Having a child is a life-changing experience — one that requires tons of preparation.
And navigating this change as a member of the gig economy comes with its own special considerations, from money management and maintaining a flexible schedule to keeping your family healthy and understanding health insurance for freelancers.
Of course, that’s not to say that starting a family as a freelancer doesn’t have a number of unique advantages. Here’s how you can make the most of them while tackling some of the challenges of self-employment.
How Freelancing Can Benefit Your Family
Being an independent worker comes with significant upsides, so it’s no wonder 57 million Americans now freelance either full or part time.
First, you can have more control over your schedule. When you work a regular 9 to 5, this is one of the things you surrender. Life stuff like trips to the DMV or doctors’ appointments have to be scheduled around work, and if your kids are in school, events that take place during the day are off the table. Plus there’s the daily commute.
All of this adds stress to your work-life balance. But when you freelance, there are more opportunities for flexibility. You can craft your own schedule, whether that means waking up at 5 a.m. to begin working on projects, taking a break to drive the kids to school and then finishing your work in time for dinner with your family or working into the night and catching up on sleep while everyone’s out for the day.
Imagine being able to take your children to checkups and doctors’ appointments — or care for them when they’re home sick from school — without having to stress over the logistics. And you won’t have to miss important milestones just because of unforgiving work schedules.
While many freelancers may still rely on child care some of the time, the flexibility this career style offers means you don’t have to think before choosing to be there for your family when they need you.
Managing the Challenges of Freelancing
Even with these benefits, starting a family as a freelancer does come with its difficulties.
There’s no paid leave, maternity leave or sick days when you freelance, and you don’t get employer benefits like health insurance (unless you have a partner who has it). Instead, you’re stuck self-funding all of these things, which means you need enough savings to cover your monthly expenses when you can’t work or when work has dried up — not to mention absorbing those expenses that are called “unexpected” but seem to crop up just when you’ve recovered from the last one.
The feast-or-famine cycle, unsteady income and lack of job security that can come with freelancing are tough to juggle while also supporting a new or growing family. Worrying about keeping your children’s health insured on top of it all doesn’t help, either. This is why it’s important to understand your range of options.
Health Insurance for Freelancers
Whether you receive your primary health insurance through the individual marketplace, your partner’s plan or a professional association, you might need help filling in gaps that could put a serious strain on you and your family. Here are two supplemental plan options to consider.
- Disability insurance: Disability insurance offers a weekly cash benefit for several months when you’re out of work due to an illness or injury. Some plans also offer a pregnancy benefit, which can help cover some of your maternity costs. You can use these benefits to pay for household expenses and other bills while you’re unable to work.
- Critical illness insurance: Critical illness insurance also provides a cash benefit to help you cover expenses if you’re diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and are out of work for an extended period.
Of course, no one wants to imagine the worst. But setting up the right insurance policies before you actually need them can ensure that your family won’t go financially unsupported if you can’t generate income for several months or even longer.
Starting a family as a freelancer certainly does come with its share of challenges. But ask most freelancers and they’ll say the rewards outweigh the risks. As long as you keep your bases covered, the flexibility and control you have over your time while raising your young family are benefits most employers can never match.