Why I Won’t Work in my Pajamas – Freelancing for Smarties
I read the fantastic IFB article on freelancing today – it had a great tips for gals and guys who want to make the move from blogging to freelancing (to, of course, supplement their blog income – because really, who makes all that much from their blog? Not meeee. And I have NO problem with that.)
I’m pretty sure blogging helped me get the job I have now. Of course, by that, I mean: all the things I learned while learning to be a blogger helped me into my current position. I freelance – it’s a long-term contract position with a fantastic Social, Marketing, and Web company. I work from home, so the premise is much the same. I have assignments – long term. I pay my own self-employment taxes. It’s adult.
The IFB tips are great, and they are just the tip – of the freelancing iceberg, that is. Freelancing is tough, but it’s totally worth it. Here are 3 things to remember:
1. Get up in the AM like everyone else, get ready for, and go to work. AKA: Why I Won’t Work in My Pajamas.
It took me a WHILE to figure this one out. “Really? I have to get up and go to work like everyone else? But I work from home!”
That didn’t work for me. I’d wake up at 9:30, sometimes even 10. It would take forever to get moving. I would schlep around in my pajamas… And I didn’t feel nearly as productive as if I would have gotten up at a set time, got dressed (or really, brush my hair + teeth, and put on NOT-pajamas), had breakfast, and started work at a set time.
Now I do this. It’s important. I do make a point to get up at a set time each day. I make sure that I eat something, and that I put on real clothes instead of sitting around in my underwear and a sleep shirt. Sometimes I’ll even put on tinted moisturizer (nothing crazy here) because it makes me feel like a real human being. And when I feel like a real human being, I’m more productive.
Side note: Some people can’t freelance because they’re at home. There are a million things you need to do at home – like clean your bathroom – and it can be hard to prioritize your work. Alternately, you might be tempted to slough off – like eating bonbons and reading trashy novels – instead of working, because you ARE at home. If you struggle working from home, do the cafe thing, until you get into a set rhythm in your routine. Alternately, look into something like Loosecubes where you can find co-working spaces. Set yourself up for success from the start.
2. Get up periodically throughout the day and do something COMPLETELY different.
Sometimes when the Mr gets home from a long day at the office, I feel a little manic. He’s the first person I’ve seen all day! It’s exciting! Sure I’m talking to people from work online, or I’m blogging, or I’m communicating in general, but the truth is that when I’m parked at my desk for 8 hours, nonstop, I start to feel a little crazy. You know what helps? Taking a damn break.
Wanna hear some science on that? Taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity, while skipping them can lead to stress and exhaustion.
I make sure to take a lunch break – where I’m not at my computer. For my sanity (and for J’s sanity when he gets home from work) it really helps if I get up, get away from my PC, and do SOMETHING. Walk the dog. Eat a sandwich and read a book in the sun on my porch. Hit the gym. Do a load of laundry. Ultra glamour – I know – but I have realized that I need to make time to pause throughout the day. Not just lunch breaks either: I have to write in those breaks that would be normally scheduled if I worked for anyone but me. And it works. I feel better about my work, and I feel like I get more done.
It also helps your brain reboot. Working on a frustrating project? Take a time out, do a 3 minute dance party in your office where you dance around like a damn fool to whatever floats your boat. When you sit back down to tackle that thing that was bugging you, you’ll be able to look at it with a fresh set of eyes.
3. Make to-do lists. Make to-do lists of to-do lists. I like lists.
When I’m done in the afternoon, I like to write myself a list of “shit I need to do tomorrow”. These are usually prioritized, so the big big tasks (or sometimes the repetitive stuff, depending on what it is) get written down first, and then lesser tasks.
Lists are perfect for freelancers because a) crossing stuff off gives you a sense of accomplishment in a medium where your end result isn’t necessarily tangible and where there’s not really anyone to congratulate you on – you know, transferring 1100 products from one site to another or whatever it is you’re working on, and b) lists help me stay organized in what I need to do and what I’ve been able to do. They help me for billing purposes later – so that when I’m invoicing, I can type all the stuff I’ve crossed out into my time sheet. Bravo!
Bonus: Get better at managing your own time.
Yeah, lists will help. And being productive because you know when to get up and dance out your frustration will help. But the best thing you can do for yourself as a freelancer is to get into the habit of documenting and estimating how long it’ll take you to do things. Your boss wants 3 blog posts done for this client in an hour – do you know how long it ACTUALLY takes to do that?
As a freelancer, time management is CRUCIAL. My friend David SWEARS by the Harvest app, saying that it’s great for tracking time, adding notes, and estimating time. If you’re not ready to schill out the $50 to get it, use Excel and a stopwatch. Note the time you started, how long it took you, and what you did. Start this now. Do it for your blog posts (I’ve been working on this post for exactly half an hour – which is pretty good for a 1000 word post). Do it for your laundry. Do it for your morning routine (didn’t Fabulously Broke write about that?).
Just don’t beat yourself up when you go over your estimate. Adjust your estimate, and maybe find ways to shave off a little bit of time here or there, until you can become accurate. Really REALLY accurate.
So that’s that. Tips for freelancers. Do you have any super great tips for freelancers that I didn’t write about? Put ‘em in the comments!