Being self-employed and working from home come with a staggering amount of freedom. I have a few meetings or calls every week, and I definitely have deadlines, but I mostly set my own schedule and work as much or as little as I want.
During the school year, it's fairly easy to stick to a normal-ish (7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.) schedule, since that's when my son is at school. In the summer, however, I have a 15-year-old at home, and we have all sorts of travel, day trips, and other non-work activities planned.
To make my work goals, I follow a much more rigid procedure than I do during the school year. It's a system that takes advantage of my flexibility, but also relies on a sort of personal rigidity.
Here's how I balance work and family
Over the course of this summer, I have taken three cruises, spent a long weekend in Key West, visited various central-Florida theme parks, and visited two different water parks. In the next few weeks, I have a trip to Connecticut for a wedding, three days in the Bahamas, and two different trips to Orlando (about a three-hour drive from my home in West Palm Beach).
To make all of this travel work, I set strict monetary goals for my week and I never let a free moment pass until I hit that goal. That means that if it happens to be a Saturday and I'm not doing something fun, I'm working to bank completed projects (and earned dollars).
In addition to front-loading my work week, I also make sure to understand my schedule. For example, I'll be spending May 1-4 with my son and his cousin at Atlantis, a resort in the Bahamas. It's full of beaches, a water park, and some really nice pools, so while I will work a few hours a day, I won't be hitting my normal daily financial goal.
To cover for that, I'm doing extra work in the time leading up to that trip. That means working at least partial days during my earlier trip to Connecticut, which requires sacrificing some things I would have liked to do and limits my ability to visit people while there.
It's not an ideal system, but in a summer where I have not had a single week without some sort of travel, it's the best I can do. I've spent weekends working 12-hour days and late nights catching up on work so I could do things my son wanted to do during the day. I've been the guy in the cruise ship coffee shop putting in a few early morning hours (probably after some late night fun).
You need to set goals
It's important to note that I don't generally operate this way during the school year. If I want to (or have to) take time off, I make up for it by upping my work hours and earnings for weeks -- sometimes months -- ahead so I can take an actual vacation.
That's not possible in the summer, so I have to be rigid about my goals. I put in the time whenever the time is available, and never pass on an opportunity to write one more story when it presents itself.
Ideally, I hit my financial goals early in the week or manage to get ahead of myself. Most weeks, however, I find myself working into the weekend either to catch up or bank money for the next week.
It's not a perfect system, but it's one that works if you hold yourself accountable. Sometimes that means that getting to spend the day at the beach requires spending my night at my laptop. Doing that, however, has let me do all sorts of things this summer I might otherwise have had to say no to -- and that, in my opinion, takes true advantage of the flexibility of being a work-from-home freelancer.