Category: Freelance

So, You’re WFH Now…

Welcome, WFH virgins! Some of us have been here before, some of us live here permanently (s/o to Friend of the Blog Caitlin, full time freelance journalist who has already left you some fabulous ideas). Either way there are about to be a lot more of us in this together.

Chatting to my younger sister who is at university in Japan and dealing with an adjustment to remote schooling, she mentioned that she always thought working from home would be great but that it doesn’t suit her nearly as well as she thought it would. And I don’t blame her! Our society is still by and large not set up for flexible working, which requires different emotional and time management skills than the ubiquitous office or manufacturing structures which has defined lifestyles for the last two centuries.

Now, I happen to believe that while due entirely to cosmic circumstance, this moment can function as a social experiment for a lot of things and flexible working is one of them. If you believe, as I do, that it’s a cultural change we should make for more people to better enable working families to meet their commitments and to reconsider structures that have systemically penalized women, disabled or otherwise impaired people, and other groups, it’s on us all to make the experiment as successful as we can.

Here a few of the takeaways I picked up as a full time freelancer, who transitioned back to more typical office life and was increasingly moving into the “mobile/flexible” category before all of…this…happened.

Take sensible advantage of the situation. If you are working from home and need to be “live” from a certain time, make sure you’re meeting those commitments…but also let yourself hit the snooze alarm if you need it. Without a commute, it’s okay to allow that time to just be or to take longer with things that you usually rush in the morning. Just because you have more time doesn’t mean you need to fill it up immediately.

That being said, get up. Shower. Put on an outfit that isn’t pajamas. If you’re new to this it’s easy for your brain to confuse home time with leisure time, family time, or “me” time. You will have to train yourself to think in different ways about your usual surroundings, and psychological cues like putting on real clothes (instead of your weekend athleisure, flannel trousers, or other equivalent that you might typically wear in your off time) helps.

Caveat: it’s okay to occasionally break the above rule if it brings you pleasure.

Breaks are still important. In the same way that you need to make yourself a tea or coffee, walk to a cornershop for your lunch or snacks, linger at the water cooler with a colleague in order to stretch your legs or clear your head about a task or problem, the same goes when you’re WFH.

Your metrics are going to change. Some companies and organizations have made this leap long ago, but many others are still nervous or unconvinced about flexible working arrangements. Both employees and bosses have to communicate well and evaluate the metrics they use to measure output and manage their workforces. Measuring success by output or outcome, rather than physical presence is one metric, how and how often you check in with your team can be another. Change is okay, but be prepared to communicate through it.

Work best with music? Put it on. There are no colleagues to annoy or chide you.

While not relevant to the immediate present, don’t forget that WFH can also mean working from a coffee shop, a bookstore, or a library. When I was freelancing full time I found myself going stir crazy, sitting in the same chair at the same desk in the same TINY London apartment for months at a time. Working from different locations allowed me to vary things up while still putting myself in circumstances that facilitated my work. Libraries were my favorite, but I also used museum reading rooms and did coworking days with other freelance friends where we spent a day at one or the other’s house and enjoyed lunch and tea breaks together to break out the bursts of hours-long productivity! (Obviously in a pandemic, don’t do this! But at some point we will have to think beyond and after it and the tools and resources we build now may serve us a long while.)

Take your lunch. If you like to cook, use the kitchen to make yourself something nice, healthy, and fun.

Consider using website or app blocking tools to keep you from getting distracted – at least until you’ve developed the new self-discipline and mental redesign you need to do to separate your living time from your working time.

Go for a walk on your 15-minute break, especially if you have a neighborhood park or green space available to you. Or use it to run a sensible short errand. Our postal depot is a five minute walk from where I live and if I’m working from home I’m able to pick up or post packages.

 

What do you think, fellow freelance veterans? If you’ve worked from home, what worked for you? What would you recommend, or what advice do you think needs to be thrown out the window? 

The Picture of Success

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
― Albert Einstein

Once upon a time if you asked me to describe my dream house I’d have given you a roof to basement description of a three level red brick colonial (inspiration via Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia) with a massive lawn and back garden. If it was historic, so much the better. Nowadays, rereading that description, my reaction is a low whistle and the thought, “That sounds like a lot of work!” Growing up a military brat we moved every few years and seldom owned a house. We also didn’t have to put in the effort of maintaining several of our homes as government support services often did so when we lived in base housings. Even when growing up I also had the idea that I wanted to continue to live abroad and travel–what on earth would I do with a massive house in that case!

Not only does the vision no longer really appeal, but more recently I’ve recognize that the idea of a grand house was something more of a symbol for me than an actual goal. In some corner of my mind, the idea had developed that if I were “successful,” that’s the kind of house I’d live in.

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image via Death to the Stock Photo

We all have assumptions about, and unique frameworks for how we view personal success. Mine have shifted a bit over the years, and even now, having arrived in a relatively healthy place, I am constantly checking in with myself and my aspirations.

Jeff has a more financial view of success than I do, which makes a lot of sense to me. He works in and related to financial industries, there is a more traditional track of advancement in his line of work, and salary can be a good indicator of where a person is at in his or her career. It’s a simple but highly informative metric to him. On the other hand, I tend to think success in terms of achievement. This wasn’t always the case, when I was younger I framed the idea of success in certain status markers, like that big house I envisioned. I also used to  measure success by work I accomplish. On the surface this may sound much more zen than Jeff, but with my personality that can sometimes lead to bad health decisions (like burnout), hyper self criticism or other setbacks. I’ve done some pretty amazing things in terms of my writing, and yet some days (usually ones where pitches have been met with radio silence, I’ve lost a gig to a competitor, or I’m just feeling down about myself) I still have to remind myself that I’ve been able to support my family on writing for years, or achieved a byline that many can only dream of. Reframing success through the lens of achievement rather than how much work I’ve done in a given day has been a big breakthrough for me in the past year.

I’m open to the idea of my views shifting again in the future, goodness knows they’ve shifted in the past! I’d certainly like to make more money than I currently do, and perhaps shifting my mindset to a more quantifiable way of thinking for a time might be useful. I think it may even help me build the more long term financial mindset I’m working on. On the other hand, I think most of us have or know someone who has chased only money before and didn’t necessarily end up better off because of it.

What does success look like or mean to you?

Spending Diary Vol. 2

“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”
― Woody Allen, Without Feathers

After allowing ourselves to indulge last week, we put ourselves back on more typical austerity. Knowing I’m going to publish a full list of accountability each Saturday this month is an excellent tool to keep me frugal, even if it’s a lot more intimidating than I initially thought it would be to do (perhaps naively). Judgement and scrutiny, self inflicted or otherwise, is not fun to volunteer for. But still, expenses will happen. I knew I had a big yearly cost coming this week and so, anything not spent on groceries was basically restricted. It’s worth noting that my biggest drop of money was an automated payment that required precisely zero effort from me but still accounted for 60% of my spending, hence my query yesterday.

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Sunday
We made “brunch” at home, did some meal prep and a ton of chores to get set up for the week, and exercised. I also spent some time on writing projects, and exchanging emails with friends. I’m doing the Yoga Revolution program from Yoga With Adriene this month for my flexibility (and to tick off a goal!) which is free and available on YouTube. But it was time for the annual renewal payment of my professional site, which is an automated payment…so, without so much as lifting a finger…
Annual site renewal/hosting/domain fees: 75.00.

Monday
I headed into the city to work even though a Tube strike promised to make the commute a mess (previous strikes have resulted in me spending up to four hours a day on foot getting to and from a workspace) so I got up, packed a lunch, and got some mileage on my FitBit. It was a longer day that usual, but far from fatal. Unfortunately I’d snapped a cheap hair clip I use daily and so had to stop into Boots to replace it: 1.50

Tuesday
Ditto most of the above, minus any strike headaches and the need to replace things. Thank goodness. A no spend day.

Wednesday
No spend day again! I worked from home on a bunch of pitches in preparation for…

Thursday
I worked from a good friend’s office all day until meeting up with another friend and member of an editorial team for a magazine to pitch some collaboration ideas and content. It’s a great opportunity, so fingers crossed! We could only meet up in the evening and so had food together and split the bill.
Dinner meeting: 25.00 (paid in cash)

Friday
A couple of meetings today that required getting up and about the city but all my food prep was ready to cope, snacks included. I also landed a new gig with a great day rate, hurrah! Heading home and into the weekend I had to pick up a few things and, after reviewing our cupboards and budget, Jeff and I decided we could afford some pizza.
Groceries 10.oo
Takeaway dinner: 15.00

Saturday
We decided to make it a home day with chores, and so delayed renewing our travel cards and doing a full food shop until tomorrow, aka next week’s budget. Sneaky, but that’s three no spend days this week to counteract some freelance costs.

Total: 126.50

Emails With Friends: The Waiting Game

“I love how we are both so very quick to over-analyze silence. As if [agent’s] lack of check in email = so many rejections that she threw herself off the empire state building rather than even look at my email address again.”
“Wagner should have written some kind of opera about our writing emotional cycles.”
“DISSOLVE THE WORLD IN ASHES, I HAVE RECEIVED NO CALLS.”
“[sent gif below]”
“I am sipping red wine”
– Katarina and C.

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Finally Coming Up For Air

“All happiness depends on courage and work.”
― Honoré de Balzac

Hi, ducklings, I’m alive.

In October last year, I took stock of what I’d achieved with a year in London under my belt and what I wanted to do next. 2014 was my biggest freelance year to date, with my most notable bylines and highest amount earned thus far. But there are unique challenge to working for US clients while based in the UK (not least of which, the currency exchange), and so I decided to push hard to find some actual London based work.

I thought the process of finding opportunities would take a long time. It turned out to take less than a week. In late October I was interviewed for a temporary role as a Marketing and Sales Coordinator for a development firm here in London, and offered it less than 24 hours later. The 19th of December was supposed to be my last day, but they asked me to stick around through the new year, and last week, they officially hired me on in a long term capacity. I’m beyond thrilled to join the team I have, it’s an innovative, design-led company that’s in an exciting phase of expansion with some incredible projects and properties that make my nerdy little history heart flutter.

Nothing wrong with some Victorian chimneys and brickwork.
Nothing wrong with some Victorian chimneys and brickwork.

Some weeks I spend at my desk, organizing reports and spreadsheets, others I put on a hard had and boots and get to go through construction sites and protected historic buildings that we’re renovating and preserving (SO much better than tearing beautiful sites down), and yet others involve heels, LBDs, and events organizing. My baptism (by fire) into the company was throwing an event at Somerset House, a major venue in London, for nearly 80 VIP guests and two weeks to plan. The pace has largely kept up since.

And in the midst of this, I’ve maintained my freelancing. Meaning that after putting in at least nine hours in the main office, I’d come home to more work in the shape of freelance assignments.

Kittens, it’s been a bit brutal. When the most hard working and go-getter woman you’ve ever met says she’s worried about the pace you’re keeping, you know things are looking fairly grim. I literally worked myself sick at one point in January but with the new year (and its attendant rebrands, site overhauls, press releases, and projects) largely put to bed, I’ve been able to come up for air and have a look around. I know we’re a month into it, but consider this my glimpse ahead into the new year.

I’m on track to more than double our income.

We’ve paid off nearly half of our student loans.

We think we’ll be able to pay the other half off with one more year of hard work.

I’ve found the next step to take with my writing and marketing experience.

I finally have the space to work on my own writing projects for the first time in years.

Jeff’s nearly done with his exams.

Everything, as the kids say, is coming up Milhouse.

 

Friday Links

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
― Sun Tzu

It’s been a very busy week, ducklings, and I’m properly knackered.

The sort term gig I have picked up through the end of the year is to be an interim marketing and sales coordinator at a rather impressive property development firm in West London. I’m one week in and I’ve been lucky enough to be decently trained by the outgoing individual in order to get a good grasp on the company and projects. I’m also helping to organize an event that is costing more money than I think I see in a year on extremely short notice–leading to odd non sequitur exclamations like, “Do we have vodka?!” and “More black marble!”–but it’s a good chance to prove myself both competent and useful. I’m actually having a pretty great time!

In the meantime, this weekend will be filled with freelancing and dates with Jeff who is similarly in a crunch time at work, meaning that hangout time is a priority. It’s all things business at the Small Dog residence. Here are your links, kittens, and let me know what you’re doing this weekend in the comments.

IMG_2316

Just do it.

Interesting news piece and gallery on the history of mourning clothing.

Just saying.

Maps and the Roman empire. It’s like someone made a clickbait headline just for me!

After a big and rewarding but demanding week, this list perked me right up.

Very interesting piece on the history of the job role of an executioner and his/his family’s place in society. There’s more to it than meets the eye, apparently.

This needs to happen, Disney. Because if your face is wider than your waist, something is actively wrong.

Some people have too much money. This site (and this object) is a thing.

We need to take ALL the day trips.

Fascinating. (Incidentally, we’re right in the middle of cheap housing, thanks.)

My latest piece for The Collaboreat about my favorite London food truck. If you visit, assume that you will be taken to eat here.

Ballet across the last century.

Friday Links

“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club.”
― Jack London

Happy Halloween!

My life got extremely busy, extremely quickly the week. I just picked up a short term gig as a project and marketing assistant coordinator for a luxury retail design company–no exaggeration, Russian oligarchs may or may not be involved–and two temp assignments in my field over three days. I’m very pleased at the unexpected good fortune, just trying to schedule it all in. I also had a doctors appointment, a venue scouting, a creative onboarding meeting, and a mass of brand new freelance assignments all at pop up at once on my To Do list for tomorrow.

Translation? There is a pile of dishes in my sink that are just going to have to wait and heaven help the rest of the flat. Jeff’s right next to me in the weeds too, this week, and has been waking up a 5am to get some extra hours in at work. I foresee grumpiness until Sunday naps can rectify the situation. In the meantime, here are your links and let me know what you’re getting up to in the credits.

The goal is to avoid this fate.
The goal is to avoid this fate.

In honor of the day.

The 11th Duke of Marlborough passed away just a couple of weeks ago, which news caught my eye since we were so recently at Blenheim Palace, the Marlborough seat. Apparently the 12th Duke and his father had a major falling out (due to a rather public drug addiction issue and other problems) and steps were taken in the 1990s to make sure that though he gets the title, he isn’t entirely master of Blenheim. Who needs Downton Abbey, I ask you? Tatler has a look back at the 11th Duke’s admittedly full life.

Oh, for hell’s sake

Say it with me: freedom of religion does not mean the ability to force other people to conform to your religion. In fact, it’s kind of supposed to protect against that. This sort of new genuinely frightens me.

Shut up and take my money.

Interesting piece on my generation’s trend of not buying the things that our parents and grandparents considered necessities–and that traditionally pull nations out of Recessions. Truthfully, I don’t miss having a car at all and it will be years before we even think about the potential of buying instead of renting.