I have been my own boss since four years ago from the time Uri was born. Well, technically this isn’t true, because I still work for other people who pay me to do some work for them, but essentially it is, because I work on my own time outside the 8 to 5, 5-day workweek predicament that most working people are in.
Everybody knows that it takes a great deal of personal motivational energy to be successful at freelance work. Considering that I suck at meeting deadlines and managing my time well, it’s a surprise I’ve managed to keep afloat on a freelancer’s boat this long. Sheer talent, perhaps? I’m lucky that I’m actually good at what I do which is why people still hire me. If there’s anything consistent with my highly inconsistent lifestyle, it’s got to be the quality of work that I put in. I like what I do that’s why I’m good at it period.
I’m a farmer’s wife and a mother of two boys. There’s more to my life than just earning a living. While I run a household, see to it that bills get paid and hungry mouths get fed, I also have things that I want to do outside family and livelihood, like blogging and volunteer work for some organizations. And yes, I manage to do most if not all of them, ON MY OWN TIME.
I have a few tips under my sleeve that I would like to share. Some of them help me go through a lot my tasks in a breeze. And these tips are not just for freelancers, they’re for anybody who want to make more out of the time they have on their hands.
1. Get a husband.
I’m serious. My husband is one of my best kept secrets. He is my real partner, be it in child rearing, housework and non-housework. He cooks when I could not stand up from my desk because of a deadline or fetches Ari from school if I have to be somewhere else or lends me money when I’m short. He perfectly complements my work/lifestyle and I try to do the same for him.
It pays to realize and admit that one is not a superhero to be able to do everything that needs to be done. For a time I actually thought I was one, doing the laundry, ironing clothes, cooking, cleaning the house, bathing the kids all while doing work. But we had househelp for godsake and other people whom I can ask or hire to do some of these things for us. And at times, they do a hell of a better job than we could have. We can actually pay people to cut the grass at the farm so we could focus instead on planting and harvest. We can buy dinner at a nearby food stall so we don’t need to cook too many times in a day (saving on energy as well). I can pay people to transcribe media files for me so I could focus on writing and editing content.
Even in the kind of work I have, a lot of the things I do are still routine. Checking emails, doing research, citing references, submitting output. That is in addition to my other regular activities outside work, like cooking, doing the laundry, preparing worksheets for my kids, leisurely reading, watching my favorite telenovela. It pays to develop a self-imposed schedule and abide by it. It doesn’t have to be a rigid list of things to do by the hour, but just general guidelines on which activities can be done at certain parts of the day.
For example, I only check emails in the morning when I first turn on my computer, and again in the late afternoon or evening before I turn it off. If I don’t have any work-related emails, I only spend 15 minutes tops online. On some days, I even refuse to go online. I also devote my mornings for research, and afternoons (which are longer) for writing. I also squeeze in some gardening activities in between writing tasks so I avoid getting a migraine from being at the computer for too long. Evenings are for watching TV or movies with the kids, and sending them to bed, unless I have a tight deadline that leaves me working til late. Weekend mornings are for house chores, and my free afternoons are always devoted for farmwork. This way, it is easy to approximate how many days are needed to finish a certain task and allocate ample time for it, rather than saying I’ll work on this task this particular day but end up not finishing it and missing the deadline altogether.
No matter how exciting work can get, there will be times (many times) that working will just suck. It is on these times that you need to give yourself a break, refresh your mind so you can be more productive and put in a better output so you can feel good about yourself and your work. I take a shower before I write. Sometimes I don a more formal attire even if I’m just working at home, just to get me on work mode. I do simple gardening tasks in between writing, so I can rest my eyes and my brain for a while, while the long to-do list on my garden journal gets ticked out one by one. I have a quick cup of coffee with my husband before he goes to the farm. Or have a quick chat with the kids when they get home from school. This last one let’s me have a break, some precious family bonding moment, and improve my kids’ retention all at the same time.
Working on your own, and making sure that you’re getting the job done takes a bit of getting used to. Past mistakes had been responsible for the kind of work attitude I have now. I could only be thankful for the many deadlines I missed before, and the consequences of all those late output, that I am now a more reliable and professional freelancer. Even those that I have worked with before, and worked again now, could tell the difference.