iContract talks to Jane Bardos, a lawyer, a professional actress and a mum of three who works as a contractor to achieve the work/life balance she needs. Hear her story & tips:
I was a West End actress in my 20s and a media & entertainment lawyer in my early 30s. After the birth of my first child, I returned to my job as a lawyer at a commercial law firm four months after the birth. It was an incredibly challenging time balancing work with the desire to spend time with my daughter. I was also spending virtually all of my salary on full-time childcare.
After the birth of my second daughter, I decided to turn my back on full-time permanent employment and become self-employed. I am now a mum of three children under 4yrs old and it’s the best decision I could have made. I freelance as a lawyer/adviser for a couple of clients (the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority allows this as long as the work remains non-contentious) and also as a communications consultant for a training firm within the legal sector.
If you are willing and able to make the leap to contracting, the advantages can be great:
Firstly, the flexibility is invaluable – I can work from home on a particular document or training programme and, as long as I make the deadline, it really doesn’t matter when I do the work. I fit work around pre-school runs, naps and play dates! It can be a little lonely at times, but my tips for this are to take a walk to see the outside world, book coffee breaks locally with a friend, work from a café or co-working space occasionally and play radio in the background.
Secondly, my effective hourly rate for work is much higher, as not only can I earn contractor rates, but I also spend much less now on childcare. I can work in the evening or just fit in a couple of hours here and there so I pay for childcare as and when I need it, rather than paying full-time nursery or nanny fees. I try not to go too ‘nocturnal’, nor work from the iPad in bed as we all need as much good sleep as we can get.
Thirdly, I value the ability to control my workload and to ‘drop in and out’ of work. I needed this when I had my second and third babies. I found I was happy to commit to small pieces of work when my babies were two months old and gradually increase the workload as they got older. Incidentally, if you need a longer period ‘off’, there are ways for self-employed people to benefit from maternity pay – talk to your accountant or search HMRC for details. With this ramp-up in work, rather than it being stressful, I found work invigorating and rewarding to be doing something for myself again (and certainly more cerebral than reading Peppa Pig books aloud) whilst still knowing that I would have plenty of time with my children.
Work requires me sometimes to be away at a law firm or training centre for one or two nights, but although this requires more organisation (and a trade off in higher childcare costs) I relish these opportunities to put on my old ‘work clothes’ and head into an office environment. I love that my girls, in particular, will see that it is possible to be a happy, professional working mum with a good work/life balance.
Of course, self-employed work has no guarantees, but for me the benefits outweigh the risks and uncertainty. When you are not in a permanent role, it is amazing what opportunities can come to you, and iContract will be a great platform for someone like me to dedicate more time to networking and to keep the next projects rolling in.
For me, making the change from permanent employment to contract work has enabled me to fully enjoy my role as a mother and my career– what could be better?!