How to Manage Time While Learning To Code

by Joyce Akiko

Sarah is a homeschooling mom of four by day and a freelance web developer by night. Today she gives us specific tips on how to manage your time while juggling a million things and still learning to code!

J: Hi, welcome to Q&A Mondays. I’m Joyce Akiko from where we answer questions from self-taught Coders who want to leave their full time jobs and break into freelancing so they can work for themselves and experience freedom and flexibility every day.

J: Hi Sarah, and thank you for joining us today.

S: Hi, thanks for having me.

J: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got started coding and when and why.

S: Alright, I think it’s interesting that I’m on a podcast because the way I heard about coding and the need for coders was on a podcast.

I was just in the car and listening to a podcast I recently subscribed to, I can’t even remember the name of, and I heard them talking to Adda from SkillCrush.

J: Oh yeah!

S: She was just inspiring and I thought, I’ve got to check this out. I’ve got to find out what this is about.

J: Oh, I love that, very cool. Adda is very inspiring.

S: She is, she’s amazing.

J: So what were your first steps in starting to learn how to code?

S: I actually knew a tiny bit of HTML and CSS from back a million years ago.

I had gotten a free website with my internet account and so I put up a little website and I was recently married and had a baby and wanted to put up pictures, be able to show my family.

I had put up a little something and life got busy so I didn’t have time for that anymore.

But after hearing Adda and going to check out the SkillCrush website they had a class, this was before the blueprints. They had a class for doing HTML and CSS, and I thought well I should brush up.

So that’s what I went to do, I did that class and then I think it was either shortly after I finished or before I had finished there was the blueprint announcement and they had the web developer blueprint and the web designer, and I liked to code part of it more than the design part so I decided to take that one.

My next class to take anyway was going to be JavaScript and it had JavaScript in it.

J: Got it, very cool.

So you do some freelancing and I hear you’re also a homeschooler of four children. Can you tell us about that?

S: Yeah, my first was born 14 years ago and I have three more, my youngest is two. We have homeschooled from the beginning. The freelancing happens in the evenings or on my days off or occasionally if they’re doing some assignment on their own. That’s my full time job, the homeschooling with the kids. The freelancing is more of a part time thing.

J: Very cool. Do you have any tips on sort of managing your time for somebody who has an extremely full plate?

S: I do, first of all we’re on a pretty tight schedule here.

We have to be up by a certain time, we have to move from topic to topic pretty quickly. We homeschool five days a week 365 days a year, so we don’t have to do the same kind of 8 hour days but we have to get through our topics pretty quickly and then the kids can do their own work and I can do the other things that need to be done around the house, plus everybody helps around with household responsibilities and meal preparations and stuff like that.

But then there are lots of field trips and lots of park days and playdates, so it seems like we’re constantly going places. That can be the biggest stretch on time management is making sure that we’re home to do what we need to do.

J: And that includes the freelancing?

S: Yeah, that includes the freelancing, but for the most part that really is in the evenings. My husband will be off work and then it’s your mom has to go code now so you need to come to me for whatever you need.

J: How great, so you can lean on him?

S: Yeah, he actually works from home so there’s no commuting time, it’s just knock on the office door and make him come and help.

J: I love that, that’s so cool that you have someone that you can lean on like that, especially with all those responsibilities.

S: He is definitely a big part of this.

J: So how do you specifically sort of carve out the time that you know you’re going to freelance.

If you have client work coming up and you know it’s going to take this much time, do you schedule it in advance? What do you do to sort of project manage your work?

S: Well the kids are all off to bed at a certain point and then — so that is definitely that time for me to work and I usually tell my clients it will be easier for me to work in the evenings so if you receive late emails from me just answer them in the morning and I’ll get to them the next day.

Also the weekend, our weekend is different than most people’s weekends. We have Thursdays and Fridays as our weekend, so that helps because then I can be available all day during the actual week.

Takeaway #1: When you have a busy life, carve out non-negotiable time on your calendar for learning to code

J: Oh, very cool.

S: : For most people. And then if I’m on a project, it depends, I try to keep it pretty laid back.

I have really great clients, I work with small businesses and they kind of understand.

I don’t hide anything, I do tell them what’s going on in my life so they know some days are going to be busier than others, but if I’m working on something and I have a deadline I tell the kids you’re going to have to do more of your own work so that I can do my thing.

J: That makes sense. How do you find your clients, is there a lot of word of mouth?

S: Yeah, it’s all been word of mouth.

I think I started out like everybody else where hey friend, do you want me to build a website for you?

In the homeschooling community maybe it’s like this everywhere, but in the homeschooling community there seems to be a lot of people who want to start businesses because they want to be with their kids.

So I have a lot of friends who are starting companies and they need a web presence, so I started that way, and then they get clients and their clients want to know who built their website or they tell their friends, and so that’s how it’s all been. From this point on I haven’t had any giant spaces of inactivity, even if I did I could redo my own website or learn the next new thing.

Takeaway #2: The best way to find freelance clients is through word of mouth and a good reputation

J: We find other projects to fill the time.

S: Exactly.

J: That makes complete sense.

Do you have any other tips to give around specifically time management or even just sort of juggling all these responsibilities?

S: I think it’s really important to have some time for yourself when you’re homeschooling and you’re working, even if it’s doing something that you love to do, you’re going to need some time to yourself.

One of the things that I do is I grab the remote for the TV and get on the treadmill and I watch an episode of my favorite show, or I’ll go outside and I’ll take a walk.

Sometimes I just have to go over to the closest coffee shop and sit down and have a cup of coffee, but you have to get out of the house, because when your husband works from home and you’re at home and you’re working from home, you’ve got to get out.

You have to leave every once in awhile, but I find it doesn’t take more than maybe an hour to reground myself and then I can come back, because this really is exactly what I want to be doing with my life. I want my kids around me, I want to work and code and build everybody websites.

Takeaway #3: Busy life = you need time for yourself. Find ways to keep it fun or you could risk burnout

J: I love that, that’s amazing. Can you tell us where to find you online?

S: Yeah, my website is and from there you can find me on Twitter, which is @codegreer, and also on LinkedIn is probably CodeGreer, too.

J: Perfect. Well thank you so much for all of the tips, the time, and for being here.

S: Thank you for having me.

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