Working From Home: This Freelancer's List of Do & Do Nots
A truth: I'm a better designer/programmer than I am blog writer. But maybe I can make you laugh a little or even provide some useful information in my straight-forward and transparent list of do & don'ts from a woman's perspective working at home in front of the computer for most of the day.
- Stay in your Pajamas until 1-3pm.
While I have to admit this is THE most tempting perk, it is the gateway habit to a slow erosion of your fashion sense, certain social skills, competitive edge and desire to leave the house.
- Have a daily cocktail hour.
Another tempting work-at-home perk for those – like me that is – who like to have an occasional cocktail. This is the most sorry of self-denials. But, like staying home in your PJs wears away your drive and edge, this one effectively eliminates your waistline, turning you into a pillowy soft apple shape in only a few months (tested results). And, did you realize that 'excessive' drinking for women is more than 3 drinks on any day or 7 per week? One drink = 1 beer, glass of wine, or 1.5 oz. hard liquor. I don't know about you, but a cocktail I make on the average contains 2-3 oz. liquor. I am effectively having 2 drinks for every one, drinking excessively via my one drink per day. So, have occasional cocktail days instead. If you don't drink, you might apply all this to sweets. The waistline and negative health effects are comparable for sure.
Avoid Netflix during the work day. Don't think you can catch some break or lunchtime viewing, especially if you don't have any deadlines for the day. It takes an iron will to stop watching. Like potato chips, you'll think just 1 more, they're only 30-40 min long... but nothing erodes work focus and motivation more than a series you're caught up in on Netflix. Unless you have someone else at home to tell you to stop watching. But, chances are more likely that person will end up co-lodged there with you.
- Base your worth on other people's opinions and potential client/job rejections.
Normally, I would think constant successive rejections should tell you something – like maybe you aren't cut out for the job. But, my personal experience taught me otherwise. After graduating and trying to get a corporate/agency job, enduring rejection after rejection and making the assumption it must be all me caused me to become depressed and lose all motivation. If this has happened to you too, I want to share some perspective.
This section ended up a short rant...so, I'm hiding it unless you want to read it.
It was also very confusing to me because my gpa upon graduation was 3.9/4; the instructor for my database class told me I received the only A he had ever given; and, I was that classmate who helped everyone figure out the programming part of the assignments, which were mainly design based. Also, I am a decently attractive person (not that this should matter), practice good hygiene and dress appropriately – So WTH right?
I also have to add that applying and interviewing for jobs was brutal. I was asked the strangest questions that buggered my mind for how the answers were supposed to determine my programming and design abilities (like “what's your favorite website?”); told I couldn't be both designer and developer because these required opposing personalities and focus plus no one can really do it; given tests – I'm not against testing in general, but one was really subjective, and in truth my rote memory has never been as strong as my critical-thinking/creative problem solving abilities, which is why I have a large library of page tagged books plus Google; interviewed by people asking web programming questions who didn't even know how to code (I only know this because I did get that temp job and later knew the interviewers); and even expected to be one of the 'cool kids' or a programmer that doesn't like to hermit away at the computer (does this breed really exist? and if so, why am I being judged by my social prowess for this kind of job anyway); misjudged or misrepresented by reps, dealt with reps that pulled the bait and switch, and why does everyone use reps?? In all this assessing, only 2 companies actually viewed or used my PORTFOLIO showing both coding and design performance. Call me crazy, but that's the first place I'd look.
Here are things that played into the job hunting scene for me:
- I was nearing 50. Don't believe it if someone says age (discrimination) doesn't matter.
- I have since learned – via observance of one of the agencies I do freelance work for – that just because you are brought in for an interview, doesn't mean that for a fact the company is actually planning on hiring anyone. Or, they might be intending to hire an internal person but still have to go through the process of accepting applications and interviewing.
- Being at home for 20+ years raising children (I have 4) and keeping house counts for absolutely nothing. In fact it's worse than nothing. It says (wrongly of course as almost every other SAHM will attest to) you're out of touch or are untried in the work-stress environment.
- The specific job that my degree was designed for didn't really exist. At least not where I live, and it was basically outdated at the time of my graduation because my classes were heavily Flash based. This is partly my fault as well because at the same time I was being told I couldn't dually design and program, I was deciding that I couldn't really live without one or the other.
- There are countless advice sources that say to learn from the rejection experience. But, how is that possible when these companies aren't responsive and don't even bother to let waiting hopefuls know they didn't get the job. That makes it really tough to ask why — do they even remember me? (I lost count of how many places I applied to, but only 2 actually contacted me afterward to let me know I didn't get the job. It turned out not to be soul crushing reasons.) In one case, I worked an entire afternoon for an agency that said they would pay me for it, but didn't, nor took the time to let me know afterward that I didn't get the job or why.
- Competition is fierce here for dev jobs and there were absolutely none for someone like me who didn't have that most excellent of keywords: EXPERIENCE. Plus, it's just not in my nature to 'talk myself up'. I know I should have tried harder at that. But, it makes me sweat, my heart race and my mind go blank. No matter how old I get or how hard I try, I'll always be socially awkward. Don't interviewers see through all that bravado anyway?
And from the world of freelancing:
- Everybody wants something for nothing. Ok, maybe not everyone but from my experience 90%. There is always a competitor willing to undercut initially to appear to be inexpensive compared to those who charge honestly for quality work. There are always potential clients who would rather outsource a job to someone from another country for an hourly rate of $5. (I don't blame the foreigners for whom $5 an hour is a living wage.)
So yeah, sometimes people, companies, agencies suck and we can't do anything about it. But, how do I know I'm not wrong and it wasn't all me? Because, I'd been freelancing on the side the whole time I was in school and picked up more work after I was out. I have had no complaints that my work has been subpar. In fact, clients come back to use me again and have expressed gratitude over and satisfaction with my work. It is true that I was a novice and needed more experience. But, there was simply no one on the other side willing to give me a chance. If there was, we were not lucky enough to cross paths.
Instead of doubting yourself and your abilities, look at what you have already accomplished. Keep working toward your goals and only trust outside judgement when it is reasonable and comes from people, companies or agencies that have worked directly with you and don't just see you as a number on a list or a way to save money by taking advantage of you. Remember that a rejection doesn't always mean you aren't capable or weren't good enough. (If you are currently running in job interview + panic mode, this book might help.) Now, where were we? Oh yes...
- Eat a healthy lunch.
It isn't as hard as you think. You can even buy healthy frozen meals these days that actually taste good. You need the nutrients and energy! Try new things too - this will boost your dopamine levels.
- Exercise during the day.
Even if you just take out the trash, walk around the block, do the dishes or some stretching at random intervals throughout the day. Sitting in a chair for long periods of time is your main enemy. It wreaks all kinds of havoc on the body.
- Check social media and read articles.
Stay informed. See what you are missing. Be reminded why you are happy to be at home working in solitude and sanity with your cat, dog, or bird for company. Or, do it to keep up with trends and help you get an out of the house job. Except Pinterest. Pinterest is like Netflix. Just don't do it.
- Listen to music.
It can be your productive & good mood sustainer. You're home alone now (if your kids are all grown or in school during the day like mine)! This means no more limiting volume levels or having to wear headphones. Additionally, there is no one around to look at you strangely for listening to techno, latino rap, 80s punk, movie soundtracks, or [enter your uniquely weird choice here]. Plus, no reason not to get up and dance for those songs you can't sit still to (which satisfies DO #2). It can also be stress relieving, which is really important now that you can't indulge in that daily drink or brownie. My personal favorite for listening to and finding new music is Spotify.
- Set goals.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's really easy to get distracted or lose focus going down rabbit holes when you are your own boss or don't currently have any paying job projects. Have a set of long-term goals and a list of short term goal activities that you can always refer back to and clarify your purpose.