If you’re anything like me, you love being a dad and you are the primary source of income for your family. But the catch here is that you prefer to work at home. Maybe you work at home already thanks to the 2020 pandemic, or you’re already a freelancer. Maybe you want to work at home but just don’t know how. To help you out, I’m going to explain exactly how to get started as a freelancing dad or “Dadpreneur” and what challenges to expect. I’m going to share my story about what brought me to be able to earn over $100k per year while only working 20-25 hours per week so that I can truly put my family first.
The type of freelancing work I’m going to focus on are digital skills like web development, video editing, graphic design, writing, and pretty much anything you can do from your computer. There are plenty of independent contractor jobs that take you away from your home each day like construction work or plumbers, and electricians, etc., but that is a very different industry that I am not a part of. So, we’ll focus on the digital stuff here.
When I first graduated college, I got a full-time salary job, and I lost that job 3 months before I became a dad due to a company mass downsize. As a result, my freelancing career began at the same time I became a new dad. It was scary. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did know that a typical employee job was not the most secure career path because at any moment I could lose your job and all my income all at once. Realizing this, freelancing then became the only option for me.
Plus, the demands of having a baby quickly became apparent and I wanted to be at home every day to help with my family. I wanted the flexibility that comes with freelancing so I could help my wife as needed and relieve some of her burden.
But the next 9 months were not easy. I obtained occasional videography gigs but certainly wasn’t replacing my salary income right away. We sank into masses of debt, and I decided to give up on freelancing. The company that originally hired me out of college recovered and gave me another offer. I took it because I had proven to myself that freelancing didn’t work. I finally had income again! A consistent paycheck! Security!
However, a couple months into this new “secure” job, I felt so uncomfortable, so restricted. I felt so unauthentic to what my heart wanted deep down. After much counseling with my wife, I decided I HAD to pursue freelancing again. I had to try it one more time but if I was going to, I needed help. I needed to figure out what went wrong the first time.
I decided to make a list of all my weaknesses that contributed to failure the first time and consolidated them into 6 key areas that I needed to improve. These were my vision for where I was heading; my awareness of where I was at; my internal communication with myself (self-talk); my skills with external communication with other people; my time management; and my money and sales skills.
Then I found books and even hired a mentor in areas I needed help with. Within 3 months of restarting my freelance career, I was earning enough income to support my family. This income was stable and predictable, while also giving me a work-life balance, control over my time, and very low stress.
I have to say though for another 2 years I was only just getting by. I finally replaced my original salary but that still wasn’t enough to really put money in savings. And I only had a couple of long-term clients that I was relying on for income.
As a dad and being the only income provider, the pressure was on to up level the money I was earning so we could afford to move ahead in life rather than just pay the bills. But I was still missing something that was preventing me from growing. I was earning in the $35k - $45k per year range for a year and a half straight and was unable to go beyond that ceiling.
When I stumbled across a local mentoring group for entrepreneurs, I realized that salesmanship was the missing piece for me. It’s why I hadn’t diversified my client base enough. I was getting all my income from 3-4 different clients and unable to find more because I didn’t know how to sell my services, and how to network properly.
So, I signed up for a sales mentoring program. By this point we hit another financial crisis due to a lack of extra income and a lack of budgeting skills. We got ahead of ourselves when I started earning some money freelancing, thinking that I was earning more than I actually was. And a big problem was something other dads may be able to relate to, which is that my wife was hardly involved in our finances. I was taking too much on myself, thinking that because I was earning all the money that she didn’t need to be a part of our financial planning and budgeting.
Part of that was pride and another part was shame. Shame that we had to use birthday money to buy her clothes. Shame that we couldn’t increase our quality of living beyond our little apartment. Shame that we didn’t have any money to save and we kept over drafting our bank account.
We had a wakeup call right around Christmas when I realized and admitted to Tira that we were $20,000 in credit card debt and I didn’t have enough money to pay our rent. I was $63 short to be able to pay rent, so I collected every bit of cash I could find in our house, and gathered all our wallets, ending up with exactly $1 more than I needed. We were officially broke. We always had been, but only then did we admit to it.
So, I brought the cash to the bank so I could pay rent and I had $1 left in my wallet. After crying for quite some time with my wife, we committed to get ourselves out of this hole. I made a promise that I would turn that dollar into 10, then 100, then 1,000 and eventually over $100,000 and a million. Well within 1 year I doubled my income from $40k to $80k. The year after that I went from $80k to $130k and kept going. Both of us committed even though she wasn’t going to get a job. She realized that her passivity towards our finances was one of our huge problems, and my unwillingness to bring her into it was another. After this, with Christmas season coming up, we stayed up late many nights making a financial plan and mapping out our priorities.
Our first goal was to get out of credit debt. But for that to happen we needed to one, become very disciplined in our spending and budgeting and two, I needed to increase our income. And to increase our income I needed new skills, particularly sales skills. I also needed to adjust my focus on what services I sold.
So even though your experiences might be different than mine, I can tell you that as a freelancing Dad there are 4 main steps you need to take to kickstart your freelancing career:
- Become aware and totally honest with yourself (and your wife and kids if you already have them) of where you’re at financially, then accept the reality of the situation.
- Create a financial plan and decide on priorities with your wife. What is the first most important thing to put money towards, what is second, and so forth.
- Identify your freelancing/business weaknesses. Do you need to hone your craft? Learn to sell like I did? Switch services to something that is more in demand and pays higher? Also examine any psychological blocks like negative thinking and destructive self-talk.
Find mentors, books, courses, and any other source of education so you can turn those weaknesses into strengths. And implement what you learn. You must be willing to get uncomfortable, to break through that comfort zone or there will be no progress.
It is totally worth it to pursue freelancing if you’re a dad who wants to stay home and spend more time with your family, who wants flexibility with your time and who wants a job that can bring you very high increases in income year after year. I work around 20 hours per week, and I earn over $100,000 per year. That allows me to move my family forward financially, but it also gives me the ability to be there for my family every day. If you’re leaving for a typical employee office job at 7am and you’re not home until 6pm because of commuting and an 8-hour work day, then there is literally no quality time left to have with your family. It’s dinner, and then kids off to bed, and on the weekend you’re catching up on personal projects you couldn’t get to during the week. So many family problems get pushed aside because there isn’t enough time to resolve them when working the typical 40-hour work week.
Every day I have time to not only play with my kids, but also to talk to them and talk to my wife, while also gaining time to work through family problems and troubleshoot issues with our kids. Raising a family is hard, hard work, and it requires as much effort and time, if not more times, as a full-time job.
But I am grateful that I can pursue my #1 passion of being a dad and husband because of freelancing, and I hope you can too.
Connect with us and ask questions any time!