You’ve done your homework on how to start a career in independent consulting, outweighed the pros and cons for your career change, and feel ready to make the leap from full-time employment to striking out on your own—but does your family feel as prepared as you do?
The transition from a full-time employee to an independent consultant can be an exciting and daunting experience for everyone in your household. The same freedom and flexibility that comes with being your own boss and setting your own schedule will require you and your family to undergo a period of adjustment together as you work to establish your new schedule and routine, manage income fluctuations, and ultimately, grow your business.
As anyone who has ever navigated how to work from home with kids can tell you, it is essential to establish new routines and get the full support of your family as you enter this new chapter in your career. Whether you’re working fully remote or need to spend time on-site with your clients, figuring out how to balance work and family starts with setting the right expectations for everyone, and a little planning and communication can go a long way to avoid work-family conflict as you navigate managing family and consulting work.
Here are ten tips to help you establish work and family balance as you begin consulting:
1. Communicate openly and honestly
If you’ve already defined your business goals and objectives, make sure you take the time to communicate openly about what they are with your family. Share how you plan to balance your work from home consulting and on-site commitments. Schedule a designated time to sit down with your family and discuss why you’re interested in making this change, what the transition entails for you and for them, and the level of support you feel you’ll need to maintain a balance between your consulting and family life.
The age of your children will help set the tone for this discussion. For younger kids, focus on taking time to get them comfortable with how their time with you or away from you might shift. If you’re introducing a new caregiving situation, consider having them meet with your kids in advance of any major changes to your current schedule to help them feel secure. Elementary and middle-school kids may benefit from having a conversation to express why you’re electing to make these changes in your career and how it’s important to the whole family. If your children living at home are in high school or older, help them understand where they can step up to take more ownership by helping with younger siblings or taking on new responsibilities to pitch in at home. Be honest about the potential risks and rewards and encourage your family to ask questions. Listen attentively and be ready to address their concerns.
2. Establish personal and professional boundaries
If your family is used to reaching you more frequently, it’s especially important to help them understand when and how to reach you during your set working hours. Being upfront about what your availability will look like and the best methods for contacting you. Establishing visual cues—like posting a sign on your in-home office door while in meetings or wearing noise-canceling headphones—can help to further reinforce your boundaries when working at home.
3. Create a routine and set clear expectations
While freelancing brings independence to your schedule, it’s important to take a realistic view of your current schedule and establish what your daily routine for consulting work will be. Talk your partner through what your vision is for how your day-to-day routine could work. Share what you expect to earn and discuss what that means for the current dynamic of your household. Talk openly about what you might look to deprioritize or look to outsource in order to help ensure that this can work for everyone. Discuss how responsibilities at home may need to shift in order to manage work and family priorities. Making sure everyone is on the same page will go a long way in helping you feel supported and avoiding potential pitfalls down the road.
4. Establish a dedicated workspace
To maintain a healthy work-life balance consulting, it’s important to create a dedicated workspace to allow you to go into work mode with minimal distractions. Whether you are planning to dedicate a separate room in your home, investing in a membership to a co-working space, or plan to frequent your library or local coffee shop to work remotely, make sure your family understands what to expect and the importance of having uninterrupted time to complete your work.
5. Budget for income fluctuations
As an independent consultant, it’s common to have an income that will fluctuate from month to month. It’s also important to plan for these fluctuations by setting aside a portion of your income for savings and other unexpected expenses. Communicate early and often with your family about any shifts in income and how you’ll budget accordingly to avoid putting pressure on your partner.
6. Create a contingency plan
As with any career change, unexpected circumstances can arise when consulting. Take time to create an action plan for where you’ll work in case of a power issue or internet outage. Discuss your plans for how to navigate a significant downturn in your business to get ahead of any potential pitfalls.
7. Utilize a shared calendar or app
Establish a family calendar to track and manage your professional and personal commitments to keep everyone on the same page about your schedule as it shifts. This is especially important if you expect you may need to travel for work.
8. Manage your workload
Setting realistic goals and deadlines for yourself and your clients is key to maintaining work and family balance and avoiding burnout. Communicate honestly with your clients about your availability and how to reach you in case of emergency, be transparent about your workload with your family, and avoid taking on more work than you can handle. It’s also a great idea to establish a coverage plan to help prepare yourself for how you’ll manage the ebb and flow of your workload without putting additional strain on your family.
9. Set aside time for self-care
When first diving into consulting work, life balance can sometimes take a backseat, but setting aside time each day for exercise and establishing a self-care routine can help you recharge and stay ahead of the demands of your work and family life. Talk to your family about when you hope to prioritize self-care in your schedule and discuss how you can support each other.
10. Celebrate your wins
Your family will be there with you through the thick of it, so it’s important to take time to pause and celebrate your successes with them. Whether your latest win is securing a new client, achieving a major milestone in your business, or completing a training that will take your work to the next level, be sure to take time to acknowledge your accomplishments and share your successes with your loved ones.
Figuring out how to manage family and work life and find balance can take some trial and error but the more open, honest, and clear you are in setting expectations for yourself, your family, and your clients, the better off you and your business will be in the long run.
About the AuthorMore Content by Candace Corner