Juggling childcare when you're self-employed - is it doable?

Juggling childcare when you're self-employed - is it doable? image

According to The Money Advice Service, as a parent, you can expect to pay an average of £242.00 per week if you choose to send your child (under two years old) to nursery full time. Choosing to opt for a part-time nursery place could cost you £127.00 per week. Not that you need to be told about basic maths here, but that could cost you over £12,500 a year!

If you’re considering self-employment or you have just become self-employed, you can probably expect to cut this amount down, even if it’s only by a little.

There are many benefits to creating your own destiny and becoming self-employed, but there are many pitfalls, too - particularly when you have a child in tow.

Childcare costs are extortionate and are only increasing. Coram Family and Childcare state that childcare costs have increased by 3% from 2018 to 2019 alone - according to data from The Childcare Survey 2019.

With the ever-increasing cost of childcare looming over the heads of working parents, can becoming self-employed help ease the struggle?

Self employed with children

Pros and cons of working for yourself when you have children

As with anything in life, working for yourself has its pros and cons - throw children into the mix, and you’ve got a set of very different priorities to consider.

We’ve summed up five pros and five cons to help you shed light on whether this is the best decision for you.

Pros

  • Ultimate flexibility: you choose your hours, and you can spend all the time in the world with your family
  • If your child is unwell, you can stay at home and look after them or take them to the doctor without worrying about making time up
  • You have a chance to create a career you enjoy
  • No sleep the night before? No worries, have a nap during the day
  • There is no income ceiling; you can pretty much earn as much as you like/can handle

Cons

  • You don’t get paid for holidays or sick days
  • You might not always have a steady income stream; this becomes tricky when budgeting
  • You never fully switch off
  • You have to save for your retirement
  • Home-life distractions can reduce your productivity when working at home

Remember, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach

Trial and error is the name of the game here. What works for your friends and family might not work well for you. We’ve gathered some options together depending on how old your children are and what kind of working day you’re seeking.

If your child isn’t of school-age (under 4/5)

Option one

To cut childcare costs, you might want to keep your children with you at home for the majority of the week if they’re under school age. Have you considered working early in the morning before your children wake up and working long after they’re tucked up in bed? This is an excellent option for those who can’t find a minute’s peace in the day.

Early morning and late evening bring fewer distractions which could make for a highly productive few hours.

Option two

If you’re working from home but can’t stomach the early mornings, late nights and expensive nursery fees, finding a local childminder could be a cost-effective option. According to Babycentre, childminders may have fewer children and the children they do look after are a mixture of ages. This can mean you child receives more personal attention and playing with a mixture of ages can help them form relationships with older and younger children (this is good if your child has no siblings).

If your child is in school

When your child reaches an age where they are in school full time, this gives you a little more flexibility to build your working day how you please. If you’re picking your child up from school, it’s a good idea to set the alarm five minutes before you need to leave.

When working for yourself, you can get so absorbed in your work that time disappears and before you know it, you were supposed to be at the school gates 10 minutes ago!

Getting help with childcare costs

You could get support from the Government toward childcare costs whether you’ve got a baby, toddler or teen. You might be eligible for 15 or 30 hours of free childcare, tax-free childcare, tax credits or universal credit for childcare.

It’s straightforward to find out what you might be entitled to receive, visit childcarechoices.gov.uk to find out today.

Advice from self-employed parents to you

We spoke to four self-employed parents who have had to think about and work around childcare. Check out their pearls of wisdom:

Sarah Henderson | shendersoncopywriter.com

“Being self-employed and having children isn’t easy but it’s so rewarding, especially being able to make work fit in with family life rather than the other way around. However, having two children under three means I do have to do some serious juggling as eleven-month-olds and two-and-a-half year-olds aren’t known for their ability to stay calm and quiet while Mummy writes the copy for someone’s website.

“Thanks to Tax-Free Childcare, me and my husband can afford to send the girls to nursery one-and-a-half days per week each and my parents also take them for one day a week. This means that, in general, I work two-and-a-half days a week, plus a few evenings once the girls are in bed. On weeks where I need to work more, either my husband will use some of his annual leave or flexitime to stay at home, or my parents will step in and do an extra day. It often means I’m not available for short-notice on-site jobs that come up, but this doesn’t matter too much as I’ve built up a roster of retainer clients who are happy for me to work remotely and flexibly. Which is handy when, like today, my children have decided to become tiny plague-carriers.

“My advice to any parents looking to be self-employed is this: it’s not as easy to work around young children as you may think so try to ensure you can get some child-free time where you can concentrate on work. And also try to take control of your schedule and plan days where you don’t work so you can spend time with your little ones.”

Miriam Sauter | digitalprojectmanagement.co.uk

“As a first-time mum, I have very little experience with childcare and the various options which are out there. After plenty of research, my partner and I have opted to send our son to a childminder once he turns 18 months old. Being both self-employed, we like that a childminder can respond more flexibly to sometimes irregular work patterns, varying pick-up and drop-off times compared with a traditional nursery.

“When choosing a childminder, I can recommend checking their Ofsted registration and recent inspection report as well as any childcare, safeguarding and first aid training courses they may have completed. Another important point for us was that the childminder showed us an example menu to ensure our son will be getting nutritious homecooked meals and snacks.”

Ian Richards | worktolivefinancialplanning.com

“I think it is about being flexible. I have started up my business recently, and my wife works part-time with various people as a virtual assistant, but this involves going to some client's offices, so she hasn't got set days. For example, yesterday she found out need to be in on Friday and Saturday - so you need to be flexible in terms of finding a role that suits your situation. I have one child in school and a two-year-old who goes to nursery for a couple of days.

“I can do some work in the evenings or at weekends although I try to have one day off a week, minimum.

“Don't beat yourself up if you're not working during the day, especially if coming from a corporate job, you may be wired to think you have to work 9-5, which isn't the case. It's your business.

“You need to be switched on for your business, so I would say in most cases you're better off focusing on your children and your work separately. My children are always tricky just before they have a bath between 4:30-5:00.

“So if I had any pearls of wisdom, be flexible, think about the best time to work for your situation, don't beat yourself up if not working during the day, and don't think you have to work 9-5!”

Caroline Hagan | blueocto.co.uk

“I’ve invested in a Mifi device (A MiFi taps into 3G or 4G mobile phone networks and uses this connection to create a mini wireless broadband cloud or hotspot), so I can work on my laptop while waiting for school run to appear.

“I try and make use of soft play or role-play spaces so that I can catch up on important emails, admin or accounts.

“If parents are considering paid childcare, my advice would be to not put them in for Mondays - as it means you pay for all the Bank Holidays (whether they’re open or not!). Plus, you might want them off to spend with your child. So try and get other days if you can.”

Before you go, here are four things to bear in mind when juggling childcare

  1. Check what kind of childcare support you are eligible for here Child Care Choices
  2. Try and seek out cheaper alternatives to a nursery for your child if you can’t afford nursery fees. Options include childminders, friends and family or working after hours.
  3. Manage the expectations of everyone in your household. For example, you need to discuss your timetable with your partner, so they know when to try not to disturb you at home. Remember, the time you set aside need to be as productive as possible if you’re going to make this work!
  4. Learn how you work best and adjust your timetable as you go. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s not going to work.

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