Every day I’m hustlin’

I’ve had my nose to the grind for the past couple weeks. I’ve been writing, editing and planning non-stop. During nap time, after the babies hit the sack, when the sitter is here.

It’s time to rest for now. I’ve just wrapped up a ton of content for one of my projects, I’ve got my action plan in place for another, El Hombre ran out and the kids are still napping. I’m set to finish a ton of work in the next two weeks and then take a break for a week (as much as any freelancer can take a break that is).

Now I’m daydreaming of crisp mountain air, being outside in tolerable heat and exploring. We head to Colorado in two weeks and I’m ready for a change of pace. I’m excited to be outside without feeing smothered by humidity. I’m nervous about two wriggly babies on a 4.5 hour flight.

This is why I freelance… to be able to strike out on adventures when we want to. When you can work from where ever, and whenever it opens up the world. It allows you to meet new people, to forge new relationships (which can lead to more business) and open up your worldview. I never feel more creative than when I get a different perspective and there’s nothing like travel to spark that fire.

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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.”

That freelance life

I’m 10 months into this whole parent adventure and five months into the remote/contract/freelance world. To say that it’s an adjustment is putting it lightly. I knew that there’s some grit that goes into working for yourself, but what a rollercoaster!

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I feel that this is definitely my path right now, but the learning curve is real, people. Now that I’m getting into my groove with this, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about my experience thus far.

The struggle’s with working from home with kids

I am pretty disciplined and routine-oriented. However Z & E haven’t clung to a routine until recently, so the whole “work/nap/cook/live your life while they nap” concept has been non-existent.

I also have a sitter, because anyone who says you can work with two babies at home is either a liar or a superhuman. But occasionally I get a meeting scheduled when I don’t have my sitter and the girls are awake. Which results in conference calls with babies peeking over my shoulder, screaming hysterically and/or trying to attack the phone or computer.

Professional Self-care

Part of the reason I started my freelance career now (versus a few years from now) is because I wanted to keep my brain active in my industry. But at times I’ve felt that I’ve picked up more than I can chew, so I found myself sacrificing my time for myself (what little I have) to finish work.

Once I came to this realization, I’ve adopted the attitude that I need to treat myself like my best client. If I let myself go then it trickles down into my family and my work and that’s a spiral that’s best avoided.

My goal is to focus on building my own brand a little bit at a time. This way, as I inch closer to freelancing full-time, I have a name built for myself outside of my former professional contacts.

The thrills of freelancing

One of the reasons I left my last job was lack of inspiration. I loved the people I worked for but my career path was not one I wanted to continue. I knew I wanted to eventually work for myself so I saved up along the way so that I could give this whole freelance thing a go.

While it sometimes gets overwhelming, there’s something so satisfying about working on projects and campaigns that I’m passionate about. I also contend that there’s nothing more exciting than working for clients who are passionate about their business and excited to make their business grow. Call me a nerd, but I love leaving strategy meetings with the feeling of excitement.

Being accountable for your own success

I’ve been managing clients, campaigns and projects for years now. But I’ve never managed my own business. Because we’d planned for this, I’m fortunate that I can be choosy when it comes to who I work for and what I work on. Long story short, I am only working on projects that are exciting – either in terms of the business or how it gets marketed, clients that are passionate about their business and view me as a team member.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Even in my short time, I already recognize that not every project is the right project. Part of being accountable for my own success involves stepping back and away from a project for the good of myself and/or for the client. It’s not easy, but these conversations need to happen for the best of the relationship.

For those other WFH momtrepreneurs, how have you found your experience?

Working from home

Before I deleted facebook, I had a few different people ask me for recommendations regarding working from home. You see, even without kids around, working from home is a bit more challenging than it sounds.

If you’ve ever tried it, you know what I’m talking about. The temptations abound. “I’ve got to send this email, but first let me do the dishes…” three hours later you realize, “oh shit! I forgot about…”

Many people will tell you how great working from home is, but once you dive deeper, they admit that the lines between personal space and work space start to blur after awhile.  Knowing this, and having taken the opportunity to work from home whilst working for “the man” at previous jobs, this is what I found worked for me:

Establish a work space. Currently I work from my kitchen, but until I could focus, I worked from our office area. Both my husband and I found that putting the desk against a wall with minimal decor has been helpful because it provides enough visual interest without visual distraction. I recommend finding a place in your home that also has the right amount of (or absence of) noise. I can’t work in dead silence or extremely loud spaces. I eventually moved in to my kitchen space because I get the noise from our AC unit, which is just the right amount of even, quiet noise.

Establish a schedule. Since I only work part-time, I set reminders in my phone to do things like check in on projects at a certain time every day. This way I know generally when I need to feed myself and the kiddos. It’s also forced  me into a routine with the girls, which is always a good thing. I also have a general schedule for when I do stuff around the house vs. work.

Make a list. I keep physical lists of things I need to do for work, home and myself. I keep these lists right next to my computer because this is how I’ve always worked and it works for me. Other people integrate their lists on their phones or computers. I happen to like the satisfaction of crossing things off. It helps me understand how much I have left to do in a week, and how much I’ve accomplished.

Establish a break area. This is something I always advocate for – no matter where you work or how much you work. El Hombre has put a lot of love into our patios, and when I need to take a minute or two for myself, I hop outside for a deep breath of fresh air and sunshine. Even if I’m not working that day and the girls are fussy, I find myself taking a break outside. It’s never a bad thing to refresh your mind sometimes.

Set boundaries. If you work from home, your lines tend to blur between work life and personal life. Unlike an office, you never really leave so you find yourself checking emails, etc. at all hours. Make a commitment to get your work done within a given period of time and then “clock out.”