Honest: Frankie Tortora – Freelancing, Babies and Maternity Allowance
Tell us a bit about what you do…
I am a freelance graphic designer and I’ve been trading for 6 years. I was freelancing for some time before I had kids. When I had my son, I was meeting a lot of parents who had good maternity packages, but that wasn’t me. I was craving to meet people like me who were working for themselves or freelancing. I now have two children: a son who is 3 and a daughter who is 10 weeks. It was an interesting journey having children and freelancing, especially with maternity allowance, the impact on your income, and I had a bit of a rough birth.
During this time, I needed to find people that would understand, so I started an online Facebook community – Doing It For the Kids, an online community allowing freelancing parents to ask questions, share experiences and make genuine connections and friends.
Why did you decide to freelance?
All my family are self-employed so it’s partly in my blood. I was initially working for the BBC and was becoming increasingly frustrated facilitating other people’s creativity. The opportunity for redundancy came up, as my team was relocating to Manchester, so I took the redundancy. My sister kept encouraging me, saying that I needed to make stuff. Using the redundancy money I enrolled in a course and had a little bit of money left over to allow me to take the risk. I gave the business 6 months to see if it could survive. And it did.
I wasn’t really thinking about children at the time, but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that if we did have a family I would like to have something where I could work around children.
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Did you financially plan for children?
No, not really. I actually had a chat with a pregnant lady before I had kids and she told me there’s never a good time to have a baby. She was right. I really don’t think people would have kids if they planned it all financially. On some level you have to just go for it, if it’s within your comfort zone.
What would you do differently?
A lot of things. I had no money whilst on maternity leave, all of my maternity allowance went towards paying our bills and we ran up some debts. But I needed the time off to recover. Thinking about it, I would have made an effort to save more or be a bit smarter with my money. It would have definitely helped with my stress level whilst on leave.
Here’s some wisdom: don’t be afraid to get childcare if you are working for yourself, to give you the time to really work on your business. It can be possible to work around your children, but depending on the nature of your business it can be very hard. Childcare ultimately buys you time to work on your business, and childcare can be all sorts of things, it could be family, or a childminder. Nursery isn’t the only option.
How did you find the process of applying for maternity allowance?
With my son in 2015 it was a dream. Currently, due to C2 National insurance it means you are always behind on National Insurance payments and technically owe HMRC money. The second time around it took a lot longer due to the communication lag between HMRC and DWP. Based on this new system it can take approximately 60 days to get your Maternity Allowance which is cutting it fine, given that you can only apply from week 26. It’s a shame because this delay means that some people are not even bothering to apply. What I’ve since learnt is that you can go ahead and apply for your Maternity Allowance to give you a higher rate and then take out any National Insurance that you owe from your first payment.
Check out our guide to Maternity Allowance to help you with all you need to know.