working from home with kids

Stay at home dad and designer

So here’s a revelation for you all.

I’m a full time designer AND I am a full time Dad working from home.

Oh yes, I am one of those new sorts, the guy who works from home, and can simultaneously juggle caring for a 2 year old, ensuring a clients design jobs are attended to, and all the business end malarkey that comes with the cross-over that is inevitable. And I love it. I chose it and would not change it for all the tea in China.

I’m not going to lie to you here, and pretend it is some Utopian paradise, where my son and I easily balance his needs with the never ending barrage of phone calls, emails and deadlines that come with being a full time designer. And I am full time. Probably more full time than anyone who works in a design agency.

What isn’t strictly ‘the norm’ are my working hours, but I have managed to make this work not only to my advantage, but also to my clients. Admittedly I am not a designer that takes a panicked phone call from a new client at 9am with a deadline of 2pm that afternoon. I politely explain I am fully booked up and would love to help, but it just isn’t possible. I suggest a few names I know, and trust, and pass them on to someone who can fulfill that job. I used to take those on, until i learnt that it was potentially killing me, and for not that great a fee when you considered the pay-off.

So I have now streamlined my workflow to, firstly, only include clients with realistic deadlines. Without clients really knowing, I interview them on the phone, or in person and deduce whether their working style will fit in with mine. You what I hear you say? Let me explain. A lot can be deduced about clients in a fairly short amount of time on any call, email, or meet up and here’s the big one.

Alarm bell number one (and you will have heard this believe me)

If we can just get this job done quickly, there is loads more to come I promise.

That lovely turn of phrase ensures I will not be taking this job on, no matter what the pay. Call it experience, call it whatever you want, it translates as I want some thing doing now, for not a lot of money, and you can charge me more for the big job. Which will never arrive. I know. It wont. it never does and never will.

I work for clients with a long term plan, someone who is prepared and someone who has time to get it right. Firefighting a design job is not my bag, I did it for years in agencies, worked hard and quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it. But I realise I cannot work like that for the period of time I am looking after my son. So now, I work with a deadline of a week minimum. That way I can easily plan my workflow, the hours needed to achieve it and achieve it really well. Obviously for long term clients I turn around jobs in an hour, but those long term clients also know my circumstances, and as they are being charged half of what a design agency costs for the same quality work, are happy for me to do so. Indeed, many prefer it, as at the end of their working day, the compile a list of jobs that need doing, email it over to me and know it will be in their inbox when they turn up for work in the morning. The same applies for my international clients.

Sure, I can sometimes work silly hours, often finishing very late, or the early hours. But the payback is I get to spend all day with my son, choosing what we want to do when the workload allows it. And I make sure it allows it. I never promise a deadline I wont hit. I never overbook myself so I’m worrying about work. If I wanted to earn a six figure sum I wouldn’t have made this choice to do both so i just ensure that a comfortable income is achieved. The ultimate work/life balance you could say.

For me, it is the best life, and if you are thinking about it I urge you to make that jump and do it. It is chaotic. It’s often challenging but it is ultimately rewarding.

Are you thinking of working from home with kids? Or are you already doing so? Share your views below and let people know both sides of the story.

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9 Comments

  1. Turning down rush jobs for a new “out of the blue” client is a great piece of advice. I once got a call from an ad agency asking to create a proposal for a major client in 2 and 1/2 days. There was no time to research and generate anything, and since we were working with another agency we decided to basically focus on the things we specialized in and show how that could fit into a cookie cutter campaign we hadn’t researched ahead of time. Everyone was disappointed in the quality of our proposal, we didn’t get any work and we didn’t make any new friends either. Not only an unproductive waste of time, but an unproductive waste of time that probably burned a bridge as well.

    • admin

      Haha, and in that brilliant reply is exactly why huh. Thanks for that. I actually had one today I ummed and aahhed about and in the end i went with my gut and said no, but I still thought about it!

  2. Nice to meet you! Here from LinkedIn. I work from home. Although I do not have children at hom now I definitely understand the benefits you state.

  3. I think its awesome that you’re such a proud work-from-home father. I can only imagine the chaos that ensues when you have clients calling and emailing as your young son is having a temper tantrum. But on the other hand, you’re there for every single thing and get to experience small moments that you’d miss if you worked from an office. I’m sure to you those are a higher reward than any paycheck could provide.

    • admin

      Cheers Kelly, I make no bones about it – it can be mental, and sometimes im so frazzled I sear I forget my name, by as long as I can balance everything with no ill effects for either my clients or the kids, I know its the way to go. Thats not to say I wouldn’t kill for a hot holiday with cold beers, 20 marlboro and a beach party to remember though haha

  4. I love this post! You are offering such a service to your clients by not letting them “force” shor deadline projects on you. It is a hard lesson to learn when you are working for yourself. I myself try to take on too much and find myself having to take a step back and re prioritize my goals. :-)

  5. Bob

    Enjoy this time, it goes by in the blink of an eye. I’m an illustrator and I’ve worked from home for almost my entire career. My kids are older now and will be attending college soon. There is no substitute for the time you spend with your kids especially when they are young.

  6. I’m in the exact same position with a 4 month old baby boy and now working from home, something I said I would never ever do again 3 years ago to it pretty much driving me nuts.

    Not only am I now working from home, I also relocated to Moscow to be with wife & child, yeah I married a Russian but I promise I did not meet her on the internet (Cuba to be exact). So I have a child to deal with and living with my wife and her mum, and her mums husband who speak no English.

    To be honest it has not been easy as helping out with the baby, trying to work and being 4 hours ahead of my regular core clients has been problematic. Lost a few old clients, lost a few new ones too.

    The positives is that when you have one of them stressful work days we all have and your shouting at your screen and you turn around to see your baby laughing at you, well….. it melts the heart, put it all in perspective etc etc.

  7. my mate does art

    Hi
    Later reply but hopefully relevant.
    First of all, I really appreciate that post.
    The full-time dad phenomenon is still relatively new (‘stay at home dad’ and ‘house husband’ don’t do it for me) and the language and culture are still catching up.
    At a rough head count around the sand pit the ratio is still 1 in 10.
    I’ve looked after my son for 4 years since he was 2. Its the hardest work I’ve ever done but worth it. As for working while you are doing it ? Not easy is an understatement. I did it for 6 months and stopped. I was doing 2 things badly. I was multi-failing! Only when my son went to school did I start up again and I am really thriving on it. I have a 4 hour window during the day and 3-4 hours in the evening.
    Creative people generally do what they do out of love but you’ve got to think like a plumber. The people who pay the least want the most because they don’t value what you do. Money and creativity are not matter and anti-matter. You can combine the two.
    Hey, Picasso got PAID. I used to bring up my hourly rate last in case it was a cold shower. Now I bring it up first and it focuses the shit out of the conversation.
    Thanks for taking the time to shine a light on this. It’s the future !

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