On home education and being a freelance mum

The honest guide to getting your work from home business going alongside home educating

Photo credit: @simonrae

Photo credit: @simonrae

My name is Angie.

I am a mum to 6.

I home educate.

I am also a work at home mum.

I sometimes question my sanity but I digress…

I’m not sure at what point I home grew this life around the home.

My kids used to go to school and I used to go to work.

We plodded through the weeks and lived for the weekend and school holidays.

Well, unless I was on 12 hour night shifts, but I’m not here for sympathy

Now our days roll into weeks and we haphazardly make it work.

If my kids don’t need school then I figured I don’t need a job.

Well a regular job that is, and so I was determined to have an online business, but let’s rewind a little…

In 2013 I found myself facing the decision that home education would be my only option for my second child.

I was working full time, long shifts including night shifts and was also pregnant with my 5th child.

For various reasons, my on/off relationship with my children’s father was as strained as ever and once I went on maternity leave, I started to explore home education in the UK and despite being pushed into giving a different school ‘a try’ for my teen son, I had soon deregistered him and have never looked back.

What became one of the most strained years of my life so far, became the pivoting moment of the progression to a life AND business on my terms.

Fast forward to now and I have 3 daughters that I have no intention of ever entering the traditional school system as we currently know it.

So why home education for my youngest three children?

As someone who had had three children at a very young age and facing the associations of being a teen mum, I had ensured they were signed up to the best nursery in my catchment area as a way to counteract societies assumptions and as my children quickly progressed into the primary years I went on to University as a mature student, doing ‘the right thing’ so I could work full time and meet societies expectations of women, modern women that is.

Career and motherhood.

Having it all they call it.

Plus trying to rectify the teenage mum label I had carried around for so long, I felt I was finally making it in the big wide world.

In reality, I was sleep deprived, depressed, harassed and struggling to keep in control of all the roles I was expected to thrive in, whilst taking home a disappointingly sparse pay packet as an entry level nurse.

All the hours I had studied and left my children to train on the job, to be struggling to pay the rent and cover our basic living costs left me in rent arrears and a bout of depression I am still processing.

So when my son would call me to refuse to go to school, I going into another 12 hour shift which would leave me physically drained and helpless to defuse the situation surrounding his anxiety, I didn’t make an empowered decision to sack my job and the educational system, there was no light bulb moment, no ‘we got this’ fist pumps.

It was more a tail between my legs defeat that I was failing as a mother and an employed member of society.

This is the part where I tell you I launched a business and never looked back.

Well I’d be lying!

Instead, post baby I sat with a toddler at my feet, a baby on the breast, my son recovering still at home and a Job Centre employee telling me in a matter of fact way I was over qualified for the part time caring jobs I was interested in and I should just drop my babies at childcare before a nursing shift (7am start) and pick them up after my 12 hour shift.

I tried to explain I was now home educating my teenager and she gave me a funny look and said put him in school.

I had by this time, read MANY homeschool mum blogs and even imagined blog name ideas, blog topics I could cover about our journey and looked into getting a blog planner to make things really official!

I decided I would blog about home education uk and even craft ideas to sell as was a keen crocheter, honestly, I was so naive and believed it wouldn't be that difficult to get paid to blog almost immediately!

I mean how hard could it be to sell online?

Other homeschool moms in the US seemed to be the niche to follow, from mason jar DIY crafts to tutorials for bath bombs, I made lists for blog post ideas to earn money.

Social media makes money blogging look so accessible to all and I had tried blogging in the past, I'd watched do it yourself web design videos, and had various creative hobbies so why not me right?!

It was now or never, I had a teen child at home, one that needed my support and my job could not give me flexible working hours.

What came next was a messy trial and error in no particular order of Etsy products to DIY website builds to network marketing to Amazon affiliates.

I say this period was a mess but it was no waste of time.

Little did I know I was pushing myself through a crash course in marketing, networking, blogging, copywriting, admin, accounts, profit and loss, selling and generally dabbling in every possible business model until I found my unique skill set I could pitch to prospective clients.

I became a freelance mum.

There was no badge of honour.

No ceremony.

No recognition.

Just a laptop, a PayPal link and a shit ton of content.

I cried, I swore, I invested my time, money and energy and I can safely say I regret little.

Other than the time I didn’t pay the rent and instead paid a supposed expert to teach me how to blog and she then froze at the mention of keywords and had no clue as to what the hell I was on about, but that’s a whole other story.

And so why freelance ?

I won’t use the ol’ time/freedom chestnut as regardless of when I do my work it still requires committed time, within a timeline whether I have an emergency or illness, or not.

Like the time the whole household had a vomiting bug and a client demanded in the evening that the website copy due next week needed to be submitted by 9am the next day as they had made an error with their website builder.

Or the time my baby was admitted to A&E in the early hours of the morning and I had to submit a final draft for a new website the same very day. I managed to submit it with zero sleep and the help of my teenage daughters’ baby holding skills.

Yet, it’s still my work, my schedule, my priorities.

My pride when I get great feedback or an associate tells me I did a great job on a client project.

It’s all me.

Oh shit, it’s all ME!

On a serious note, we all know you don't need to read another 'how to make money on the internet' article.

I know so many freelancers struggle.

I know there are so many ups and downs.

I’m in the online groups and forums.

It’s sink or swim out there.

So the question is, how do we juggle the challenges of freelancing?

Particularly those of us with children.

Even more so the crazies who too home educate alongside.

I mean, don’t get me wrong.

I love that I don't commute.

I don't miss the horrendous school runs.

I also enjoy changing up our schedule week to week.

But make no mistake, it’s not all calm and rosy, check out this video...

...but it is very much us, riding the highs and lows.

Here’s a few factors that have kept me going when I have doubted being a home educating freelance mom!...

Collaboration is key.

Get yourself out there, be it in online groups or physical events, you need to get known, even in just a few small circles both home educating AND business groups.

Learn or pair up with a skill set that compliments your offerings and see what you can offer your market.

For freelancing, an agency or two you are on great terms with allows the referrals to begin to trickle in until they are at a steady flow, so do reach out with some examples of your work or offer a small job on the house in exchange for a testimonial.

Talk to other work at home mum’s. We get it, behind the scenes we are losing our shit from time to time too!

Look at your children. Are they clothed, fed (reasonably) well, are smiling and laughing often? Then you are good! Keep going!

We’ve got this though, we have so got this (I think?!).

Having come to the conclusion that the National Curriculum was not for us, I soon came round to the acceptance that working out of the house for full time hours plus travel most days would not be for us either.

So yes, I'm a home educating freelance mum.

I didn't choose this life, it chose me, but I'm kind of glad it did and other than yearning for some solitary bathroom trips I regret nothing.