Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Thought I'd do a little post about work, as I've not mentioned it much since I went self employed, and I know that from a home ed point of view there are others considering self employment who might be interested.

Generally - going quite well.
One of the things I'm having to get used to is switching focus/roles. Because of the way we operate, A spends a day or two a week with my Mum, as well as going off to clubs and friends to play. I'm not always sure exactly when she is going to return, especially from my Mum's, and I like to leave it fairly open for her to decide so that she doesn't feel like she's being offloaded and feels like she has some control over whats happening and how she spends her time. I work from home, but it is still A's home and its important she knows she can be here if she wants/needs to be, even if I'm working.
Its really important to me to be flexible, this is one of the main reasons I don't feel I could work in a conventional job with fixed hours and be the parent I want to be. Its also one of the problems I'd have with A being in school - the same rigid structure of how you spend your time. Sometimes its really important for a child to have time with their parent. There may be an obvious reason - if they are upset about something - or there may not. There may be periods where they need lots of this time, and other periods where they don't seem to need it at all. Above all, it is not predictable, it cannot be fitted into a schedule or routine.
I want to be available for as many of these 'times' as possible, because once they've gone - your child buries or hides that need - they are lost.
I know some who would accuse me of 'spoiling' my child by seeking to be available like this, or of failing to teach her about the reality of the world - that you cant get everything you want when you want. I disagree. I want my child to know that she is important to me, and I want to connect with her as much as possible. Materially she certainly doesn't get everything she wants, but time and love are not things I am going to purposely deny her just to teach her about how shitty the world can be, she'll learn that through experience I'm sure.
Anyway - getting back to the point about switching focus - what I'm having to do is put aside work if A seems to need me, and grab opportunities to pick up work while she is out or otherwise occupied. I have to admit, abandoning something I'm working on and leaving it in a pile for later is not always easy. Giving up trying to read through something because A is nattering in my ear, and turning my attention to what she is actually saying, without resentment, is not always easy. But it is getting easier. Its not an ideal way to work, but I am a parent first, so this is the way it must be.

Another issue I'm struggling with at times is: how do I prove that I'm working?
Now, I know that I am doing at least 16 hours a week 'work', but not all of it is paid work. As a freelancer I am trying to build things up, and a lot of time and effort goes into work that may never be commissioned. I do have some fairly regular clients, and there are more possibilities in the pipeline, but how to demonstrate this?
Maybe I don't need to worry about this, but I know that while I am receiving Working Tax Credits and - more importantly - In Work Credit, there will come a point when I will receive a form in the post asking for 'evidence', and the type of 'evidence' they will want is probably not the sort I can give them. I can give them bank statements and invoices showing payments I have received, but if they add it all up it wont come to 16 hours paid work a week. How do I document all the hours on the computer researching magazines/planning, researching and writing articles/brainstorming ideas/writing emails to editors/detailing my talents on listing sites/interviewing potential subjects of articles/studying books on freelance journalism?
I could tell them I've done these things, but what evidence can I give?
I gave up trying to write down hours I've worked as its all so bitty and irregular, so I cant give them a nice, neat timetable of what I've been working on, which is what they would like I'm sure.
I suppose I'll just have to wait for that form to come through the door and deal with it then. I'm just dreading having to phone them and try to explain my dilemma - I've had dealings with the centralised job centre before and it was NOT fun, they have their boxes to tick and anything outside that is just not recognised. Now I'm just depressing myself!!

This was going to be a short post - ha!
I don't want to end here with that negative stuff - the truth is I am really enjoying my work, and am very glad I went self employed. There are worries, and moments of panic still, but looking at the bigger picture I know I am working towards something for a better future. I know I will overcome the difficulties. It might not ever make me wealthy, but I am doing something I have always wanted to do, something I enjoy. Thats the best kind of job I reckon.


me said...

K - I was concerned about being able to PROVE that I work 16 hrs a week aswell. My work is bitty and irregular and slotted in between home ed and being a parent too! But as it happens, they were happy with my hand written diary of everything that I consider to be part of my work including research/brainstorming etc. along with any invoices etc. That was the JC - working tax credits haven't asked for evidence yet but I am hoping they work on the same guidelines??
So my advice would be to keep writing it down however ridiculously bitty it looks!
Mandy :)

K said...

Thanks Mandy, thats really good to hear from someone who has been through the process. It was the JC I was more worried about, as I've heard that the WTC people are much easier to deal with.
All the best with your work x

Hannah said...

Thanks for sharing more about this Kara. Proof was one of the things I enquired about but got a very vague answer!
I'm glad it's going well for you. I think your approach to managing your time is really admirable.