Why self-employed parents prefer a variety of jobs

Nan Sheppard Purbeck Art Week

One of the reasons why freelancing is so popular among self-employed parents, is because it allows a great deal of work flexibility around the family.

This also allows the freedom to take on a number of smaller jobs in between projects, or run other business opportunities alongside, commonly referred to as portfolio careers.

I’ve written about this topic before, when I interviewed Publishing Consultant Natalie Wills, who also happens to run a Health & Beauty Business.

This time, I caught up with WYW community member, Nan Sheppard, a freelance writer and editor with a varied career of her own.

Here’s the interview.  Enjoy!


Nan, tell me a little about your working career now.

I’m a freelance writer with a background in art and social work.

Educating and encouraging families is rewarding for me, so when I write positive features for parenting magazines or science columns for children, I get that happy buzz!  I’m also a photographer, editor, artist and admin whiz.

Sometimes I joke that I have a varied career portfolio because I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up. This makes my teenagers roll their eyes. They think they’ve got it all figured out. I thought I had my life plan sorted too, when I became a mum, but luckily I was flexible enough to see that my plan had to evolve.

I was fortunate to have a successful art business while juggling three energetic little boys. As the boys got older, I took to blogging, and found that writing could be a business too.

Meanwhile, I became interested in supporting families, and did social work in Trinidad for seven years. Now I can see that so much of what I have done already can be applied to the ideas I am working on now and my plan for the future.


What do you particularly enjoy about the way you work now? Are there any challenges?

“So what do you do?” is always a fun question. In the old days, people would get a glazed look when I tried to explain, and I felt flaky.

But nowadays a portfolio career is much more commonplace, and even admired. No-one has kindly suggested I get a ‘Real Job’ in ages. I love being able to re-define my creative direction. I try to be of use when I see a need. And I am always reading, going to lectures, and adding to my information base. I have too many books, that’s a challenge!

But I suppose the greatest challenge is balancing my career and creative needs with the needs of my family. Small children need pretty full-on attention, and giving it to them is a wise investment.

Now, my kids are more independent teens but more expensive, so I work some jobs that are steady and boring, like admin, just to keep a precise paycheck coming in.

One day, my parents may need me closer.

With the wonderful changes in the way people work now, and the connectivity we have thanks to the internet, and my love of travel, people and freelancing; I think the future looks interesting.

This motivates me to keep growing.

Nan Sheppard


Ed’s note: Nan’s experience shows just how well a portfolio career can work in practice and how you can successfully juggle completely different careers. Often, though, the challenge is in learning how to market yourself effectively and how to play to your strengths. If you need help and direction with your marketing goals, give me a call. Lets talk.


You can follow Nan’s blog, “Things I’ve Found In Pockets” at  www.thingsivefoundinpockets.com/ or follow Nan by Twitter @NanSheppard


I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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