Working for Yourself (Esteem)

Rejected_Stamp_shutterstock_65298541_260Freelancing is hard. I got a rejection email yesterday, for a project I thought I was perfect for. I was surprised and disappointed. It caused me to question myself, my career choice, my direction, my abilities. A bit of imposter syndrome snuck in. I don’t have a degree in journalism; I don’t have an MFA; I didn’t write for the school newspaper. Maybe I’m just a hack.

It’s easy to become insecure when something you truly want and think you’re good at doesn’t work out for you, especially if you get no feedback as to why. It’s even more likely you’ll question your worth if you’re taking an unconventional path.  You read what other people in your field are doing, what official qualifications or experiences they have, and you contrast yourself against them. You don’t have what they have, and that breeds self doubt.

Of course you don’t have what they have, but if you are pursuing you passion, don’t let doubt creep into your brain. If it is your calling and you are committed, you DO have something to offer – likely something unique that springs from your own path to where you are now. There’s a reason you love this thing – photography, graphic design, real estate – and it’s probably not because you suck at it. And, if you love it, you breathe it. You read professional journals, talk to others in your field, go to seminars; you are constantly learning and growing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a PhD in underwater basket weaving. Grab your snorkel and raffia and dive in! (unless you’re a surgeon, in which case, we all kind of want you to have gone to school)

In your quest for knowledge in your chosen field, you may…no, you will come across experts that give you six tips on how to be successful in the biz or the “one habit every successful person has.” That does not mean you have to do it that way. Read up, by all means, but not all advice applies to you. Take what you can use, leave the rest. Above all, be true to yourself. If going to every godamnned networking meeting within fifty miles of your house makes you want to vomit, don’t do it. Find another way that suits you. We all have to do things we’d rather not from time to time, in order to be successful, but we still need to be ourselves.

It takes bravery and a thick skin to freelance or run your own business. It takes the kind of person who can get knocked to the ground repeatedly and get back up and move forward again, even if it makes said person kind of feel like shit. You don’t have to have a positive attitude all the time. You don’t have to pretend that rejection doesn’t hurt or cause you to question your abilities. You just have to keep moving forward. Keep fighting the good fight and stay open to opportunity. Something good will happen, and it may or may not be what you expect.

If you’re an unconventional aspiring writer (or aspiring anything) check out Jeff Sommers blog, The Unconventional Writer.

The Balancing Act: How to Stay Focused Working at Home

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An inviting workspace can make all the difference.

I love working from home, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Officing out of the house, I don’t have to put up with morning rush hour or comply with workplace dress codes, like having to wear pants. But there are a lot of distractions at home, so I’ve developed a few techniques to keep me focused:

Set up a designated workspace.

We form associations with places. You want to associate your workspace with work, whether you have your own room for an office or a little nook off the kitchen. Take time to tidy and organize it; clutter is distracting. Decorate it with attractive objects — photos, artwork, plants — so it’s an inviting space. If you have a door to close when you need quiet, all the better. Similarly, it can be useful to avoid working in your bedroom, so you associate that space with sleep, not busy brain work.

Make a schedule.

Write it down, and stick to it, as if your boss were watching you. Working from home affords us greater flexibility, but allowing yourself to get distracted by washing dishes or going down the Facebook newsfeed rabbit hole isn’t conducive to getting things done. I put not just my work hours but individual tasks on my calendar, color-coded by task type (work, family, personal). That way, I can ensure I have a balance of each. Yes, it has to be flexible; unexpected things come up. But then I can rearrange my predetermined tasks for another time, without worrying I’ll forget something. I actually print my calendar page each day, so I can take notes on it and have it visible to me at all times. Avoid wandering into your office after hours to do “just one thing.” Write yourself a note for the next day, if you’re afraid you’ll forget it. Not working during off-hours is just as important as working when you’re supposed to.

Pick the right time.

I work most effectively while my children are at school (no surprise there). I delegate tasks that require the most focus to those hours. If I feel productive during the day, I can relax and enjoy my kiddos when they get home. On busier days, I save the tasks that require less focus for the time when the house is lively with the laughter and occasional fighting of children. Some people work best in the evening when the rest of their family is in bed. There is no one right time; the key is to pay attention and find your own most-productive hours.

Turn off your phone.

Texts are a constant distraction. Ever end up on a group text with 26 other people? Turn off your ringer, or leave it in another room when you really need to focus. Even if you aren’t checking it, hearing the constant buzzing and beeping shakes your concentration. This extends to the TV and any other distracting noises.

Working from home can be wonderfully flexible. You can more often work how, when and where it suits you. But, because you aren’t living by someone else’s rules, you have to be intentional and make your own. And, when your rules cease to work for you, the beauty is you can change them or throw them out altogether. Rules weren’t made to be broken, but they were made to bend and be reshaped from time to time.