Since we moved to Kansas City, I've been working from home (and coffee shops, and the library, and coffee shops) as a freelance writer. Freelance work wasn't the job I expected to pursue after graduating from college with a degree in history. After four years of working in more traditional jobs, working from home was quite an adjustment.
It would be tempting to roll out of bed a little later (since my commute is approximately 7 feet from our bedroom to my desk), or to let distractions around the house keep me from accomplishing anything. Freelance work has taught me a lot about organization and commitment. But more importantly, over the past eight months, I've learned quite a bit about myself from my time outside the cubical.
01. I still need community
After starting to work exclusively from home, it didn't take long for loneliness to set in. I missed water cooler chats about how the game was last night, and the "how was your weekend" conversations before a meeting started. Although Wilson is a wonderful pet, he isn't much for company or deep meaningful conversation. He does, however, specialize in making a ton of noise exactly when I press "record" on the podcast equipment - just so everyone knows he's also here during the day.
The silence around the house sometimes is too much, so I pack up the old laptop and bring my office to the nearest Dunkin Donuts or the public library. I'm able to have small talk conversations with the baristas, librarians, and fellow library goers before settling into my corner booth to get some work done. As an introvert, I never thought this would be a concern when I started freelancing. But this past year has taught me that, as human beings, we're made for relationship and community - even if it's asking the person across from you at the coffee shop bar how their day is going.
02. I can't toss out my business wardrobe
No, I don't work in my pajamas. Yes, that is the question that most people ask when they hear that I work from home. Although those flannel pants are super comfy, they don't cut it when it comes to motivation. When I stay in my pajamas all day - or even just linger in them during my morning routine around the house, a lazy feelings starts to sneak in and I find it hard to accomplish anything.
When I take time to pull out a dress from the closet, or iron that blouse, I'm taking myself and my work seriously. Even though a majority of the interviews and podcasts that I do are over audio calls (and usually no one sees my wardrobe but Joseph, Wilson, and the grocery store cashier), feeling confident in how I present myself is an incredibly important lesson I've learned this year.
03. I can't do it on my own
Because I don't work the typical 9-5 job, I miss out on the resources that come with a more traditional position - like an IT department and taxes being taken out of my paycheck by my employer.
I majored in history, not computer engineering. So when it comes to the technical side of things on the blog, I ask Joseph for help quite a bit. At first I felt like a failure for not being able to code something, or for forgetting how to structure my website. But after sitting down, taking a big humility pill, and asking Joseph to explain how he fixed the issues the website was having, I was able to gain knowledge in an area of freelancing that I had previously floundered in.
After all the technical bugs were sorted through, I thought I had the freelancing thing down. Then it came time for taxes. As it turns out, those of us who are self-employed have to file taxes on a quarterly basis - which is basically multiplying the stress that April 17th gives you by four times. Thankfully, I was able to find a wonderful CPA here in town who helped me organize my quarterly tax forms. This quarter, Joseph sat down with me and looked through page after page after page of tax forms and helped me file things correctly. I may not be tech and tax savvy, but knowing where to look for help has been a lesson I've learned over and over this past year.
04. It's healthy to set boundaries
Because my desk is in the corner of our living and dining room, I usually feel like I'm at work, even if I'm relaxing at the end of the day. Since I'm a freelance writer, my paycheck depends on how quickly I turn out a quality piece, not the amount of hours that I punch on my time card. So it's tempting to respond to e-mails and texts that come in after "work hours."
Over the past month, I've worked to be more aware of not letting work sneak into every part of my day. I charge my phone in the kitchen during the evenings, where I won't be able to reach for it every time an editor's note comes in after hours. I strive to have all of the editing and writing done by Friday evening so that I can spend the weekend relaxing with Joseph, pursuing our hobbies together, and spending time with friends.
05. I have to reject the world's idea of success
When I graduated from college, a lot of fellow graduates, professors, friends and family would ask me what I was planning to do after I got my diploma. Because my career path didn't look like the traditional route many around me were taking, I was hesitant to say that I worked from home, or that I was planning on becoming a full time freelance writer. I've spent quite a bit of time during the last few months rejecting the lies that today's culture tells us about success. Although my work day may not look like the typical twenty-somethings work day, that doesn't mean that what I'm doing doesn't matter.
Today, when people ask me what I do for a living, I proudly say that I'm a freelance writer and podcaster. Mentioning that I work for Catholic companies opens the door in conversations to talk about my faith with those I meet. Whether someone used to be Catholic, or happens to also be passionate about their faith, being honest about what I do for a living has led to some beautifully fruitful conversations that wouldn't have happened if I'd been ashamed of my job.
06. It's important to know my limits
When I first started working from home, I was amazed at how much time I had on my hands. Because I wasn't constrained by more traditional work hours, I was able to do the laundry in between article writing. But it didn't take too long for me to over stuff my writing and daily schedule. I said yes to every opportunity that came up and didn't hesitate when someone asked me for a favor. I was left frustrated with endless to-do lists and, because I'd over-committed, I wasn't able to give anyone my full 100%.
Most days, I cannot cook dinner, return the library books, make a coffee run, clean the floor, tidy up Wilson's cage, finish my articles, and record a podcast episode in a single day. And that's totally okay. Although I do work from home, I still work. Learning how to schedule my time between work, household to-do lists, friends, and social schedules has allowed me to recognize the importance of my work.