with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
We talk a lot in freelancing about having the right tools for the trade. I have probably written more often here about having a proper office set up and doing data backups and finding the right computer than I should admit. And all of that is definitely important and worthy of discussion, absolutely.
We talk about having the right space to work in. The right technology at our disposal. The right mindset for establishing the boundaries around our work time. The right contacts, the right education, the right everything that directly facilitates our ability to get the job done.
There’s no question that freelancing requires an attention to detail that many of us never think about in the corporate world, because so much of that stuff is part and parcel of having a steady employer and a salaried position. And then occasionally we flip it around, and talk instead about “balance” and “self care” and the thing we must do apart from working to maintain our whole selves, rather than just our work selves.
But today I want to drop my chocolate in your peanut butter, as it were, and look at totally-non-work things which I feel have made me a better freelancer, by glorious happenstance.
(Please do bear in mind, as you read this, that I’m talking about me. I am not necessarily making recommendations for anyone else. I just think it’s interesting to acknowledge this stuff, and that it opens up the door to considering all sorts of things as beneficial contributions to your work day.)
1) Having a dog. Okay; I admit that I am nothing if not overly attached to my pup. It’s true. She has me wrapped around her little claw. But I can say without hesitation that she has greatly improved the quality of my work day. You know how you’re supposed to stop and stretch every hour if you work at a desk? I’ve known that for years, of course, but never did it until Licorice joined the family. Now I’m much more likely to push back and take a few minutes either take her outside or throw a ball or whatever. Furthermore, she’s my own personal stress reducer. There’s very little in the way of aggravation that a couple of minutes with her on my lap doesn’t fix.
2) Taking an early-morning walk. I’ve been struggling for years to establish a regular exercise routine, and I succeed and then slack off and get back on track and lapse again. Over and over. Right now I am walking my son to school pretty regularly, and… I love it. When I come in from a walk I’m more alert, I feel better, and—unlike riding my elliptical or doing a workout DVD—I feel refreshed rather than exhausted. I plan to continue being a card-carrying member of the Exercise For The Sake Of Exercise Is Dumb club, but it’s hard to argue with the productivity increase I’m having.
3) Having children. I am not saying you can’t be a good freelancer if you’re not a parent. What I am saying is that for me being a parent is invaluable to my freelancing career. Does it give me special insight? More compassion? Parenting skills that translate, somehow, to the work I do for my clients? Nope. It gives me large chunks of time when I simply cannot work; I have to devote time to my kids, and they often cannot take “no” for an answer (because they have appointments, need rides, need help with homework, etc.). For me, this is the difference between maintaining balance in my life and working myself to death. Seriously. They play a huge part in forcing me to step away from work, which not only makes my life as a whole better, it makes my work better, too.
4) Keeping my work schedule light on Fridays. I work on the weekends. Not as much as I used to, but I do. The quality of my life—and my general level of contentment—were much improved by the decision to only schedule half a day’s worth of work on Fridays. I use my “spare” time to go out to lunch with a friend, run errands, read a book… whatever I feel like. Because I have a family, I get more “me time” out of my half-day of hooky on Friday than I would out of declaring half of Saturday, say, work-free. Again, this is about balance. This is about staking out time for me that isn’t about work. And that means there is more (calmer, happier, more focused) me available for work, too.
I could be—and have been, in the past—a good freelancer without any of these things. But I firmly believe each of them contributes maybe more than I even realize to my success, today.
What makes you a better freelancer, that you’ll never see on one of those “do this” sorts of checklists?
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