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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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

A Latte Moment

One of the perks of working from home is the ability to leave home when I want to. Today, I dropped off the kids at school, picked up a book from the library, then headed home to do some social media work for clients. Twitter reminded me it was National Coffee Day though and suddenly I wanted one. Sure I could have brewed up a pot at home, but I also remembered it was market day at my favourite farmer’s market.

Drab weather be darned, I headed out!

Now I sit in a busy cafe, sipping a latte and wondering how else to fill my afternoon. Should I go home and clean off my desk? Fall cleaning for the home office is on my to-do list. Perhaps I should wander around downtown and snap a few pictures to fill albums with fresh content? I am always in need of pictures to highlight blog posts and other social media updates. Is there a story just waiting to be discovered right here in this room, if I look and listen hard enough? Stories are everywhere.

I think I will sit for a few minutes more and think about that…

A little latte for National Coffee Day
A little latte for National Coffee Day

Sick Days

There’s a reason I work from home. It’s not because I don’t like talking to people (because I have been known to talk to grocery store clerks, random people at the gym, and, yes, my cats). It’s not because I prefer working in my PJs (because I DO get dressed every day. I swear!). It’s not even because the pay is better, as the taxman scratches his head when he looks at my income taxes every year and wonders how I do it.

No. The reason why I work from home is so that on days when my children are under the weather, I can be home to take care of them. Hair appointments can wait. Running around can happen another day. Writing still happens when my babies are resting. And I have the comfort of knowing that I am exactly where I need to be for the people who need me most.

Kid #1 down with a case of ick

Fading Days of Summer

Summer is zipping by; almost gone! We are well into August and the days are counting down to every parent’s favourite time of year—Back to School! As much as I deeply love days spent on the beach, nights by the campfire, and waking to the sound of nothing more annoying than birds chirping, I too have checked the calendar to note how many days are left of summer;

18 days to go!

As much as I put in the effort to keep writing in the summer, more often than not my clients are the only ones who see much fresh content on their pages during summer break. My personal time gets divided between spending quality time with my kids and catching up with family and friends. Words are something I read in other people’s books as I lie on the beach working on (not my manuscript) my tan.

I know that as a writer I should practice my craft every day, but when I step away from WiFi, I do my best to leave the office behind. I cram writing assignments into the few days when my children are in summer camp or otherwise occupied on the lower level of the house. The occasional babysitter helps me get to a few events too. This year the girls have even come with me to capture a few moments for clients as well (they loved the day at the playground). “Take your Kids to Work” days were fun, seeing me in action talking to people and scribbling it all down, so as to work my magic with words once we returned home.

Realistically though, I could use a return to routine. I have picked up a few new clients this summer and cannot keep putting them off due to extended vacations (Sorry I can’t work. It’s time for G&Ts on the beach). I have to pay for all those road trips somehow! So, as much as I will cherish the last of my sleep-in days over the next two weeks, I think it’s time to dip my pen in the ink again.

And the bonus? It’s only 10 months til next summer!

Summer Sunset on the Beach
Fading days of Summer