Up for a Challenge

New year, new resolve. That thought crossed my path yesterday. And I aspire to stick with it. Hence another blog post today. Working from home throws up plenty of challenges to that though. Here are just a few that I seem to struggle with;

Challenges of Working From Home

  • Friends wanting to go for coffee/lunch on their days off
    • Yes, I am home, but no that does not mean I am available at any given point to just drop everything. I do sneak in the occasional lunch or coffee date (socializing is a challenge when you work alone), but I try to make client work a priority. If work doesn’t get done, I don’t get paid. And then there is no money for that luxury coffee!
  • Doctor appointments
    • Most doctors only make appointments during the day. Everyone has to fit them in according to the doctor’s schedule. But unlike those who work in a 9-5 office, people who work from home end up picking up the slack later—in the evening, on weekends, sometimes when you would rather just relax with a good book or in front of the TV.
  • Turning off work
    • Again, when you work from home, you are always at the office. Any time I sit at the computer, I am scanning my emails, checking to see if my client’s social media pages are in need of attention, or maybe squeezing it time to work on my own portfolio/social media presence. The net never sleeps.
  • Volunteer opportunities
    • My children are school aged. That means that I feel the pressure to be involved in their schooling. I love the fact that I can be a part of it, but I also know that every time I step into the school, I am away from my home office. Sure, I can catch up on any work projects later, but then I am back to working evenings and weekends (when I would rather shut it all off). I could put up more boundaries to protect my precious work hours, but it’s true that children’s youth is fleeting. I know that making them, and what is important in their world, a priority, will pay far more dividends in the long run than the almighty dollar.
  • Health
    • I love the little niche I have carved out for a desk in my home, but the fact is—I spend far too many hours plunked down in front of it. I sit while writing, surfing, brainstorming, and more. Then I get into the van and sit behind the wheel to pick up my children and ferry them around to various activities. All that sitting is NOT ideal for a body. So scheduling in a workout is of utmost importance. I might be exercising my brain with all the writing I do, but my heart needs the occasional cardio set too. And you might have better discipline than me, but if it isn’t scheduled into my weekly routine, it doesn’t happen!
  • Weather
    • You would think that working from home the weather would make no difference to me. And in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t. But a sunny day can be tempting for a walk (exercise! perk!). Likewise, several rainy or gray days in a row can have me feeling dull and in need of a pick-me-up (work remotely kind of day). I might not have a killer commute to worry about, but I still leave the house daily, even if only to take the kids to school. And I am Canadian after all. We love to talk about the weather.
  • Routines
    • I have a calendar on my desk. I set a schedule for what needs to be done when. I tick off projects as they happen and do my best to stick to the routine I have set. But sometimes routines fly out the window. Children get sick. Doctor appointments get scheduled. Client meetings happen. And sometimes I fudge and squeeze in those coffee dates or shopping excursions. For every blip in the schedule though, there is that ever-living fear of still getting it all done. Because ultimately, if it doesn’t get done, I don’t get paid.

Ultimately, the lifestyle I have chosen works for me and my family right now. I enjoy the freedom of being available to my children when they need me and like that I get plenty of quiet time to be creative. Fits with my ISFP personality I guess. If I need a dose of people, I make a date to get together with clients or choose a day to work offsite in a coffee shop for a few hours.

Could I be more disciplined, and free up more time? Sure, but I don’t beat myself up over it. This week I have dodged a coffee date, spent a few hours at school for my volunteer responsibilities, and fit in time for a doctor appointment. I have to leave early to pick up kids for a trip to the optometrist, but give myself a pat on the back for fitting in writing for me two days in a row. Plus, have made good headway on some new client work. All in all, a good week. And you?

What do you like about working from home? What are your biggest challenges?

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I get to watch bird TV from my office. A perk to offset the challenges of working from home
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A Guest Post: The Hitch…

Done!

I just finished a difficult article that challenged my writing skills, and sense of diplomacy. Writing skills might be self-explanatory, but diplomacy, you ask? Yup. Let me explain.

A Guest Post

Everyone says it’s good to accept guest post roles on other blogs, and to feature them on your own. And I agree. Unfortunately, the process is not always as smooth as it could be. That was the case for me with this particular article.

Now I should say that I did do my research beforehand. After receiving the offer, I checked out the third party’s website, read google reviews on the company, checked them out on Houzz and the BBB. They seemed like a decent company, offering a quality service. So I advised my client that it would be a fine idea to go ahead with the project. We exchanged emails and agreed upon content for each other’s blogs. No problem.

The Hitch

The hitch came when the person I originally dealt with disappeared and was replaced by someone new. Things seemed to go downhill from there. I can roll with the punches though, so I kept on. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?

I researched and wrote an article for the other party. I do that all the time, so fairly straight forward process. Check! Step one done, I sent it to them. Within the week, it was published on their blog. Yippee! I followed this up with my due diligence and flogged links to the article on my client’s social media sites. Check, check! Can’t say I don’t know how it is supposed to work.

The Switch

Then I waited to hear about the reciprocal blog. And waited. My new contact got in touch with me. They assured me the article was coming. They had just been bogged down, but were on it. Of course …. In the interim, I continued to write articles for my client, worried I may have just wasted their time. Sure enough though, an article came through.

My relief was quickly snuffed when I read the article though. Keep in mind that the article was to be featured on my client’s blog. And I pride myself on the quality of the content published there. All articles are read and re-read by myself before publishing, any mistakes made get addressed quickly and professionally, and I do my best to ensure that my client is happy with what I write. This article was not up to those standards. Not even the pictures they sent me really worked with what I wanted to put forth.

fudge…

The Solution

What would you do in that situation? I couldn’t publish it as it was. I thought about cutting my losses and chalking it up to lesson learned. But the third party had made the effort to get me something. And they had stuck to their side of the bargain by publishing our article. Plus, they followed up with the first email with another asking when it would be published. So I made the decision to see how best I could salvage the situation (after agonizing over it for a few days).

After doing a little tuck tail, apologizing to my client for the less than ideal outcome, and almost completely revamping the article, I published it today. I included snippets of what was originally sent to me, but filled in many of the holes with quotes from our resident expert, plus info from other experts in the field. Really though, I could have skipped the middle man and written the entire article by myself, foregoing the angst, multiple emails back and forth, and a heap of edits. I still feel like it was a good exercise, but unfortunately, got bogged down with being offered an inferior product in the exchange.

What did I get out of the deal? Well, I lost wages, as I didn’t think it fair to charge my client for all the excess time spent dealing with the issue. But in the grand scheme of things, I was given the compliment that my writing is good. Better than good, as my client loves my work and appreciates the voice I bring to their blog. And the third party also commented along the way that they like our blog’s content and style as well, hence why they sought us out in the first place.

So perhaps what I have learned is that I need to value my personal writing style and voice a little more. I put time and effort into my writing and it shows. You cannot fake quality. And I’ve got it. If you want it, you’ll have to earn and deserve my skills. Because it’s not worth my time to just throw it away in the future. While I won’t rule out doing another guest post or accepting one on mine or a client’s blog, I certainly won’t accept just anything.  Networking is valuable, but not if it doesn’t offer a return for the efforts. And I am better than just throwing out my writing to just anyone for free.

As a writing teacher once told me—a writer can die from ‘exposure’. No need to make that mistake again.

Life on the Go

There has been so much going on in my world the last little while. Between clients updating websites and field trips for me to attend various work-related events, I feel like I haven’t had a moment’s rest the last month. But I love it! It helps to keep my time management skills sharp, not to mention me out of trouble.

Go, go, go! I’ve been to Toronto to see the Green Living Show. A few plays in London were necessary to see for clients I work with. My tree services friends never stop, so I’ve been to a few work sites this spring where trees were removed, trimmed, transplanted, and freshly planted. And I’ve slotted in coffee to discuss changes to client’s web presences too. All with camera round my neck and a trusty notebook at my side. It even has me reflecting on my own web presence as well. Time to tinker.

Definitely spring renewal. Keep it coming world! I can handle it.

A snapshot of my world on the run…

Spring Fever: It’s Time to Grow

Well, the cold that was threatening a month ago ran over me hard. I went from the flu to bronchitis (or something that involved body-wracking coughs that lasted for several weeks at the least). After being left with little energy and a mound of work to catch up on, my computer decided to get sick too. Ack!

Thankfully we are all now recovered (kids mostly too, minus all our lingering coughs). March Break is behind us and signs of spring are in the air. As much as I am enjoying the warmer temperatures though, I have had my head down and am still playing catch-up with work. I am helping a few clients revamp their images and websites. Another client has a play going on which I am helping to promote. Trade shows are filling another client’s world, which require shout outs to advertise. And I desperately need to see someone else just to touch base with what’s going on in their business’s world and update some pictures.

These are the moments that can get crazy, but what I love about social media work. I like when clients turn to me to help make their companies better. I thrive on full calendars with exciting events to showcase why the people I work with are great. Face to face meetings are often so much more productive and give an opportunity to delve into the important facets of what people’s businesses are all about. The perks come when I meet new people through existing clients, or when word of mouth has potential clients seeking me out.

So as spring slowly begins to bloom around me, I am sticking my head out and looking around. I have a few trade shows of my own I’ll be attending shortly and need to seriously work on polishing up my own social networking sites so that I can properly promote myself more effectively. It’s one thing to critique and improve others, but when meeting others you need to have something to offer as well. Time to brush off the business cards and breathe life into myself again. It’s spring and time to grow!

Like a groundhog in spring, I am sticking my head out and looking around

Vacations From Social Media: The Story of the Self-Employed

I am a single mother of two and work from home as a Freelance Writer. This works for my family, as I have the flexibility to work when the children are at school, but can still get some writing in when they have sick days. I can balance volunteer opportunities during the day with working into the evening when necessary. And if something big falls into the schedule, like the upcoming March Break, I can still enjoy the time off with the kids by working a little more beforehand, sneaking in little bits while they are entertaining themselves, or scrambling to make up missed pieces afterwards. I may not be looking at Freedom 55 anytime soon, but my children appreciate the time I get to spend with them, as do I.

The more challenging piece of working from home is usually Summer Break. There is no way I can schedule two months worth of writing in beforehand. And as much as there might be some benefits, I can’t exactly just drop clients for the summer while I go on vacation. They would go elsewhere to get their needs met and I would have a pretty skimpy budget to work with, what with the lack of money coming in.

Being self-employed means I don’t have the luxury of vacation pay. No work, no pay. Definitely a drawback of the job.

So how does one handle vacations when you are self-employed? The smart thing would be to set up a rainy day fund or fill a vacation jar with money to pay for and tide you over your holidays. Telling your clients you are taking a holiday usually goes over reasonably well too. Most of my clients are small businesses, so they get the importance of time away from business. If I schedule in the bigger pieces (scheduled Facebook posts and blog posts), then a small income still comes in despite the active time away, and your client’s social media profiles don’t dry up entirely while you are gone.

Unfortunately though I usually can’t 100% step away from the web. Invariably something big pops up in a client’s world as soon as I am offline. I can’t take the chance, so usually check my emails semi-regularly even while on vacation. My phone needs to be charged and I feel like I have to scan client’s social feeds, just to be sure I don’t miss an outraged comment, timely inquiry, or some other vital piece of my client’s online world. The web never sleeps. Hence, I need to keep half an eye on it.

That doesn’t sound like much of a vacation, but again, it is the sacrifice I make to choose my own hours. I still mostly get a break, but have the security of knowing I have something to go back to. One has to pay for your vacations somehow, right?

If you are self-employed, how do you handle vacations? Do you walk away cold turkey, work throughout, or just never take one for fear of your world imploding while you are gone?

Vacations are a balance game; one eye on social media & the other as far away from it as possible