone while hanging out with my toddler, feeling guilty for being on a screen in his presence. Instead decide to plan tonight’s pilates class instead (gone are the days of planning blocks of courses weeks ahead). After a lengthy search find pilates notebook in bottom of boy’s toy box and attempt to plan class. Freddie steals pen and scribbles all over notebook.
3pm Throw poorly toddler in the buggy and do school run.
5pm After park playtime, get home for boys’ dinner. Survey the crusty kitchen table still full of breakfast stuff. Remember that there is actually washing in the washing machine and it’s been there for about 3 days.
6.30pm Bath time chaos. Bedtime (we all know how this one goes).
7.30pm My clients start arriving for pregnancy pilates class. Grateful that they are all second-time mums who won’t be put off this whole pregnancy idea as Freddie’s bedtime dramatic wailing can be heard down in the studio.
9pm Dinner. Possible adult conversation with partner and consider trying to make up for lost working time by turning on computer but as soon as a glass of wine has hit my lips, toddler is up and crying again…
So there you have it. Working life is now chaotic and messy — generally Weetabix-covered — and procrastination is a thing of the past (which is a sad, sad loss). There is always a feeling of being a bit like too little butter to spread on too much toast.
But I genuinely wouldn’t have it any other way. I did a 3-month, 4-day-a-week stint in-house and it all hinged so much on childcare not malfunctioning that I found it utterly stressful and realised that, if my working life also affords me Tuesday mornings to roam around a sunny park with my delighted toddler and getting to go to my son’s dinosaur assembly at school and learn that “dinosaur” means “terrible lizard”, I am more than happy to put up with the madness for a while.
This too shall pass…
Photograph by Anya Hayes.