As a freelancer, you are probably no stranger to working from home. For years, this circumstance was just fine and dandy. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many companies and schools were forced to send their employees and students home in the name of social distancing and public health. Now, freelance writers with roommates and families are likely sharing a space, and making it work requires serious adjustments. If you live in a small house or apartment, the issue becomes even more complicated. [Read more…]
Longing for the freedom that comes with joining a freelance workforce? You are not alone – over 60% of office workers claim that they have considered leaving their current job for one that gives them the flexibility of working from home.
If you want to get beyond your commute like so many others have done and join the thousands of people who are building a freelance career while working from home, there are a number of aspects of the life of a freelancer that are important to know. [Read more…]
Bring up the topic of green living and people think recycling and light bulbs. These are, of course, important parts of caring for the environment, but they are not the only things each of us can do to save, reduce and reuse resources.
The office presents several opportunities to lessen our personal impact on the world around us.
- Cut back on paper use. Writer’s use a lot of paper, including to hand -edit pieces. That’s why it’s important to keep a bin next to the printer to deposit used paper. The paper is can be reused for back-side printing, notes, lists and coloring for the kids.
- Invest in recycled paper. Prices are now more reasonable than ever. Keep an eye out for sales at your favorite office supply store and stock up when possible.
- Digitize bills, bank statements, invoices, etc. Much of our waste and clutter problems stem from incoming mail that can easily switch to electronic files. Often companies will give consumers a discount for the switch from paper to electronic billing.
- Ban pesky receipts. There are several programs that allow you to digitize your receipts – my fave is Shoeboxed.com – eliminating the need to keep bunches of paper. Make sure any app or service you choose uses IRS approved methods.
Put your money in green – products and services. There is a huge variety of recycled goods on the market for offices including file folders, organizers, calendars, etc. A little bit of research will go a long way to find products that fit in tight budgets.
Product control also means controlling the amount of energy electronic products consume. A quick way to keep energy usage low – plug all of your electronic devices into a power strip. At night, hit the switch and cut phantom energy use!
- Reuse ink cartridges. Instead of tossing a spent cartridge have it refilled. When a cartridge can no longer be refilled, dispose of it properly. Use local cartridge recycling centers and many ‘big box’ stores provide the service, free of charge.
- Donate old goods and electronics. Much of the waste in our landfills is electronic waste and things that could be recycled. Both office furniture and electronic goods can be passed onto shelters and thrift stores. Electronics not in good condition can be dropped off at any electronic recycling operation. These centers repair, repurpose and properly dispose of the hazardous parts of our gadgets.
- Cut the flushes. If you work from home this item is easier to implement. Save water and resources by following the old adage “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” It’ll also save loads on your water bill!
It doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to change your office into a green one. It’s almost as easy as putting on a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” pin.
What tips do you have for greening up an office?
There are two sides to the writer debate – those who require certain comforts and those who can write in the middle of a toxic dump. I’d argue both types are just as likely to have hazardous work environments. Your office could be making you sick, or at the very least, decreasing your productivity. The good news is there simple way to creating a safe and healthy work environment.
1. Trouble in the Air
The information is scary: according to the August 2000 EPA Indoor Environments Division, Indoor Air Quality and Student Performance report, “Indoor air quality can reduce a person’s ability to perform specific mental tasks requiring concentration, calculation, or memory.” While this specific report discusses students in school, the same can be said for those who require mental acrobatics to earn a paycheck. The solution? [Read more…]
In order to encourage the freelancer writers in this community, I like to keep the tone light and positive. Though I don’t take the “in your face” approach to blogging, I’ll agree that there are plenty of times when freelance writes need to have the truth laid out for them in order to view all sides of the picture. With that in mind, I’d like to discuss some of the things that aren’t so pleasant and hopefully inspire struggling freelancers to re-evaluate their career choices and goals.
To be perfectly blunt, there are times freelance writers need a wake up call. If they’re struggling all day, every day, and no money is coming in, there’s something wrong. This doesn’t always mean they’re not in the right career, but oftentimes it does.
Let’s explore some of the reasons freelancers may want to reconsider their career choice, or, at the very least, come up with a new business or marketing plan. Most of us chose freelancing to have a positive experience, if that’s not happening some self and business evaluation is necessary. Struggling freelance writers would do well to explore the reasons behind their lack of success and decide what they’re going to do about it.
Here are a few situations when freelance writers need to rethink their strategy – and maybe even their career choice.
When they’ve been doing this for years and still earning $5 an hour
Simply put, freelancers need to profit from their work. Most of us think it’s nonsensical to put in a full day’s work and only receive enough in return to pay the bare minimum bills, if that. Indeed, in the “real world” we expect cost of living increases and the ability to put at least a little bit into savings. If you’re trying to make a living as a freelance writer but only barely earning pocket change, you need to rethink your earning strategy. Some writers feel the flexibility and work at home lifestyle are perks that make up for extremely low pay. Consider that eight hours of work is eight hours of work -regardless of whether you’re home or in an office. Your time is worth something. In order for our clients to value our time, WE need to value our time. The beautiful thing about freelance writing is that we don’t have an employer telling us how much we can earn, or how much of an increase we may (or may not) receive. We make our own rules, and that includes the amount we wish to receive per gig.
Wake up call: You’re not earning enough money…why is this? Is it because you’re not choosing the right kinds of clients or setting the right amount for your rates? As freelancers we should always make the choices that are best for us and our situations. However, if your freelance writing lifestyle isn’t contributing to a better situation, you need to analyze why. Sometimes it’s a simple as raising your rates, other times, it’s because you’re only focusing on entry level opportunities. Take a deep breath and make the changes that will enable your bank account to grow with your career. This can include a client overhaul, a new specialty, a new business plan and especially, a raise in rates.
When they’re receiving nothing but rejection
Nothing is more frustrating and disheartening than rejection. Usually our stock answer to freelance writers regarding rejection is to consider themselves in good company and remember it’s a way of life for this career. However, we can learn a lot from rejection. Sometimes an editor will add a useful note to a rejection letter telling us why we’re not a good fit and offering tips for submitting or applying again. Sometimes a second pair of eyes on our cover letters and writing samples tell us what we need to know too. When we receive rejection every time we apply and absolutely no one is biting, it might be more than a typo or a bad fit. I’m not one to tell people to give up, but no gigs after five years of trying might be telling you something.
Wake up call: If no one wants to hire you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you might not be a very good writer, but that might well be the case. I know writers who have applied to hundreds of jobs over several years and only find work paying small residual change for places without a strict acceptance policy. If this is you, consider whether or not you’re cut out for writing, or if this is the result you’re looking to achieve. If you belong to a writing community, ask trusted members to critique some of your best writing. I know it’s hard to hear criticism, but it’s often necessary in order to know what we’re doing wrong (and right.)
When all their spare time is spent working
There are two main reasons writers spend all day working. The first is because they love what they do and lose track of time. The other is that they’re trying to earn enough to make ends meet and the only way to do that is work 15 hours a day.. .and even that’s not enough. So now we have a problem, we work at home in order to have freedom, but we’re chained to our desks 80 hours a week. Is it worth it?
Wake up call: If you’re working all day because you want to earn $60,000 a year, you may want to rethink your approach. It’s one thing to work four to eight hours each day to earn that much, it’s another to spend every waking hour with low paying gigs in order to pay the bills. It’s time to work smarter not harder. Instead of taking a $7 project, find a similar project paying, say $30. Now you’re earning quadruple the rate and you can reach your goal income in less time. Every six months to a year, reassess your situation and see if you need to increase your rates again.
When they’re not happy
Damn it, it’s not enough to be “boss free.” Your happiness counts for something too. If you hate your job and hate writing, why are you doing it? It’s funny how we fantasize about leaving our office jobs but we’re much more hesitant to leave a work at home lifestyle because we don’t want to give up the flexibility. To be honest, I had more time when I worked in an office job because I left my job at 5:00 each day and didn’t go near it on the weekends.
Wake up call: Um, hello? When did your happiness become so insignificant? If you’re not enjoying yourself, explore why. Is it a particular client? Decide whether or not he’s replaceable. Is it because you don’t enjoy writing? Decide whether or not this is the career for you or consider other types of work from home opportunities. Is it because you’re lonely? Make sure to find time for friends and family. Go to lunch with “the girls” or have a movie night with your friends.
Understanding the Reasons Behind Your Lack of Success
Maybe other freelance writers can weigh in her too, but for me examining why I’m not a success always helps me to achieve success. Every now and then when I have a dry period of potential clients aren’t so receptive to my queries, I do a little analysis to see why. I go over my writing samples, cover letters and resume. Every now and then things need updating, you know?
Something else I learned is that a second set of eyes helps us to see what we’re missing. Understanding the reasons behind our lack of success will help us to determine whether or not we’re doing the right thing or going about things the right way. The important thing to remember is you’re not a failure if you decide this life isn’t for you.
We’re freelancers because we want to enjoy life. When we’re not happy or not successful we’re not enjoying anything.
What are some of the wake up calls you received regarding freelance writing? What did they tell you and what action did you take next?
I left my day job exactly 8 years ago to become a freelance writing WAHM. Prior to that I worked as a freelance writer for two years while still juggling a full time day job. Freelancing from both sides of the fence wasn’t always easy, especially when just starting out. Thankfully I worked hard and stuck with it. Thankfully, I was successful and didn’t have to return back to an office job.
Working at Home: It’s Not What You Think
In ten years time, I’ve seen many of my fellow WAHMs start a business but go back to full time outside of the home work because they weren’t succeeding, or the money wasn’t rolling in as much and as fast as they hoped. The truth is, this looks so easy and glamorous to the outside world. What can be more attractive than working from the back deck while sipping premium coffee as the youngsters run around?
Except that’s not a far picture of the WAHM lifestyle. Working at home involves actual work and very little of it is glamorous.
After building relationships with WAHMs over the past decade (and being one myself) I think I have some insight into why some of us succeed, or why some of us have to “go back to work.” I can tell you many of us didn’t expect it to be so lonely. Also, plenty of WAHMs found out they need to have other members of a team at hand to motivate them and keep them on task.
The truth is, there are many reasons WAHMs go back to their day jobs.
1. It’s Harder Than You Thought
Working at home isn’t easy. I’m not talking about the job itself, I’m talking about the physical act of working. At home. If there are kids in the house your attention is constantly being diverted in different directions. You’re constantly called on to open juice boxes, referee arguments and act as taxi driver for playdates and cheerleading practice. There are other distractions as well: lunch with the girls, Dr. Oz, the fridge…and the list goes on. Sitting down and completing one task at home is a rude awakening when compared to the ability to sit down and complete one task at an outside job.
2. You’re Lax in Your Habits
When you’re a WAHM there is no boss standing over you reminding you of project deadlines. There are no team members waiting on you to do your part. You’re accountable to you, and you only. When you’re a WAHM it’s easy to take sick days whenever you want or blow off work in favor for a day out on the beach or afternoon at the spa. Truthfully, the most successful WAHMs are those with the best working habits. They know they can enjoy down time, but they make sure all their commitments are complete before taking fun time. That isn’t to say that as WAHMs you can’t schedule fun time, just be sure to get your priorities straight.
3. You Have No Defined Path
Many WAHMs leave the traditional workplace wanting to work from home but not really sure of what kind of work to do. The choices are overwhelming. Should you write? Become a virtual assistant? Consult as a business coach? The most successful WAHMs know exactly what they will do before leaving their present job and research accordingly. They don’t quit a job and wonder what to do next.
4. You’re Looking to Earn Money Rather than Looking for a Job or Career
Many WAHMs aren’t necessarily looking to have a career. Rather, they want to earn money so they can contribute to the household while staying home with their kids. There’s nothing wrong with this until it leads to a lot of “here and there” earning. Instead of focusing on one particular avenue, some WAHMs simply take whatever pays. They’ll do party plans, residual writing, transcription and anything else where a mom can work at home. The problem is, all this piece mail working can lead to burnout. Scrambling to fulfill obligations from several different ventures diverts focus and procrastination sets in.
5. You Work Whenever
Another common issue among WAHMs is finding the time to work. Or, rather, finding the time to work without interruption. Just like taking piece mail jobs, working here and there throughout the day also diverts the focus. As mentioned above, it’s hard to pay attention to a task when attention is demanded elsewhere. It’s true not everyone has the time or means to work an eight hour day, undisturbed. However, even one or two quiet hours make a difference. Having regular business hours can help you — and others — respect your time.
6.You Don’t Take Your Clients (or Your Business) Seriously
Deadline. Schmedline. Your client will get his work when you’re good and ready. Cable outages, sick kids and Aunt Martha’s funeral are some of the excuses you use when not fulfilling your promises. Eventually though, clients stop being sympathetic and start seeing excuses as, well, excuses. Even though you like being a WAHM because of the flexibility, you can’t blow off your work all the time because now you’re letting down the people who pay you – and the people who can refer you to other clients.
7. You Don’t Want it Bad Enough
Eh. If this doesn’t work out I’ll just do something else. Whatever.
8. Your Few Precious Hours of Working Time are Spent on Facebook, Twitter and in Forums
Social media and social networking can do wonders for a career. It can also be an amazing timesuck. If you only have two hours to spare for client work and that time is being spent playing Mafia Wars or Tweeting about your kids, you may want to rethink your priorities.
9. You’re Not Cut Out for the Lifestyle
My sister in law worked at home for a couple of years and hated it. She had no kids at the time and telecommuted for her full time job after moving out of state. The problem is she was lonely. She missed the camaraderie and the lunches out with her friends. She missed being a part of a physical team rather than a virtual team. She missed the commute and being around people all day. This isn’t the lifestyle for everyone and you’re not a failure if it’s not your cup of tea.
10. You Actually Thought You Could Earn $50,000 per Month
You decided to work from home because those ads with all the exclamation points lured you in, didn’t you? I’m sorry to beak it to you that doesn’t happen. Plenty of WAHMs earn several thousand each month but we worked very hard to get where we are. No job, in virtual land, or the real world, is going to pay you that much money – especially during your first week on the job. Realistic WAHMs make it. Those who follow false promises fall behind.
What does your home office look like? Share the details with WorkingNaked.net and you can win a bunch of great prizes, including:
- Fellowes PS-79Ci Cross-Cut 100% Jam Proof Shredder
- Epson WorkForce 610
- Elfa products from The Container Store ($250 value)
- Library edition binders from Russell + Hazel
- Home Office Solutions: Creating a Space that Works for You book by Lisa Kanarek
- One-year subscription to Flexjobs
- “I’m working naked…are you?” t-shirt
I must admit, it’s the T-shirt that caught my interest. I had a good chuckle thinking about the kinds of comments that someone would get if they wore it out in public.
The contest starts on March 15, 2010 and runs until April 15. The winner will be announced April 30. You can get the details here. Please note that the site owner wants to see photos of an office, not people – whether they are working fully clothed or they have created a clothing-optional workspace for themselves. I’m all for whatever will help you to be happy and productive, BTW.
Last week New Jersey schools closed in order for teachers and other educators to attend the NJEA convention. Mind you, this conference is only two days, but because parents usually take their kids out of school for the entire week anyway, the schools shut down for the entire week this year. Clearly, we have our priorities in order. My son is one of the handful of kids who usually attends school if it’s open during this time. He sits forlornly on the near-empty school bus and the sound of his footsteps echo as he walks down the quiet hallway to join the other classmates whose parents can’t afford a trip to Cozumel. By the way, they call the first week of November “New Jersey week” at Disney for this very reason. Now, I don’t understand why the teachers can’t have their convention in the summer when it won’t interrupt a child’s education, but that’s neither here nor there. There was no school last week and all of my son’s friends had traveling plans. I was prepared for a week of art projects and Phineas and Ferb marathons so I could get stuff done.
I needn’t have worried because …
…my son caught a virus compounded by a horrible cough and sinus infection and that kept both of us well occupied. Well, that is until halfway through the illness when boredom set in for The Boy who was bouncing off the walls. And the couch. And the Dog.
You might be thinking how fortunate I am to be a work at home mom so I can care for my family during their time of need.
The truth is, when a seven year old realizes a little whining will get him ginger ale and jello, Mom isn’t getting anything done. I spent most of last week fetching buckets, dispensing antibiotics and reading the entire collective works of Frog and Toad, over and over and over again.
You must be thinking I’m happy last week is over so I can get back to working in peace.
Did I mention Mr. Ng’s unemployment? My husband was laid off at the end of July. This means he’s been home every day since August 1st. That’s every day, people. Every. Day. Now I love my husband, but the 24/7 thing can wear thin. Whoever made up all that “til death do us part” stuff, never spent all day, every day with a spouse. He has decided to use this time wisely and renovate. During the day. Every day. When I’m home trying to work. Power tools, hammers, and cursing are now the soundtrack of my life.
After reading this you will probably suggest I take my show on the road.
Let me tell you about the quiet WiFi hotspots in my area…
Starbucks and the library are becoming a way of life. Except there are people around …always. So my option is to to work at home amid the sound of Dremels and drills or to go to the local Starbucks where five small tables are squeezed in between the counter and the wall to make a very narrow aisle where folks push by, knocking my elbows off the table on their way to ordering double triple mocha soy lattes with a twist. Since most of my neighbors stop by the coffee shop on their way to work or home from the supermarket, they all have to stop by my table to say hello. And they won’t leave.
Then there’s the library…
This isn’t your father’s library. There are no shushing librarians or quiet signs reminding us people are trying to read, work or study. This is the new library where patrons are encouraged to talk and share ideas. There’s a quiet section but there aren’t any power cords or tables, only bean bag chairs and these stuffed cube things that are suppose to pass for chairs. I’m 45. The last time I sunk myself into a bean bag chair, three people had to pull me out for fear I’d never be heard from again.
So I sit at the table with the plug for my power cord, which, by the way, is just outside of the room where “Mommy and Me” or “Music to Move By” classes are being held. “Hi Mrs. Ng!” My neighbors kids call out as they enter and leave the room. I wave back. “Oh good, you’re here. Now I have some one to talk to while I wait for story hour to end,” their moms tell me as they sit down next to me and fill me in on the day’s gossip.
Power tools and fetching the bucket for an influenza afflicted seven year old look mighty attractive after a day of silence at the coffee shop or library.
Oh yes, I’m so fortunate to be living the dream and working at home where I can spend all this quality time with my family. After all, that’s what it’s all about.
“I’m not looking for a WAHM,” the potential client told me. “I’m looking for a writer.”
Does that mean that work at home moms can’t be writers? While you and I both know that there are hundreds of talented WAHMs earning a very good living, the truth is, we get a bum rap. People associated WAHMs with mommy blogging and party plans, they don’t associate us with serious writing.
If you find your WAHMiness is getting in the way, consider the following:
- No one knows or cares if men or dads are working at home – Do we see a lot of discussions about WAHDs? Do men often announce “Hey world, I’m a work at home dad?” No. They don’t talk abut it and potential clients don’t think about it. It’s only an issue if we bring it to their attention.
- Your situation has nothing to do with your ability – Work at home moms know that being a WAHM has nothing to do with getting a job done. However, there are a small handful of WAHMs who do take any job that comes along as long as it pays money – regardless of skill and talent. We all sort of get lumped into this same group.
- A client sees being a WAHM differently than we do – When potential clients see a work at home mom they think of someone who spends more time caring for kids than doing work. They think we’re too busy driving the minivan to soccer games than to handle their projects.
- Potential clients see WAHMs as being desperate – Have you seen the ads that read “Perfect for Work at Home Moms?” These clients are targeting WAHMs because they feel we’ll take any old money in order to stay at home with our kids.
There are some things you can do to get around the WAHM factor.
- Don’t tell anyone you’re a WAHM – The fact that you’re working from home or that you have kids or that you’re trying to make ends meet, should have no place in a cover letter or resume. Stick to your talent and your ability. Highlight your strong points, don’t make it seem as if you’re desperate to have work in order to stay home with your kids.
- Be choosy about your clients– Choose the best work at home jobs. If you don’t want to be pigeonholed or stereotyped, don’t take jobs that aren’t traditionally “WAHM jobs.”
- Schedule phone calls during times kids are in school or napping – When clients hear kids in the background they don’t think you’re focusing 100% on their projects. Oh sure, they know we’re work at home moms, but they don’t want to be reminded of it.
I love being a work at home mom. I’m so happy I’m able to have a successful work at home career. There have been some potential clients in the past who weren’t impressed with my WAHMiness, however. They equate “working at home” with a hobby or needing to bring in some change while our kids are sleeping – and you and I know this is very far from the truth.
What do you do to break out of the stereotype and show your clients you’re a professional writer first and work at home mom second?
I’ve long maintained folks who work at home work more hours than our commuting counterparts. For many of us, if the computer is on, we’re at work. We just can’t shut down. Last weekend I learned an important lesson because I didn’t shut off Skype and ended up working most of the holiday weekend. Where do you draw the line when you work at home? The way I see it, the problem is twofold:
Set Business Hours
When I worked a regular 9 to 5 job it was easy for me to get in my home frame of mind. I left my job every day at the designated time, went home and did home stuff. I don’t have that kind of luxury when I work at home. You can’t put on your coat and go home when your office is in the same place you eat, sleep and bathe.
It’s easier said than done, but establishing business hours can help you draw the line. Speaking from experience, it’s tough to say, “OK, it’s 6:00. I’m done working for the day” and leave your work at home job. Once you get into a routine however, it’s easy to switch hats.
Getting Into the Right Frame of Mind
This has been the topic of much discussion but I honestly believe clothes help to set the tone. I change into comfortable working clothes when it’s time to get down to business, and wear something else for relaxation time with my family. Yes, I have been known to wear my flannel penguin pajama pants while working from time to time, but the clothes really do help to put me in the proper mindset.
I also find that if I have established business hour, say when my family is at work and school, I have a better ability to focus. I can’t always pay attention to my job when my son is practicing piano or my husband is running power tools. Having quiet time to work each day helps to put me in the right frame of mind. Once the family starts getting down to business, it’s time for me to close shop. [Read more…]