By Ann McCormick
Earlier this year, a GWA member John Boggan posted the following question on Facebook. It sparked a lively discussion. The answers were filled with thoughtful suggestions that might be of benefit to our members.
Question from John Boggan: For those of you who have quit a full-time job and become self-employed, how did you manage your time, especially in that first year or two of setting your own schedule? Specifically, how did you deal with various demands on your time (both reasonable and unreasonable) now that you had so much “free time.” from spouses or other family members, or well-meaning friends who think you’re more or less retired (or unemployed)? Or even from yourself, when you’re tempted to blow off the work you know you should be doing when something else comes up, or you’re just feeling lazy or unmotivated?
Benjamin Vogt of Lincoln, NE – I get my best work done in the mornings when my brain is fresher. So harder tasks I schedule in the morning, and leave afternoons to mindless things, or cleaning the house, or running errands, or checking on client gardens. Everyone is different, and while it’s easy to get lazy, I do feel very bad and even sick when I’m not working to make my business better and help it grow. It’s a lot of trial and error and failure — which is at least progress.
Katie Elzer-Peters of Wilmington, NC – My never-ending bills motivate me! If I don’t work I don’t get paid and I can’t pay the mortgage or support my running habit. The “no work = no pay” is HIGHLY motivating. Also, I guess I’ve been doing this long enough that my family KNOWS I work regular business hours and have difficulty getting a full vacation. Also I DO take weekends 100% off, no email, no business calls, no nothing. I can’t do that if I don’t work during the week on a pretty regular schedule of 9-6 or so.
Jessica Walliser of Sewickley, PA – There is no feeling unmotivated when you’re self-employed. It’s not allowed. You are now officially accountable to the best and worst boss you’ve ever had: your own conscience. Sit at your desk and get stuff done, whether you’re in the mood or not, just like you’d have to do if you were working elsewhere. Meet your self-imposed deadlines just as you met those imposed by an employer. Live by your deadline calendar, but do schedule a one or two days a month to fill with fun stuff, instead of work.
Lisa Steele – For me, it’s a home office and getting up, getting dressed, and getting to work every day. Setting some “work” hours and trying to stick to them for the most part. Self-employment isn’t for everyone.
Kim Roman – Everything was fine until my husband retired! My favorite place to write is the kitchen table with the TV on in the background for noise. He takes that as a sign that I’m not doing anything important. I’m going to have to organize my office and shut the door.
Ann McCormick of Fort Worth, TX – Repeat after me – “I have a commitment.” These are the words you need to use, politely and with a smile, when people assume you can drop everything. They do NOT need to know the commitment is to yourself and your writing, important though that is. Don’t let them guilt you into rearranging your time because “writing can be done anytime.” They don’t go into their 9-5 job only when it doesn’t conflict with other events, do they? Neither should you.
Susan Harris of Greenbelt, MD – Being home alone all day can be challenging, especially if you’re home alone in the evening, too. When I’m going stir-crazy from being alone I just work somewhere else – local coffee shop or library.
Amy Campion of Portland, OR – I quit punching a clock and have been freelancing for a few years. At first my main client was giving me a light work load but now I’m getting steady work, plus doing other projects. I find myself working at all hours of the day, every day of the week, but a lot of that time is not really working – social media is a big time suck. As an author, I feel it’s of value for me to have a presence on Facebook, but there’s no value in scrolling through my news feed all day. I’m going to get serious about setting business hours AND staying off the internet while I write.