Freelance Wisdom | Work That Works For Mothers

I came across Freelance Wisdom somewhere in between building my brand consulting practice and starting Mother Untitled.  I had been struggling with my own confidence in doing "untitled" work - work that lacks the typical qualifiers of success in salary grade or executive title but alternatively, feels rich in creative energy and flexibility.  In finding the interviews with creative women on Freelance Wisdom and then learning about the founder, Jess Levitz' path,  I felt validated and comforted by the large set of examples of intelligent, worldly women who choose to work independently and are better for it.  Read Jess' obviously wise words on her choice to part with full time work, how her career works for her as a woman and a mother at different moments, and why she started both, Freelance Wisdom and the Creative Lady Directory.

Jess Levitz

I am not sure I believe that a working mother’s life (or anyone for that matter) is ever fully in balance. There are too many complexities in life that are constantly throwing things off-kilter. I feel that striving to achieve a perfect balance will only make you feel badly about not making the grade. I think women especially pressure ourselves to be the “woman that has it all” and we are constantly in pursuit of this un-achievable harmony. Instead I think it is important to work on creating a foundation that can help you weather the ebbs and flows of life. For me that foundation is my freelance career and creative community.

Photography by Loren Crosier

Photography by Loren Crosier

After several years working in-house at tech start-ups I made the decision to go out on my own as a freelance graphic designer in the summer of 2014. I had been moonlighting for years as a freelancer, and spent the 6 months leading up to my departure working every night on new projects, blogging, and building up my portfolio. To many people it seemed very strange that I would leave my great job for a very uncertain future. And for others it would be, but it was absolutely the right choice for me. I am an introvert and I love to work from home. I love the variation that comes with freelancing and most of all I loved having the freedom to create my own schedule. From spending long days and nights working and blogging when I had the energy and ambition to do so, to taking naps and long walks in the afternoons when I was feeling sick or unmotivated, I was able to form my freelance career around my life.

This flexibility also allowed me to fit my freelance work around my health. While I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with a scary pregnancy condition called ICP that had me in and out of doctor appointments several times a week. After my son was born prematurely (born at 35 weeks and very small but perfectly healthy!) I knew it would be awhile before I could start working again. But because I was freelance I didn’t feel the same pressure that a new mother with a full-time job does to be back at work. For many it feels like you either go back to work after 8 weeks or quit your job to be at home full-time. Instead I was able to start working again when I felt more ready. And when I did feel ready I could slowly build up my client projects, setting my own pace.

When my son was a year old we had a huge life change and moved from the SF Bay Area to New York City for my husband’s job. Once again my freelance career made this transition completely seamless. I found a nanny to come part-time and the rest of the time I was able to explore the city and spend quality time with my son. When a family emergency forced us to return to California for a month, I was so glad that my career allowed me this flexibility to be there for my family. And when we returned to NYC, it was time to send my son to full-time daycare because I was ready to really dive back into my business.

Having a freelance career is certainly not always great, there are plenty of times when I am stressed about booking clients, working late after my son goes to bed, and often feeling financially unstable. But looking back at the last 3 years I have been through so much, and freelancing has been there with me to ride the waves. It has been my foundation, fitting into the places I needed it to. I completely acknowledge that there are many people that do not have the support system or two-household income to be able to pursue such an unpredictable career; I so wish that there was universal healthcare and paid maternity leave for contractors so that more mothers could pursue a freelance career. But for those that are feeling stuck and confined in their 9-5 job, and have a support system and ambition to make this leap, I absolutely encourage you to read through the interviews on my website Freelance Wisdom.

I founded Freelance Wisdom in order to create a space for female freelance creatives to learn from one another, encourage each other, and feel empowered to pursue their passions in a real way. The website features weekly interviews with female creatives, daily motivational quotes, helpful resources and a shop. Since its founding just a year ago the website has attracted interviews with over 70 women including many of whom are mothers, for example: lettering artists Jessica Hische and Molly Jacques, blogger Megan Gilger, designer Liz Grant, and best-selling cookbook author Erin Gleeson.

I have learned that pursuing a freelance career does not have to be a lonely endeavor. Yes you might work from home alone, but through the internet (or a local shared workspace) you can be connected to a wealth of women that are going through the same things that you are. I have met people online that have become friends and collaborators. Recently I started a “mastermind” group that meets up via google hangout every two weeks to talk about our lives and businesses. We all live in different parts of the US, two of us are mothers and the other two are not, but we come together to connect and support each other. I see it again and again in interviews that freelance women truly crave a community of supportive peers, but find it difficult to put themselves out there to network and find like-minded people.

After seeing the clear desire from people to find community, I created a directory website for creative women, and a facebook group for women to share their work, resources, job opportunities, proud moments and struggles.  Both endeavors have spurred great conversations and collaborations, and I hope to do so much more to support women in creative freelance careers. In the future I am hoping to introduce more community building events like retreats and meet-ups to continue to help women create the foundation for their community-supported freelance career.  

There is no perfect solution to finding balance in your life and career but I think freelancing is a great fit for the ebbs and flows of a woman’s life. I hope that in a small way Freelance Wisdom can help women carve out a career that suits their life.