I often have high hopes that can’t quite be met. Of course, if you’re not setting the bar above you, you can’t improve. Freelancers don’t have quarterly reviews, cost of life raises or traditional bonuses — it is entirely up to us to ensure that we are exceptional.
I had high hopes for the other week, in which I was going to really dig down deep. It went fantastic the first two days and then pow!
My dog has a hole in it!
It’s amazing how such a simple thing like your dog having a hole in it can really throw off your game. Now, here is where the nefarious dark side of freelancing comes in:
- Oh yay, I don’t need to call out to work!
- Oh no, I don’t get paid for personal time.
So, of course, my dog no longer has a hole in it and I was able to recover quite neatly within a couple of days — I’m mildly obsessive over my dogs, so it took a little longer than it should have. No deadlines were missed, all clients were happy and, at least externally, everything should be operating as it was.
Unfortunately, missing a step threw me off that week, which threw me off the next week, in a cascading effect. I still find myself playing a frustrating game of mental catch up. As a freelancer, you really always need to be running ahead of yourself so that you can catch yourself when you stumble; this is a lesson I’m learning painfully for the 100th time.
For technical writing and white papers, it really isn’t that bad. I can write about cloud solutions and application development with my eyes closed. For more creative tasks, I find it very difficult to concentrate unless I’m in a “groove” — unless I’m in the proper state of mind. The second real life shatters that delicate balance, it becomes a full-fledged war with myself.
There is only one solution, really: to be prepared in advance. You need to work when you can to compensate for when you cannot. It seems like a simple realization, but it goes against what most of us have been taught. We’re taught to put in our time. But it just doesn’t work that way for us. For us we will sometimes do 12 hours of work and sometimes 4 hours of work. That’s just the nature of the game.
Don’t think that the symbolism of this is lost on me. The very first week I tried to do a 9-to-5 schedule as an experiment, the experiment failed before it had even begun. It’s a simple fact: the 9-to-5 really doesn’t work for a freelancer. I thought it was a matter of discipline, but it is simply that we don’t have that luxury.