Chicago – Most everyone dreams of finding the perfect balance between work and family.
BYU graduate and free-lance writer David Stuart has done just that.
Set up in his house in a northern suburb of Chicago, Stuart is a work-at-home writer, husband, and father. He enjoys afternoon naps and even occasionally catching the afternoon matinee with his wife.
“Family first-it’s the only thing that works,” he said.
Stuart said he loves working for himself. Being his own boss allows him to set his hours and make time for the family.
His daughter Sarah, a senior at BYU majoring in print journalism, also appreciates the amount of time that her dad has been able to give to the family since he stopped working for outside firms and moved his business to home.
“It makes him more involved,” she said. “He’s more family-oriented than when he was working 60 hours a week out-of-home.”
Stuart said it was his son’s health that led him to seek an employment that would allow him to balance family and work.
Stuart and his wife Katina have two children. Sarah is currently a student at BYU. Their 16-year-old son Davey is living at a special institution in Wichita, Kansas for youth with multiple handicaps.
“With our son, it requires a lot from everybody just to keep the whole world from flying apart,” Stuart said.
Working for someone else required too much time and traveling to dedicate the care required for his family, said Stuart. With his self-set schedule, Stuart and his wife can leave Chicago frequently to visit their son.
Stuart’s work entails writing employee benefits, press releases, marketing, and web content development for corporations as large as Kraft and Arthur Anderson as well as several small firms.
Stuart said he really can’t describe an average workday.
“That’s part of the fun,” he said. “There is no typical day.”
Stuart did not always plan to be a writer. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language at BYU.
How did this Spanish and ESL graduate end up working as a writer?
Fresh out of college, Stuart worked as an intern for BYU publications. He says he discovered he really enjoyed writing and the fast pace of publications.
After eight years of working in several small firms for book and magazine publishing, Stuart worked for Hewitt Associates in the Communications Group for nine more years writing employee benefits.
“Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?” Stuart said. “But it pays more because it’s technical writing.”
Finally Stuart was ready to go and work on his own. Sarah says it has had a positive effect on the whole family.
“When Dad is more relaxed it has a ripple effect on the rest of the family,” she said.
If he’s had a stressful commute, he carries the tension home with him, Sarah said.
Now, you really can’t beat the morning commute from his bedroom to his in-house office, she said.
“I would have a hard time working again for someone else.” Stuart said. “I think I’m spoiled.”
One of the aspects he loves most about working for himself is the flexibility. He said he decides when he works, how he works, for whom he works and what he does.
Stuart finds that the money he earns reflects the amount of time he puts in, as opposed to working for a firm where the salary is set whether one works extra or minimal hours.
“I am making more than double what I made when I was in consulting,” he said.
Despite the ideal “work less, earn more” scenario, working independently is not without its drawbacks.
Stuart says he has to deal with a feeling of isolation. He can go weeks without seeing the face of a client because most of his contacts are done over the phone.
“It can get lonely,” Stuart said.
He misses walking down the hallway to bounce ideas off co-workers.
Other challenges include expensive health insurance and unpredictable cash flow. He must anticipate that some clients can go months without paying. Stuart must constantly be networking and selling his work to clients and be prepared for the dry season of work.
“A few times a year, I panic and say ‘Oh, no! I’ll have to work for someone else,” said Stuart.
But despite challenges he finds the way to make ends meet. He said the secret is to stay in touch with people.
Although Stuart must admit that it isn’t always easy, working for himself has been a wonderful move for his family.
“It’s been a real blessing,” Stuart says.