Amaro e Dolce

Life, unfiltered


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Working Wednesday: the ebbs and flows

Freelancing is scary to a lot of people because there’s no guarantee that you get a consistent paycheck. Sometimes work is slow, and sometimes work is fast. For the past few months I’ve been running close to idle at times. Granted, being idle was somewhat by design (or as idle as any working mother with twins can be!) but none the less, I was starting to get a bit antsy. I was also starting to question whether freelancing was the right choice.

Then things started to shift. In the past few weeks, leads started coming in and my clients started ramping up. I’m not sure where it’s coming from because I am not out, hard selling people. But I am talking to my contacts more frequently than I ever did, sitting miserably in a cubicle.

If my workflow was ebbing earlier this year, it’s certainly flowing (almost overflowing) lately. And it’s awesome. It’s exciting. It’s humbling to know that people think of me when they think of hiring a contractor. These feelings are what keeps freelancers going.

Today I turned to El Hombre (who’s now being pulled in on certain projects) to tell him that I might seriously consider contracting out some of my colleagues, just to make sure I don’t overload myself. It’s such a gratifying feeling to know that at this stage in my life, I don’t have to consider going back into an office any time soon. Because that’s my goal for myself professionally. It’s our goal for ourselves, personally.

And that got me thinking. So many people say that they aren’t meant to sit in an office, yet they resentfully trudge to work every day. It doesn’t have to be like that.

I spent way too much time sitting in traffic, stressed, angry and upset to not consider walking this path. But I also wasn’t impulsive about it. I bounced the idea off El Hombre so many times that he eventually told me he didn’t want to hear about it if I wasn’t going to do it. He always supported me, but I was nervous. I kept worrying about whether I would be successful, whether I would make enough money. But then I realized – I made good money but I wasn’t happy. And one day I thought about it differently – what if I kept making enough money that I would keep justifying not being happy. That I would continue to justify spending the majority of my waking hours doing something that damaged my health from the insane amounts of stress. So I made a plan.

I started saving up. I cut expenses (which wasn’t hard – I basically went back to my life when I was crippled by student load debt) and I started chatting with people in my network who freelanced to get an idea of the highs and lows that I should expect

And then I made the leap. And it’s been worth every minute of it.


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Life, lately

How are we halfway through the year? How are my babies almost one? Why would I ever go back into a 9-5 setting?

These are the random thoughts that flitted through my head as I watched my girls giggle a play while cupping a warm mug of coffee between my hands and listening to it rain.

I’ve heard that once you have kids, the days go by slowly and the years fly. It’s true. But I think that’s more than just having kids, it’s life. And these are the things that I’ve been contemplating lately. Particularly as it involves how I spend my waking hours.

Sometimes I feel like I never unplug. Working from home does that to you because there’s not a clear delineation between work and home. But unlike before I don’t resent it. Maybe it’s because I love my work, or because I am lucky to have awesome clients, but now I’m excited to plug in and work on things. Or perhaps it’s having adult conversations about something other than babies. It’s probably all of the above.

But as I listen to my friends complain about their jobs or sitting in traffic, I find myself regretting spending so much time and energy towards things that didn’t excite me. Now there’s a bit more risk, but it’s so worth it. And I’m pretty sure that now that I’m feeling so much more positive about that part of my life, the opportunities are starting to roll in. So thank you, Universe, for the affirmation!

 


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Working Wednesday – Client work

Clients. As freelancers, we need them. Some clients are great – they invigorate you. You leave meetings totally jazzed about upcoming work and challenges are exciting. I left a meeting with a client yesterday on top of the world. There’s a ton of work to do and it’s all stuff I love to do. When I got home, I immediately filled in El Hombre on what’s in the pipeline.

Other clients, well… Let’s just say that not all client relationships are a match made in heaven. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your client isn’t engaged – especially when you feel like there’s tons of potential. But like personal relationships, there’s not always a spark.

A few weeks ago, I talked about my clients being one of the things that keep me up at night. Specifically, whether I am happy with my clients and whether they are happy with me.  As someone who’s worked in the client world for almost a decade, you come to trust your instincts on these things, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder.

These are my top three warning signs that signal when clients may not be happy:

  • Are my clients less responsive than usual? If they are less responsive and they aren’t traveling or up against a deadline, this is usually a sign that they might be shopping around.
  • Are my clients enthusiastic about new ideas or do they propose new projects?
  • Is conversation stilted or awkward? Has familiarity been lost in email conversations?

So what do you do when clients aren’t happy?

  • Schedule an in-person meeting or go to coffee. I work remotely for the majority of the time, but there’s nothing like face time. It’s my number one way to reconnect – we tend to hide behind computers and phones, and so much gets lost in translation.
  • Provide extra data or analytics, if possible.
  • Let it go. Sometimes the best thing to do is part ways. If this is the case, I always recommend providing a wind-down period. Sometimes there’s changes in budgets or priorities with the client. By bowing out gracefully, you leave the door open for future work.


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Working Wednesdays: Picking the right client (or job)

We’ve all been there or some form or another – after sitting down with someone to talk about potential work, the offer comes through. But is it the right offer? Should I take it?

In some cases you jive with your potential client (or boss) and there’s no hesitation.

But in many cases, there is that pause. Maybe it’s because the offer isn’t enticing enough – but often it’s because some nagging voice in the back of your head is whispering that it’s not the right fit. I’ve made that mistake – both in my freelance career and the corporate world – enough times to know that I should follow my instincts and decline the opportunity.

As you find your footing in a new venture, like freelancing, it’s tempting to take any work that comes your way. But there’s a danger in this – you might pick up something that becomes toxic, you may burn through a lot of time on projects that can’t be used in a portfolio, or you may end up generally unhappy with the work you agreed to.

So how do you avoid picking up the wrong clients or taking the wrong job offer?

These are the questions that I ask myself, and if the answers to any of these questions are no, then I decline:

  • Is this the right type of working environment for me? I know myself well enough to know that I like a fast-paced, start-up environment where I wear many hats. But if the organization isn’t operationally sound, I don’t do well.
  • Does my work philosophy align with the company’s?
  • Are there open communications across teams and with the person I report to?
  • Do I like the type of work that’s being offered?
  • Will this help me grow professionally and/or add to my portfolio?
  • Do I think the compensation is fair for the type of work I’d be doing?
  • Can I work remotely? If I have to be in an office for part of the time, can I handle the commute?

Because my husband and I are both building up our businesses as contractors/freelancers, we both occasionally get tempted by positions that have good pay. When either of us feels like there’s hesitation, we refocus on looking at both short-term and long-term goals to prevent ourselves from making that emotional decision.


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Freelancing – what keeps me up at night

I started freelancing about 6 months ago. As I delve more into the world of self-employment and working with different clients, I find that the things I focus on are slowly starting to change.

Oddly enough, money is not one of these things. Some months I don’t net any profit and others I do. I don’t worry about this because I know it takes awhile to be consistently profitable and I know that, to some degree, the amount of work that I take on will vary based on my client’s needs.

Instead, I find myself dwelling on other, less concrete concerns. Addressing these things directly tends to help me relieve my anxiety, and the more I talk to other freelancers, the more I learn that these are common things to worry about.

So what kind of worries are keeping me up at night? Here are the main ones:

  • Am I picking up the right kind of work and the right kind of clients?
  • Are my clients satisfied?
    • If not, what should I do about it?
    • If so, can I do more? Should I do more?
  • Am I satisfied with my current clients?
    • If not, what can I do to improve this situation?
  • Am I picking up the right amount of work? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?
  • As I work to take care of everyone and everything else, am I taking care of myself?
  • Am I keeping a firm line between personal and professional brain space?

As I look at this list and talk to others, I think there’s so much value in talking through how we overcome these worries. So over the next few months I plan to talk a bit more about how I manage these things in a segment called “Working Wednesdays.”