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John Adams, of dadbloguk.com, offers an invaluable checklist of things to consider when going flexible or freelance
I want you to use your imagination for a moment. Here’s the scenario. You’re a father. Society’s expectations dictate that you will be the main financial provider for your family …but the tides are definitely changing. It’s become more acceptable for men to work flexibly or freelance or even work part time.
You’ve spoken to your partner. You’ve both agreed times have changed and there’s a chance for you to throw yourself into finding a new, flexible, part-time job. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you decide to go freelance.
Only thing is, you’re only half doing the job. Like most people you are, quite understandably, thinking about work hours and earning potential. Who knows, you may even be thinking about future career prospects.
Here’s the “but.” What consideration have you given to the support you are going to need as a flexible / part-time / freelance worker? This may sound like a slightly odd thing to say, but life is about to change and probably a bit more than you realise.
Here are some things you should consider.
This is possibly one of the most obvious things you need to think about. If you’re going to work compressed hours or work from home one or two days a week, what will happen to your children?
You will still need childcare. If you work freelance, you need to try and find flexible childcare options. As a micro-business person you can’t turn paying work down so if someone approaches you with an urgent job, you need to try and have the childcare options in place that you can call upon at the last minute.
From after school clubs to registered childminders, you need to consider every option.
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If you’re making the big leap from being the main provider for your family to the man who balances part time work and home life, you need to think about domestic help. Can you realistically work part time, look after children when they’re around AND do the housework?
I once read a hilarious account of a man who left paid employment to look after his baby child. He assumed he would be able to work freelance from home because “babies sleep a lot.” He quickly discovered this wasn’t the case!
I once wrote a blog post about hiring domestic help and the response was fascinating. Every woman who commented was very open to the idea of paying for domestic help. Every man who commented (I’m not exaggerating) was resistant to the idea, presumably because most of them worked full time so had other halves carrying out the majority of the domestic duties.
You may need help, especially during busy times and there is no shame in hiring a cleaner or someone to do your ironing or gardening. Remember: A lot of these guys are freelancers and working this way because they like the flexibility if offers them! Do ‘em a favour and hire them.
Okay, here’s where things get murky. Perhaps you are returning to work after a long spell raising children or caring for a relative. If so, you may have been out of the workforce for a long time and need to update your skills, maybe retrain for an entirely new occupation or want advice for starting your own business.
If you look around, you will find many groups offering skills training and business advice for women returnees. Believe it or not, some of these groups use the Equalities Act to restrict access to their services solely to women. Why? Well, they feel there is an acute need to support women in this position.
Don’t be put off by this. Some of these groups are very open to working with men. You may not feel all that encouraged because their advertising is bright pink and plastered with words like “maternity” and “mums.” If you ask the right group, they will happily open their doors to you as a guy.
The message here is not to be shy about asking returnee groups and service providers if you can join them, even if their target market seems to be mums.
They may say yes and the more guys that do this, the more these services will be opened up to men. With more men taking Shared Parental Leave, the business world has got to be more open to male returnees but the only way that change will come about is if we ask for this change. Okay, sermon over, next tip!
This tip is only really relevant to anyone going freelance, but have you got the time to do all your own accounting? Sure, you can automate a lot of this using various apps, but will they have the detailed knowledge to help you run your business efficiently and assist you with business and personal tax returns?
If you don’t know what you are doing, I would advise hiring an accountant. If you run a micro-business, you may find it is better to hire a book-keeper as opposed to a full-service accountant. The best thing you can do is to get recommendations from other freelancers.
You probably want to get some financial advice if your income is going to decrease because you are going freelance or working part-time. In particular, you want to think about your pension contributions.
Pensioner poverty for women is a huge issue because most women take years out of the workforce to look after children and when they return, it is often part-time or in lower paid roles. Earlier generations of women were left high and dry because they were not encouraged to even think of this. It led to bigger issues if they got divorced or were widowed at a young age.
However your employment status changes, go into it with your eyes open. You will be following the same pattern as many women and your pension will take a hit as a result. Do what you can to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions so you retain the full state pension.
Even a small amount invested into a private pension is better than nothing.
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Men, especially fathers, are notorious for letting their social circles shrink as they get older. For many guys, their social connections revolve around work.
If you are going to work part-time, you will have fewer opportunities so socialise with work colleagues. If you are going to work freelance, you may not speak to another adult all day until your partner comes home.
Build up social connections via the interests you have. It may be a running club, church group, football club, whatever. Do not allow your social circle to retreat simply because your work patterns are changing.
I wish you the best of luck with the next step of your career. It may be daunting but if you feel this is the correct thing for you to do for your family, it probably is. I’m sure you will make a success of it.