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Archive for the ‘The freelance life’ Category

10. You get all the time with your kids that you thought you were missing out on.

9. Your wife’s happily vindictive grin when 4 p.m. rolls around and you collapse on the couch in exhaustion while the boys climb on you, shrieking, still with another three hours of energy.

8. Time to complete all the household projects you were too tired to complete on the weekends. (Provided your wife’s workload allows.)

7. No more meetings.

6. No more getting up at 4:45 a.m. This means you’re not in bed at 9 p.m. anymore, and you and your wife can do husband-and-wife things. Like…

5. You can watch all the movies and TV-to-DVD shows you’ve been missing out on.

4. Did I mention no more meetings?

3. You actually make it easier for your wife to be self-employed, because you’re not spending valuable cash on gas, coffee, or work clothes.

2. You can finally read all the books your wife has been telling you you would love.

1. You’re writing again. Fiction. Good fiction. Stuff your wife thinks will get published. If she can find the time to help you do it!

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Back a few years ago, I quit writing articles. I was burned out, feeling like a hamster-writer on a wheel of articles that changed from month to month. Something needed to change, but I wasn’t sure what. All I knew was that I’d lost the passion.

I wrote a few articles between then and now, but nowhere near the volume I’d been at. This year, though, as I start to build my business back up, I see what was missing: human connections.

Previously my model was this: have an assignment, research and contact potential sources, stress when I didn’t hear back, follow up, sometimes find new ones. From month to month, it was lather, rinse, repeat.

Not until I reconnected with my now-collaborator did I start to get a clue. It wasn’t just because he’d kept in touch with me over the years and we’d built up a rapport. As he connected me with his contacts, I started to see how he incorporated humanness into his work.

It only starts with doing a good job, being someone whom everyone else can trust with work. The rest of it is about being a good person: asking about other people’s lives, sharing values. That’s how we came to be friends. And it’s a key component of Chris Brogan‘s advice about building professional networks.

As I move forward with my revitalized freelance career, I’m focusing on relationships, seeking out people with whom I can have long-term contact. I didn’t think about this before, but when I was dating – and even as a friend – I was, and am, extremely picky. I don’t want to waste time trying to bond with people who will end up being transient in my life, about whom I can sense this transience right from the get-go.

I’m sure I’ll continue to talk to people who will indeed be short-term contacts, but they won’t be the bulk of my business anymore. My core group, my collaborator(s) and their close connections, will be the people I’ll turn to first, the people I trust and – I hope, at least eventually – can use for a sounding board. As a freelancer, this might be the most important change I’ve ever made to my business model.

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Slow work week this week, so in between entertaining Puck (who actually is much better at entertaining himself than his brother was/is), I’ve been researching freelance work. I’ve been negotiating with a second source who is interested in collaborating with me on articles, and I’ve found a couple of websites on freelance work. I’ve generated ideas and been given leads (totally out of the blue in one case). And I did sign up on Twitter, though it remains to be seen whether that does what I’m hoping it will do (put me in touch with potential sources, give them an idea of how I work).

The thing is, none of this feels as if I’m swimming upstream. A year ago I would never have dreamed of it, but this year? My career feels like it’s happening again. I’m being cautious, but I’m not closed to opportunities. And that is a very good feeling indeed.

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In a couple of short weeks, Hamlet will enter kindergarten. As excited as I am for him (and me!), I’m also apprehensive–not for his sake or any fear that he won’t excel, but because I know this new chapter in his life will bring changes in mine. That may sound selfish, but the fact is, listening to the other preschool moms talk this past year about their own experiences with school activities, after-school activities, their volunteer activities in the school, and (occasionally) their own work… I often wondered how I would make it all fit.

I’m not a people person and I’m comfortable with that, so I don’t see myself becoming hugely involved with the PTO or doing a lot of volunteer work in the school. At the same time, I thought, would Hamlet see other mothers volunteering more often than I do, and thus think maybe I care less? If I have trouble balancing my work life and mothering now, how will I do with school in the mix?

Enter Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too, authored by Susan Callahan, Anne Nolen, and Katrin Schumann. Indeed, in their opening chapter, they write: “But as our kids grew in inches and independence, everything started to shift…. Our lives sometimes seemed to lack achievable and satisfying personal goals.” These three are mothers who understand the balancing act, and their book is chock full of useful and resonant advice that cover a wide variety of mother care. Consider their chapter titles:

Introduction: From Never Being a Good-Enough Mother to Finding Happiness in Doing the Best You Can
1. The Attitude Shift: From Trying to Be Perfect to Taking Time-Outs for Yourself
2. The Power of Self-Awareness: From Losing Yourself in Motherhood to Understanding Who You Are Today
3. The Importance of the Here and Now: From Perpetual Preoccupation to Appreciating the Moment
4. The Value of Downtime: From Living in Perpetual Motion to Hearing Your Own Voice in the Silence
5. The Loving Link with Your Partner: From Living Side by Side to Integrating Your Life Together
6. The Need to Reach Out: From Motherhood in Isolation to Creating and Providing a Support Network
7. The Significance of Self-Care: From Never Putting Yourself First to Taking Care of Your Whole Self
8. The Power of Less: From Living a Frenzied Life to Gaining Greater Control
9. It’s Supposed to Be Fun: From Being a Good Girl to Breaking a Few Rules

But this book isn’t just about the advice. It’s interactive, with exercises to stimulate your thinking about how to get your mojo back (and what it is to begin with). Tips from the Trenches at the end of every chapter, especially, ask you to take a few risks–step away from the familiar and toward what will make you happy. Finding opportunities in ordinary life (even boredom), learning to share your interests with your children, and carving out space of your own (even if it’s in the car alone for 10 minutes with the music turned up) are just a few of the tips presented.

A freelancing friend of mine is contemplating returning to full-time work because as she says, being at home makes it too tempting for her to worry about family, friends, and neighbors. She knows she needs to say “No” more often, but sometimes it just isn’t that simple. This is the kind of book that breaks down the tasks needed to get to that point, thus making everyone happier in both the short and the long terms.

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It could work

I had an impromptu interview today with a source I had emailed only a few hours before, so I didn’t expect to hear from him quite so quickly. In the first place, I had emailed a generic police department address (the only one available), and in the second place, I had “media request” in my subject header. I figured it would take at least a week, if ever, to hear back. But no.

It’s been cold and rainy for days, so the boys were home. And it was late afternoon, and they were bored. Rain Dog ended up having to bring them upstairs, but they were in the living room for a good 20 minutes before that, talking (Hamlet) and babbling (Puck) and watching Scooby Doo. And it really wasn’t so bad. Not because it was easy to do the interview, but because the lieutenant I was talking to also has a 5 and a 2 year old. Every time mine did something he laughed, and we bookended our conversation with discussions about our kids.

My experience in the last seven years of freelancing is that the cops are almost universally understanding of small voices they hear in the background. The corporate types who supply them with equipment can be understanding, but are generally more focused and, yes, less patient. So I’m thinking that my upcoming projects, which almost all involve cops, might actually work with just Puck home. Especially if Scooby Doo is involved. I hope.

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Autumn blues

Yesterday we took the boys to the park. It was the first nice day we’d had in about a week: clouds blowing around in the sky, the sun appearing once in awhile, dry air.

We could feel fall creeping in.

This was depressing on several different levels. For Rain Dog it meant that he and the kids had just spent July watching me work. Yes, there were the days he was able to bring Hamlet out to fun places for quality father-son time, but for the most part? We had no good beach days (or beach evenings), and Puck is too little and too wild to take anywhere with Hamlet–I myself never take them both out by myself if I can help it. Anyway, faced with just four weeks left to summer vacation, Rain Dog is hoping for better weather and a better schedule.

I have autumn blues for a different reason. Over the last couple of days, I have spent much time working with various sources on a new article about mobile forensics. They are the best in the business, a loose group of investigators out West who know each other and are all on the same wavelength. It was like talking to the same guy. A few of them asked whether I was interested to work with them on more articles this fall. Before I could make excuses about having no childcare, I found myself enthusiastically writing things down.

What am I doing? I don’t know if I can pull this off. True, Puck sat quietly in his chair watching a video while I worked on the phone for over an hour. But was it a fluke? Will he do that every time? Can I depend on these sources, all of whom were very understanding when they did hear small voices on my end, to continue to have patience with us?

Last night I told Rain Dog that I am already missing this job, the synergy I have with these people. As I have said before, I really don’t want to put this off for another winter. But I don’t want to sabotage it either. I wish I had a better idea of what I “should” be doing. Until then, though, I guess the best I can do is take it a step at a time. If it’s meant to be, it will be available next spring. And if it isn’t? Well, I guess it will be the first time in my career that something I felt on a gut level won’t have worked out the way I hoped.

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For the last couple of years, Rain Dog has talked increasingly about quitting his job to stay home full-time. At first it was just him blowing off steam. But recently, and especially since the possibility of moving south became more distinct, he has talked about it more seriously.

Obviously the bills need to get paid. So if we move out of state, and we don’t know anyone and we’re not familiar with the area, what would I do for work? Well, obviously: freelance full-time!

The boys are at tough ages. Ultra-needy for lots of attention, they bombard us with demands to play with them, read to them, sit with them. I love the idea of being able to spend hours per day exercising my brain, so that I have the energy to be a mother at other times. This was a large part of the reason why I committed to four contracts all due August 1: trial run, to get a feel for what we might face.

I have not liked what we’ve experienced.

The work is going great. Two articles involve my regular source, so I’ve been having a lot of fun. One other article got deferred (the source decided the prototypical project wasn’t ready for media coverage), and the other… well, the other may be late. (The media contact listed in the press release is no longer working for the company I’m to contact. Heaven forfend she should have called me back and told me, instead of allowing me to waste two weeks trying to reach her.)

So I’ve been a busy girl. Last week, in particular, I burned through about a dozen interviews. And the boys burned through Rain Dog.

I knew exactly how he felt, and as he spiraled down into a summer flu of some sort, I felt worse about leaving him to their mercy. But my articles were growing rapidly, way past their word limits, and I knew I’d need this upcoming week to edit (savagely) and do last-minute follow-ups with my sources.

When I’m done, I’m taking the month of August off. I have no contracts through fall, although my source has more articles he wants me to work on with him. I’d love to keep going. We’re working towards what would appear to be a long-term collaboration, which has always been a dream of mine as a freelancer.

But the way this summer has gone–lack of home sale, stay-at-home-dad frustration, and my own guilt–I’m not a hundred percent convinced it really would be best for our family. And I won’t know for quite awhile yet, a month or two at least. It’s really rather depressing. Despite the guilt, I’ve really enjoyed this month. I’ve felt alive again. And the thought of going through yet another northern New England winter as “just” Mama… well. I don’t really have to describe what I think about that, do I?

Uncertainty is part of every freelancer’s life. That’s what keeps it interesting. But sometimes I would really just love to have something nailed down. I know, I know. The most important things already are: the love of my family and friends, the faith that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. The question over whether I should be doing it full-time or not, though… well, that can throw everything else out of whack. Weeks like this, it sure would be nice to have a real job!

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