I really should be working. Don’t tell, OK? It’s actually taken me five days to write this blog post.
Work has been c * r * a * z *y this past week. There’s just too much on my plate. Don’t get me wrong: I lovelovelove being a freelancer. It has several very positive aspects, which include:
- I enjoy a flexible schedule which I can set around my children’s activities and needs, my own appointments, illness, the need to play hooky once in a while, and anything else that comes up. Being home when my kids get out of school, always knowing where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing, is huge for me. I was blessed to have a mom who was home when I got out of school, and I know this impacted my character development. That is not to say that I have anything against single parents or households with two working parents, or any other situation. We all do what we have to do and I respect that. But for me, it’s a real comfort and blessing to be able to earn a check doing what I love, and still be here with my kids.
- It’s affordable. Working from home means I don’t spend a lot on gas, car maintenance, business clothes, the alcohol I would require if I ever actually worked for The Man again, or other miscellaneous necessities. When times have been tight, I’ve contemplated getting an office job and giving up writing for a while, but it always comes down to this: I don’t want to spend 60 percent of my take-home pay on fuel, wear & tear on my car, new clothes, shoes, cosmetics, hair products, child care, and the temptation of grabbing lunch or fancy coffee drinks since I’m already away from home. I’d rather work a little harder and cut back on expenses to make up the difference. (I still wear makeup and do my hair, just not every day if I don’t feel like it.)
- Although I tend to say yes to just about everything, I do have the luxury to pick and choose assignments. I don’t have to do everything that’s asked of me if I don’t want to. I can very easily tell a client that I have a prior commitment, and I won’t be able to do their job this time, and they are OK with that. They don’t have to know that “Sorry, I’m booked up” sometimes means, “Sorry, I want to go shopping.” (Except, I usually do the job anyway.) My philosophy has always been, “Take every job, no matter how small; you never know where it will lead.” And in some cases, small jobs have turned into bigger jobs. In most cases, they were small jobs. The end. But you never know, so it’s good to make yourself available, especially in this business.
- I’m in charge. I can wear and do what I want, when I want, without having to adhere to a company dress code or be expected to look busy at all times. I don’t have anyone peeking over my shoulder and criticizing my work. Also, no annoying coworkers and their “habits,” such as taking personal calls while in earshot of fellow employees, or stealing my lunch out of the break room refrigerator. Although I get dressed every day, I only wear shoes if I’m going out. I can crank up my iPod and sing along to Flo Rida or get down with Rick James, use the F word out loud if my laptop crashes, watch reruns of Who’s the Boss? or new episodes of Mob Wives, skip wearing a bra on laundry day, or get distracted by household chores, Pinterest, or magazine reading any time I please, as long as my work gets done.
There are a few very significant drawbacks to being a freelancer as well, which include:
- The pay isn’t always great. Not every client can afford to pay you what you’re worth. There, I said it. In fact, everyone seems to be struggling these days. I’m loyal to several clients who haven’t always been able to pay me in a timely manner, but are good people who deserve quality work, and who have continued to send work my way. I’ve never had so many “alternative pay schedule arrangements” in my life. A regular, twice-a-month paycheck hasn’t been part of my world since 1997. It sucks, but that’s reality.
- It’s feast or famine. You’re either drowning in work or treading water, trying to stay afloat until the next assignment comes along. Inconsistent pay makes it difficult to plan a budget, and almost impossible to save. And when you are getting paid, that’s usually when someone needs shoes, dental work, or a new set of tires. It sucks, but that’s reality.
- You get a lot of last minute stuff. Some people seem to forget that you have a life other clients, and expect you to drop everything and take care of their “emergency,” which as we all know is a code word for “poor planning.” Of course they are very grateful and appreciative when you save their ass come through, but that doesn’t make it any less disruptive to your schedule. No one likes going from cruise control to full-on panic mode, and knowing that others are relying on them to fix something they didn’t break, and fix it fast. It sucks. But that’s reality.
So … what does that have to do with fitness? Well, a lot, actually. Right now I’m in hyperworkmode. The proverbial feast, if you will. I was thinking about that phrase, “too much on my plate,” which we all use when life explodes and we can’t keep our shizznit together. Funny how we relate stressful times to being overloaded with food. Too much on my plate. My schedule is full. It’s feast or famine. Because food is what many of us turn to when our work life gets crazy. Whether it’s junk food or just too much food, it’s there to comfort us, without judgment, when the rest of our world falls apart.
Let me emphasize here that I am grateful for the work. God knows I’ve been through the proverbial famine a time or two. All freelancers go through it. It tests your will to continue doing the work you love, even when there’s no money coming in. I have worked hard to build my business over the last decade and a half. Fortunately, I have five regular clients/gigs right now. They are all different, and they all appeal to my interests. They’re all good people, too. I wouldn’t work for them if they weren’t. My oldest client is wonderful, been with them about 15 years, and they send me work on a fairly regular basis. I work for two online gigs, and they’re both great, with a small but steady amount of work each month that allows me to explore new things. I’ve been with my fourth client for about a year and my responsibilities there recently increased dramatically. My fifth client is brand new and I’m very excited to be taking on this new venture because I see it as the direction I’m eventually heading into, career-wise. They’re all equally important. They all pay me to do what I love. They all keep me busy.
However, this past week, I got slammed with three big projects, all from different clients, and they all need everything done right now. This is on top of my regular workload, not to mention my daily responsibilities of caring for two children and running a household. I’ve done this long enough to know that this panic period won’t last forever. You just have to ride the wave and try not to get sucked under. A few days, maybe a week at the most, and I’ll be back to a more normal workload. And then inevitably back to famine phase, when there’s no work to be had. But in the meantime … it’s a grind.
I know. I’m not special. Everyone gots problems, right? Everyone is stressed. Everyone has too much on their plate. I get it.
My issue may not be unique, but I’m still struggling with it. My desk just happens to be about 6 steps away from the kitchen. In fact, the refrigerator is on the other side of the wall behind my desk. I can hear it running while I work. Just a constant reminder that there is plenty of food here, you know, just in case I don’t feel like working right now and want to poke around in the fridge. Although I’ve made time for cardio five times this week, plus a few strength training sessions, and hit 10,000 steps on my pedometer all but one day … my weight is not changing.
Could I eat better? Probably. I’m well aware that’s part of the problem. But I feel like I’m so busy trying to hold everything else together, and I’m doing the best I can. Right now it’s a work in progress, but it still isn’t good enough.
The plan for now is to keep exercising. That’s always been built into my schedule. I was already working out four days a week anyway. I’ve added a fifth, with an emphasis to make my rest days more active even if I don’t do any “formal” exercise, and I’ve also gotten back to strength training. I also do the Gorilla Workout app about every other day. It’s better than what I was doing before. It’s just not enough. The food thing … ugh … I just need to get it under control and remind myself how close I am to succeeding before I self-sabotage and eff it all up.
So … that’s where I’m at right now. Still here. Still working. Just too much on my plate.