My Day Series: Dave Smyth
Welcome to second That Works For Me ‘My Day’ blog post!
That Works For Me is the supportive and affordable platform for flexible work. And what work is there more flexible than freelancing. There are numerous benefits – owning your own time, working round your family, hand picking your projects – but it’s not always a bed of roses. It can also mean loneliness, uncertainty and financial insecurity, all issues we acknowledge and want to help with. Because when you get it right, it’s amazing and means the freedom to do what you want, when you want, whether that be school runs, caring or yoga.
June is Dad Month here at That Works For Me and we have a feature from new Dad, Dave Smyth, a freelance web designer in London. Dave talks us through a typical day in his life and how he manages his freelance work with his new baby!
Life as a freelancer
Weirdly, I’ve always been a freelancer. I formally trained as a musician but I started making a living as a web designer in 2014.
That’s not the traditional career trajectory for a musician, or what I’d been expecting to do. I’d started learning how to build websites in 1999 and, after 15 years of building them for my own projects, I decided to take on some clients to fill gaps in my income.
As it turns out, training as a musician is amazing preparation for self-employed life in general: not only are you used to fluctuations in income, but setting client expectations is part of your daily life.
I’d always felt incredibly lucky to work as a musician, but moving into a career on the web was something else. I was now doing something I enjoyed, but clients expected to pay for it: what a luxury!
Fast-forward five years and my wife and I had a baby boy. We’re only five months in but my flexible work schedule is more useful than ever.
What a typical day looks like for me
Work-wise, every day is different depending on my workload. I book most of my design and development jobs into week-long blocks of 20 hours, giving me the flexibility to organise my hours around family life. I can also use the other time to take on last-minute jobs, which are fairly common in my line of work. My site explains how this works in more detail. I started it earlier this year and while these things take some time to switch over, I’m getting there.
A typical day looks something like this:
Morning dad time. Coffee. Feed and play with my son…allowing my wife to catch up on some sleep from night feeds.
Son exchange. My wife takes over and I crack on with work. I find the mornings my most productive time, so I try to focus on tasks that require the most concentration..
Coffee top-up. Totally required.
Back to work. This might be finishing up loose ends from the morning, admin tasks, article writing or working on my side project
Back on Daddy day / afternoon care until our son goes to bed at around 7pm.
If bed time goes ok, it’s time for our dinner. If the weather’s clear, I might be able to play some evening tennis. If I’m stacked up with work, I might need to snatch an hour or two here. I try not to do this regularly, though.
My wife is also self-employed (as a piano teacher), so we will be able to minimise childcare costs. It’s a privilege for us both to be around so much for our son. That said, working from home with a baby in the house is not without its challenges! The Maternity Allowance rules for self-employed mums are pretty punitive, too. But, on balance, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Bio - Dave Smyth
Dave is an independent web designer based in London. He works with individuals, small businesses and startups to create websites that enhance their brand.
When he’s not working for clients or on his business, Dave runs Work Notes, a blog about freelancing based on real life experiences.