“…If you ever get annoyed
Look at me I’m self-employed
I love to work at nothing all day.” (lyrics from Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business“)
We’ve all seen the commercials touting the benefits of the work-at-home, freelance life. Though I don’t have any pink fuzzy bedroom slippers to knock together while on conference calls, I also don’t own any suits… unless you count the “bathing” variety. After all, spending money on clothes that impress is completely unnecessary when I’m the only one in the office.
After decades of working out of my home office, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. No one glares at me over the cubicle wall if I giggle on the phone with a friend in the middle of the day. Best of all, I set my own schedule, make my own list of priorities, and dodge the worst of office politics. And if a call comes in for canvas work… I accept. I don’t have to limit myself to anything less than the entire crazy roster of my skills.
I’ve also learned to give myself some structure. I start the day with a workout (standup paddling, or walking/swimming depending on the season) without worrying about what the timeclock will say when I punch in. After a shower, I eat breakfast at my desk. By the time I’m finished, I’ve usually caught up with the overnight accumulation of email and can start in on that day’s project.
I write better and ideas flow more easily in the morning, so I try to get any creative work out of the way first. Afternoon is the time for sending out new quotes, researching background for stories, bookkeeping, and pounding the airwaves for new work. When I’m focused on a job or excited about a pending project, nothing can distract me short of the house burning down. On days (like today) when the sunshine and warm breeze make it hard to focus, I give in and knock off a little early. I’ve learned that I’ll make up the hours and do a better job by coming back to work after dinner or skipping the next lunchbreak.
The downside (and of course there is one) is that it’s hard to delineate work and what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call non-work. Relaxing on our front porch on a Saturday afternoon, a quick email check is only three steps away. Which of course often leads to just a little editing… and next thing I know, it’s dinner time. I have to be careful to stay away from the desk and the computer on “off” days so that home is still a place to relax.
The good news is that I love what I do and how closely connected my work is to the rest of my life. Though there’s a clear line between billable and not billable hours, there’s no way to put a price on an idea sparked by a magazine article I read while I’m actively avoiding my email. And who knows what next book idea will come from an afternoon sail around the island?
Working at home isn’t for everyone, but for me it’s a luxury. And best of all, when a call comes to go to a regatta… I go. No boss is standing between me and my sailing, except, of course, the ultimate boss: the bank account and how much is left in it.
Time to go for that sail and spark the next book idea.