Welcome to Freelance Friday! Each Friday, I’ll share something Freelance-y that I learned during the week that will help other freelancers or entertain cubicle-queens. Thanks for reading!
Calling all freelancers, calling all freelancers!
You know that feeling you get at the end of the work day when you don’t actually stop working?
Or when you finally do an errand like running to the post office and you get there and the post office worker says “Hello, how are you?” and your eyes bug out a little bit, confused by the question?
Then you’re at risk. Read on.
There’s gotta be more to freelancing…
The past six months have taught me so much about myself. But I’ve also lost a lot, too. When there’s nothing between you and work except the distance between you and an electronic device, it’s so easy to sink into your work and just kind of fade away. Your personality just… dissolves… into being a machine that produces work and receives a check.
It becomes hard to answer the question “How are you doing?” because the YOU you hasn’t been doing anything — there’s just the work (the awesome, awesome work you get paid for) and everything else seems less important.
When you start to feel this way, you’re at risk of dissolving into a machine. A well-paid, professionally-satisfied machine, but a machine nonetheless.
You’ve got to fight this. You’ve got to shake it up and crack it open. You’ve got to keep using other things to bounce off yourself to help you define the shape of your personality, like that gold foil experiment I learned about in Earth Science in 9th grade.
Keep the dissolve at bay with these tips:
- Volunteer somewhere. For me, this is now I get my cubicle kicks. I volunteer at church on an as-needed basis as an admin assistant. Once or twice a month I put on my office getup and have to figure out who I am, how I’m doing, and how to follow instructions. I’m sure I come off like a crazy hermit, but I enjoy every minute of it and feel far better afterwards.
- Socialize, even if you don’t want to. This is easier for people who are married, since you have a built-in “other person,” but sometimes that’s not enough either. Too easily, your marriage can fall into meal schedules, chores, and diving into bed. Instead, make time for weekly socialization — a standing date, a new meet-up, etc, to shake your brain up. Long-time best friend meet-ups get extra points.
- Do something with your hands. Despite a general dislike for mindless tasks, I get really relaxed when I’m peeling vegetables. For you it might be knitting, gardening, painting, or drawing. But if you freelance or work with a computer a lot, your hands need some un-moused love, too. It gives you time to think without necessarily working over business strategy.
- Read something just for fun. My reading tastes are bipolar. I either need to be engaged with CS Lewis or Annie Dillard, thinking about abstract things…. or entranced in a trashy teen vampire book like Twilight or Vampire Academy. I don’t know why, it just happens. But I think the lesson here is that not everything you do should be an epic intellectual battle (though your hobbies should not be exclusively entertainment, either, in my opinion). Find something you can read that will get your mind off your work without requiring too much of your brain battery (and all the better if it’s a bound paper book, too!), then try to have an opinion about it that you can share the next time you socialize.
- Hangout with that cat. Or dog. We have a tendency to ignore our cat if we aren’t batting her away from the TV or spooning her in the evening. But why ignore such an obvious source of joy (for you and for the pet!). Schedule 10 minute play seshs and stick to it a few times a week. You might just get more spoons out of it, too.
- Pray or meditate. I’m not as good at this one yet, but in theory it’s got to be awesome. I do try to take deep breaths when I get worried about something, and it helps a lot. 10-15 minutes before and after a “freelance shift” would give me a lot of time to review what I’ve done, who I am, and how I can be more like myself. Man, that sounds weird.
One could argue that the whole point of freelancing is to get a better grip on the purpose of your life. And I bet losing a sense of yourself and your personality is not what you’re working so hard for.
Beyond financial independence, freelancing should offer you a rare opportunity to get to know yourself, push past the fears you have, and be more like you. So do it.