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Please help me see this as an opportunity!

(12 Posts)
winterpansy Thu 16-May-13 15:17:08

I am looking for a bit of advice/reassurance.
I recently went through a bad time with my ex-employer and ended up taking a tribunal against them that was settled out of court. In the meantime I had secured a 2.5 day per week job which would allow me to set up as a freelancer on the side while having the security of pension/sick leave/mat leave etc. The job is based quite a bit away from my house and I was told that I could work from home after 3 months and the hours should be increased. In the meatime I have been lucky enough to secure a few clients and am very happy with how the freelancing is going.

I had a few issues with the new employer (no contract, no information about holiday leave, no payslips, no induction) so I raised them this week and was told that I would have to continue to work from their horrible office 2.5 days a week and there is no opportunity for increased hours. I challenged them about moving goalposts etc. and had a long chat with them and we came up with a solution of me moving to a freelance contract with them 2 days a week which means I don't have to travel and the job is streamlined (I was dealing with a lot of admin when I am used to dealing with large projects/consultancy etc.). There would be a minimum payment of £800 per month which works out at £100 per day, which I know is super low for freelancing but they are a charity and realistically cannot pay any more.

The (lovely and wanted!) spanner in the works is that I am almost 7 weeks pg with DC2 so will be losing out on stat mat pay etc. I know I will be able to apply for ma so I'm not too worried about that, but I have a feeling if I go off for mat leave for even a couple of months they will see it as an opportunity to get someone else in/not renew the rolling feelance contract (which would be on a monthly basis). DH earns enough to cover all bills etc. but not enough for me to have any month of bringing in £0.

I'm totally panicking. How long did you long term freelancers take off for mat leave? Did you lose clients? Were they understanding?

I suppose I always have the option to go back into paye employment down the line if things don't work out in the long term but am just unsure of how the short term will work out.

Arrrgg...sorry for the essay, my head's all over the place.

Thank you in advance for reading!

lovefreelance Thu 16-May-13 16:28:47

How labour intensive is your freelance work? I was freelancing when I fell pregnant with my daughter and freelanced at home up until my due date, and carried on working straight after she was born - even as soon as the first week (like you mention, I didn't want to lose my clients, nor the income). It does help that I really love what I do, and it's quite easy - in that I can sit on the sofa and do it.

I tried not to let any of my clients know I was pregnant, and those that did know had no idea of my due date as I didn't want them to make judgements on whether I was up to work or not. If I felt that I couldn't cope with work I wanted it to be my decision.

Hope this helps in some way!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Thu 16-May-13 19:26:21


Firstly congrats on the pregnancy. Sorry that you have had two bad experiences of employers behaving badly, although I am sure the first was by far the most traumatic.

I have a similar set up with a retainer contract which is lower than I am worth (sorry not a stealth boast, but I deliberately agreed to it as it was junior & less involved/stressful so it could provide a base like you) and they were willing to find a mat cover for me, so I could take time off. I think they see me as one of them despite my freelance status.

I am taking 9 months, although I am wondering what it will be like as a freelancer (last time I was on mat leave I was an employee), I am not really programmed to turn work down!

You have 7 months to demonstrate your value and I am sure you are worth more than they are paying. Whether or not they are willing to wait is obviously up to them.

As love did, you could feasibly get away with not even telling them if it is remote working. Or at least it gives you lots of time to build up their trust/demonstrate your skills etc.

However I bet won't be that easy to replace you on the money/terms, so I am not sure they'll immediately run out and try to find a replacement for you without giving you the option of having time off etc. And having worked in charities before, I know they are used to making do when a staff member goes off as it saves money etc.

There have been a few threads on here where freelancers/the self-employed have talked about how long they took for mat leave. Many like love didn't take much time off at all:

So, what about seeing the next 7 months as a time to make as much money as you can (health & tiredness depending obv) and use that to supplement MA for as many months as you feel comfortable etc?

I think it is an opportunity. You have a base of money to support you whilst you continue building your freelance clients. If this is a long game for you, then a short break shouldn't cause too much of an issue.

It does feel strange being pregnant as a freelancer. However, I have learnt over the last 2 years that things generally work out, even when you fear the worse and I am sure it will be the same for you.

Not sure if that is of any help!

Good luck.

winterpansy Thu 16-May-13 21:06:31

Thank you both so much for taking the time to reply.
I am little calmer now I have had time to digest this. DH is furious that I have been treated badly again and is ready for murder so I am trying to calm him down now as I am sure my blood pressure is through the roof!

lovefreelance I do marketing in a very specific sector so I can sit on my rapidly expanding bum and knock out the work quite easily. I will only have to travel to meet with them once a month. DC is due end of Dec, all being well, so a good time to take a natural break (or end the deal if I decide/childcare decides) for a month maybe without too much disruption. I do think I will have to spend time trying to find a pt permanent job once DC is born as I am not brave enough to reply on freelancing altogether long term - we have a huge mortgage!

mrsmargo Yes, you're right. I have to see this as a better option than a)continuing on for 6 months spending £200 a month in petrol with uncertain terms or b) having to walk away completely.
If I squirral away what I can from this 'cushion' for the next 6 months then it gives me time to figure out what to do for the best. The rate is low (my other few clients pay £325 a day) but it's worth taking the hit for the immediate future if it's guarenteed for a few months. And... congrats to you too - hope all is going well!

You have really definitely helped, thank you both again.

lovefreelance Fri 17-May-13 07:41:26

My day rate is pretty much the same as yours and though, like margo, I'm happy to work for a reduced rate for ongoing projects, or for clients I like but can't afford my services, I personally wouldn't go as low as £100 - especially if the work genuinely required 7-8 hours of graft a day. AND you will need to travel to them once a month.

What you could do is to accept your current terms for a few months, and use this time to build your freelance network. I know two other mums who worked in marketing and went it alone after having children, and both have built a busy and successful freelance/consultancy businesses - one has even just needed to take on an assistant one day a week she's so busy!

I used to freelance in London, working in-house for companies and was always really busy. But when I fell pregnant with my second child I decided to only work from home. It has taken me a while (and lots of trial and error in the best ways to find clients) but now I have a regular roster of clients and the odd one-offs. Although I still do get the fear from time to time when I have no work on for a few weeks in a row (always at the same time of year so you'd think I'd be used to it by now!), each year when I do my annual return I earn pretty much the same amount. It's less than I earned working full time in London, but I only work part time - leaving me plenty of time to be around for the kids. And being a Ltd company means that my tax bill is a LOT lower, so in reality I probably don't earn a lot less, but have a much better quality of life.

The point I'm trying to make is that with a good strategy, work and patience you can build a steady freelance career on your terms - even if your skills are quite niche.

There some helpful articles on this site about finding freelance clients:

Hope this helps in some way!

winterpansy Fri 17-May-13 11:24:58

Thanks for sharing your experience lovefreelance I had a long chat with DH last night and I am going to go hell for leather finding new clients over the next 6 months and see how it goes. I really would like to do it longterm (if it works out financially) for the same reasons as you - quality of life and time with the kids. We figured out if I could profit minimum of £15k working pt then we'll survive. I always have the cushion of MA to fall back on while deciding to carry on or find something permanent. I've always had issues with jobs (sector I'm in is full of knobs and completely unregulated) and have had enough of other people's crap so this could be the very thing to get me out of all that. That link is great - what a great sife. Full of helpful info!

Lots to think about! Thanks again x

lovefreelance Fri 17-May-13 12:13:14

It sounds like a great plan! And 15k seems realistic to me ( I take home double that on pretty much the same day rate as you working from home part time). I would recommend looking into Ltd company if you're not already as you save much more on tax.

Good luck!!!!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Fri 17-May-13 16:52:30

Great stuff winter. £15k sounds do-able. I am earning more than I did employed now. It can be done. I do marketing too.

I was going to say that actually a period of freelancing might be just what you need after bad employers.

I started freelancing having left a job I loved to go to "the horrible job" as it was known to my friends and family.

In that time I have done some contract roles too. And my mindset has really changed. I find I am able to be more detached and let things bother me less. It is liberating! Not for one minute suggesting that what has happened to you was your fault etc.

Good luck both with the pregnancy and your freelancing.

lovefreelance Sun 19-May-13 13:07:06

I second margo's comment about freelance being liberating. You are much more detached and carefree - I think because you don't feel bound to a job, you can laugh off irritating clients and bad briefs or feedback. They're paying you to do what they want so you just do it!

If you really hate a client, you have the freedom to turn down the work - or can just think to yourself 'this is a pain right now, but is worth £X to me and soon the project will be over and I won't need to work for them again'. Having said that, most of my freelance clients are nice and easy to deal with!

winterpansy Sun 19-May-13 21:13:20

Brilliant, thanks ladies. You have really helped me get this all clear in my head. I'm going to give it a really good go and try and make something of it - life is too short to be stuck in crap jobs, missing out on time with kids.

I am starting to feel less terrified and much more liberated!

badguider Tue 21-May-13 18:05:09

I was really worried about telling my long-term client about my pregnancy but they've been really great. I only do 0.5days a week for them but all my other work is project-based so i really wanted to keep this one. I plan to take 3months off from that work.

I told them at about 14weeks (didn't get my 12wk scan till just after 13wks) and they've been absolutely LOVELY about it. More than happy to cover for me for three months and then to excuse me fromlong distance travel (usually quarterly meetings) for the following three.

badguider Tue 21-May-13 18:06:01

(I guess not paying me for 3months also helps their accounts!)

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