I worked in an office for a year (opposite of freelance work) and a half after I graduated with my Master’s degree. I learned a lot about office politics, nonprofit businesses, social work, and so much more about business and real world work. But I learned even more about what I want from my career, what I’m good at, and what my limits are as far as family versus career time. I loved the work I was doing and had tremendous freedom and support to make the position my own from my director. The biggest problem was creating separation between work, family, and me time.
After spending significant time thinking and talking with my husband, I decided to look for a new job. I ended up in a contract position that was better than I could have hoped for as far as pay and ability to create time for myself and my family. Then, my old agency asked me to do some freelance work for them. While I was concerned about falling back into what had been an unhealthy working situation for me, I also truly wanted to finish up the projects I had started in my previous position. I knew the work better than anyone and a part of me wanted to *prove* that I could do the work. Furthermore, since I’m just starting out in my career, I knew the experience and opportunity would be invaluable. With careful consideration, I took the opportunity and added contract consultant to my resume. Three aspects of working from home have been the greatest challenge for me during my freelance work: space, time, and focus.
Challenges in Freelance Work
My home office is a desk and a few bookshelves in my front room and several bags I carry with me when I’m out visiting clients for the contract position. This little office space was the only option I had given the space constraints of my little home. Fortunately, I was able to create my work space from items we already had in our home and garage, with a few donations from family. Additionally, in my space I have the key features needed to work from home: internet, laptop, phone, and coffee. The one rule is my children aren’t allowed to touch my desk without permission. They’re not perfect at this. My dry erase board is hard to resist, but so far, so good.
TIME: I no longer get paid by the hour or receive a salary. My pay is by work completed. What’s more, with three young children, one needy dog, and family and friends, my time is precious. When I’m working, I’m working and getting things done. I try not to waste time on Facebook or other time sucks that I LOVE TO WASTE TIME ON when I’m working. I sit down at my desk, with my coffee, and I work. I schedule work times for when my children and husband aren’t home, as much possible, so that there’s a clear separation between work and family time. In addition to scheduling work time, I also schedule my own playtime, time for me to see friends or go to the yoga class. This is important no matter how hard a time I have making time. My own playtime does have to overlap with family time, but I consider that a draw because personal time makes me better able to be present and patient when I’m with my family. It’s something I wasn’t getting when I was working at my old job, and it’s one of the key reasons why I had so much difficulty finding space between work and family time.
FOCUS: I have a hard time being focus … SQUIRREL!!!! Laundry! Dishes! Doctor Who! Firefly! AAACK! As I was saying, I have a difficult time focusing. In school, I was a bit of a mess and the “process” I developed to get work done made my sister’s eyes roll back in her head, and it wasn’t sustainable in the long run because it involved copious amounts of pastries and coffee from the local coffeehouse. Thus, I needed to develop a new, grown-up system that would allow me to focus on my work, which would free up time for family and me. Now, I won’t bother telling you my process since I believe it’s unique to my needs and personality (it involves coffee and some self-talk along with setting achievable small goals). What I will say is that I do what works for me. My recommendation to anyone who asked would be, “Do what works for you.” For the record, this is also the parenting advice I’ve repeated to clients and I repeat when I give parenting talks in public.
Working from home and freelance work consulting is new to me. I’m still in the adjustment period, but I can say that I am making this work for me, my family, and my clients. Branching out, trying new things, and believing in myself has given me this opportunity to do work I love, support my family, and be home more often with patience, a feeling of being present, and connection to the people I love most. I don’t believe it would work for everyone, and I don’t know how long this will work for me, but for now, I love it and can’t wait to see what’s next.
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