office talk

As a reward for finishing all nine season of The Office, I got myself a new office!

Okay, so that’s not really why I moved…

I have been working from home for ten years, upstairs in a small bedroom. It suited me (and my dog Henry) well but this year a few things changed. Henry is now twelve and I didn’t want to burden him with too many trips up and down the stairs plus, we decided David was old enough to come home after school and keep himself occupied for the few hours between dismissal bell and 5:00. Let’s be honest, back in September, I imagined a blissful year of homework, math exercises, reading and writing – all done silently next to me in our co-space.

Things have not been perfect – and more days than not, David ends up playing with friends or Googling dog images and whining about being bored but I still love the new space.

Come on in and take a closer look!This room is formally the “living room” of our house. It wasn’t really touched during the renovation and has served as a playroom up until now. None of the furniture is new and most came from down from the upstairs office including the massive old desk which took four of us to move. I scored the rug from the Ikea sale section! And yes, the walls are PINK. The details are what sold me when we bought this house.The alphabet poster came from David’s room.The Stendig calendar was on my wishlist for years, happy to have found the perfect space for it.I recycled three bags of magazines when I moved downstairs. This is what remains.
The window shade goes up and down which is great for maximum light but good privacy!I actually got another beautiful marigold chair for my office (from the sale section at Ikea!) and although I love it in this space, it’s more practical in the living room where people actually sit. The chair above is from a secondhand store, Wrinkles is from my childhood and the family portrait was done by Jessica Morgan (Etsy).I bought two Waterhog mats from L.L.Bean to put under the chairs so the floor doesn’t get damaged. The three posters are from Ork.My neighbour just informed me this is a piano window – gawh, old houses are so charming! The little David train is from the Toy Maker of Lunenburg and the jar of sea glass was given to me by my cousins. They collected sea glass from the beach in Pugwash when I was in the hospital (age 13) and the globe came from my in-law’s basement.Pottery by ME! And the two cards are from here and here.

So in the end, the only new purchases were paint, a window shade, the three rugs and the calendar. Everything else was repurposed. Let me know what you think!

***

As great as my space is, I get asked all the time how I manage to work from home. Honestly, I often wonder how Y’all handle leaving the house every day! I love my home office. If you’re thinking about making the move, here’s a great article: Get More Done: 18 Tips for Telecommuters – Remote workers weigh in on what helps them amp productivity and stay in touch with the office. (link)

1. Identify what needs to get done every day and make sure to do it. 

2. Use the cloud. 

3. Get dressed.

4. Don’t let friends stop by. 

5. Get out of the house. 

6. Make a stoplight for family members. 

7. Invest in creating a comfortable office. 

8. Be clear about your working hours. 

9. Pretend you’re not home. 

10. Don’t go to non-work appointments in the middle of the day. 

11. Get in-person time with co-workers. 

12. Use Google+ Hangouts. 

13. Enjoy your flexibility. 

14. Enjoy disruptions. 

15. Stay out of the kitchen. 

16. Buy a noise-cancelling headset with a mute button. 

17. Check in with co-workers and the boss several times a day. 

18. Make use of free or inexpensive communications technology.

I strongly follow 1, 3, 7, and 17… I can do better.

psst. If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe and share. xomeg

reality bites

I work from home. Do I like it? Yes!

Okay, mostly.

Why? Probably because I have yet to be offered a job where the cubicle comes with a Golden Retriever. But, in all seriousness, I didn’t actually set out to be a self-employed freelancer… it kind of just happened and although there has been many times I have thought about giving it all up for a nine-to-fiver, there hasn’t been a good enough opportunity to do so.IMG_4348 Rewind to the end of 2007 – Mike and I were DINKS (Dual Income, No Kids) living in Montreal and even though we loved it, the time came for us to move back to Halifax for Mike’s job. This was both a blessing and a problem. A blessing because most of our family and friends are in Halifax and we knew that’s where we wanted to buy a home and have a child but a problem because I finally had a job I loved and did not want to leave. I left the city heartbroken and unsure about looking for a new job. IMG_4346Long story short. It turns out it is a lot harder to leave my job than I thought and I have been lucky enough to continue working from home as one of their freelancers for eight years. The world is big but so are servers and online communication.IMG_4351I juggle freelancing and personal projects all from the comfort of my home and have done so since January 2008. Happy anniversary to me!IMG_4349

Recently I was asked for tips on how to work from home so I thought I’d share some responses to question I get asked a lot. I AM a professional, so take what you want from this.

  • How do you stay productive? I am by nature productive. The busier I am, the better it is for me. If I am only half-busy, then my work and focus become half-ass so the busier the better (call me, please). That being said, it is easy to get distracted so it’s smart to set up a legit office space that you go to every day. I stay in my office all day and, a few years ago, switched from a laptop to a desktop to avoid couch time. I use my laptop for blogging and remote work and limit the amount of freedom and flexibility one could expect from a self-employed person.
  • Do you wear your PJs every day? No. Although I can wear what I want, I never wear PJs or yoga pants because leisure wear makes me feel lazy. My trick is to give my space an office-casual dress code – jeans and slippers are acceptable. The easiest way I accomplish this is by getting up and leaving the house every morning – I go for a run, walk the dog, shower and then walk David to school meaning the PJs have to come off. (I have a huge problem with people who wear PJs in public)
  • Are you lonely? Meh. Some days yes but I have become very comfortable with solitude. On the rare occasions I find myself in an office with other people, it is very distracting. Yes I listen to music, podcasts and Netflix in the background but in all honesty, I think it is way more productive than what goes on around cubicles.
  • How many hours a week do you work? Paid: That depends ~20 to +40 hours. Non paid (committee work, blogging and personal projects): ~15 hours at least!
  • Would you go back to working in an office? Sure, but I have yet to find something that has made it worth giving up what I have.
  • Can you design something for me? Sure! Send me an email and I will send you a quote!
  • What do you need to set up a home-office? In my office I have two computers, two printers, an iPhone, a big desk, shelves, a dog, books and magazines galore, a water cooler, lots of storage and lots and lots of stuff pinned to the wall for inspiration and enjoyment. Make sure you have a good internet connection – buy the best. You can write off these kind of luxuries.
  • What do you need to do to set up as a self-employed person? If you are not an accountant or unable to do so, find an accountant! You need a business number (GST number) and must know how to send a proper invoice. Never delete email correspondence and be very organized. WRITE IT DOWN. Prioritize.
  • It must be awesome to have so much flexibility. Yes and no. Working from home means you have the ability to always take work home with you so it can be hard to walk away at 5:00. You also end up being the one on-call for family and friends. Plus, for me, it feels wrong to wander far from my office when I know others are working. I am always afraid I’ll miss call or email even though my phone is with me.
  • Do you ever work from a coffee shop instead? No. It’d be like working in an office – too distracting and unproductive.
  • Do you take extra-long lunches? Rarely. I would like to try and get back to occasional lunch-hour work-outs and try and arrange lunch dates more often.
  • I “love” your blog, do you love working on it? Yes, thank you. I love creating content but it’d be even better if I got more comments and subscribers. The more action it sees, the better my chances are of making it a paying gig.
  • What’s the worst part about being self-employed? People don’t take me seriously. I think people think my job is not real because I work from home and get to do a lot of creative things. I know it is not brain surgery but I do try and make a living at it.
  • Do you work whenever you want? I mostly work when Mike is at work and David is at school. I have allowed some flexibility (such as occasional parent-volunteering at school, taking David to late-afternoon swim lessons, and during marathon training I did my long runs on Friday mornings). Before David, I had a hard time walking away from the office after putting in a full day of work. Now I don’t have a choice because I am responsible for after-school pick-up at before 5:30 and value my evenings.
  • Finally, how long do you see yourself doing this? Ask me tomorrow and I may have a totally different answer than today so who knows?

IMG_4350Perks to working from home:

  • My commute is non existent. Henry and I walk David to school but once I am home, I stay home.
  • I can switch a load of laundry mid day, hang it out and I can (but barely) prep dinner and pop it in the oven.
  • I mostly communicate to co-workers and clients by ichat or email… meaning, I can easily ignore people and avoid office drama and banter. That being said, because I am just a ‘virtual’ person… people share more with me because I am not really there.
  • Forget water-cooler conversations, I have Podcasts, Netflix and CBC to keep me company.
  • I usually never miss a parcel delivery. Nothing is worse than the dreaded slip telling you that you missed your delivery and it is now at the Post Office but you have to wait until 1 pm the next day to collect it. WHY!!!???

IMG_4347Cons to working from home:

  • When I am not busy I am not getting paid.
  • I have to invoice, fill taxes (ok, my father-in-law does this but I still have to save everything and keep it organized) and take care of IT problems (and by taking care of IT problems, I mean tracking down the IT guy from the Montreal office) all by myself.
  • I can get a little shack-wacky, which is why I have no problem going out 3 or 4 nights a week.
  • I have to limit my J.Crew purchases – cute shoes and dresses are rare so I don’t need a lot of nice clothes.
  • No lunching with the co-workers + no office parties (not totally true) + no Friday afternoon beer in the office fridge + no office lottery or oscar pools + no bonus or evaluations.

IMG_4345How about you? Do you work from home and like it? Any tips to share? Any questions I didn’t answer? I’d love to hear about your day!

psst. All photos were taken with my iPhone. Sorry – I did not clean up.
psst. If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe and share. xomeg

the September issue

September is wrapping up and I need a game plan. For reals. Although I rarely take time off in the summer, there is something about warm weather and flip flops that allows me to slack off a bit. But now I need a good kick in the butt to change things up, get things done, get new projects and actually be busy. When I am busy, I am happy and that’s my key to surviving winter.

Those of you who work 9-5’s with pensions and vacation time may not get it but, with all of the perks to being self-employed, working from home with a golden retriever under the desk can still be stressful at times. Work does not always land on your plate, you have to fight, you have to beg, you have to lower your expectations, you have to question yourself, you have to do things you don’t want to do and you have to do things you hate doing.

I know, everyone who works likely has things about their job they hate doing. This weekend I attended a reading by Elaine Lui (laineygossips.com) at Word On The Street. (I have been following her blog for over nine years… actually, I’ve been reading her blog longer than I’ve known what a blog was. True, I love the gossip but I think what actually draws me there is her writing, her ambition and her way of staying classy despite the reputation one may have about being a gossiper.) At the end of Lui’s reading there was a Q&A and someone asked her who were the worst celebrities she’s interviewed. Her response was that most are terrible; celebrities put themselves on pedestals and they often think they’re better than everyone else. But in all honesty, if they don’t promote themselves or sell themselves to the media and public, then they are more likely to fail. Interviews and promotion are a part of their job so even though they hate it, they still need to do it, and they should do it well.

What do I hate? I hate asking for help. I hate knowing what I want, but not sure how to get it. I hate putting myself out there and wondering if it matters. I hate questioning all of this. I hate wondering if I should just find a job in an office with vacation time and a pension but no dog even though I know I really don’t want to find a job in an office with vacation time and a pension.

I think the key to success is pushing yourself rather than expecting other’s to do it for you … So I am going to work on that first. Although no one is paying me to write this… I will still make an effort. Although I don’t need to make a homemade Holiday Card, I will still spend too much time thinking about a fresh new idea. I will make 20 calendars and a big batch of marmalade to give out. Why bother? Why send mail when you can email? Because you have to do what you love doing as much as you have to do what you hate doing. And if you mix em up then maybe the bad won’t be so bad and the good will be even gooder. Amiright?

So with all this and that. Here’s my fall to-do list. The summer wrap-up post is coming next week because in my mind, summer is not over ’till my toes are numb.

  • Polish up the website portfolio
  • Update the CV and cover letter
  • Make David’s halloween costume
  • Design the 2015 desk calendars
  • Mail birthday cards to all of my nieces and nephews… even the ones that have already happened… because late is better than never
  • Plan more lunch dates
  • Road trip
  • Buy a 2014-2015 office-wear cardigan (Here is last year’s)
  • Cook more
  • Bake more
  • Watch Pitch Perfect (I can’t believe I still haven’t watched this movie!)
  • Design and mail the 2014 holiday cards
  • Network
  • Learn how to network
  • Read more magazines
  • Run a marathon (I registered!!!)
  • Take more pictures with the nice camera
  • Make marmalade
  • Go on a spa date
  • Walk in the park at least once a week
  • Ride my bike more
  • Plan meals
  • Plant some bulbs
  • Go swimming in a pool
  • Finish my push-up challenge
  • Listen to the radio more
  • Stay in a hotel
  • Start weekly dinner parties
  • Get some fun new projects or find an amazing new job

How about you? Any fresh ideas or plans? (Please tell me I am not the only one struggling in September.) IMG_1338

psst. If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe and share. xomeg

a drapey striped cable cardigan

How do you survive winter? Invest in a comfy comfort sweater.

Working from home has some perks … One being I can wear what I want. This however means I do not wear my PJs all day. In fact, I do make somewhat of an effort because you never know who will come knocking. What if Facetime rings?

So yes, I put on jeans and a bit of make-up everyday but I also wear slippers. The funny thing is, my two previous jobs, before working from home, were both at home-offices, so in actuality, my work-wardrobe has been the same since 2004.

But I digress… I found this sweater on The Gap website and they were having a mid-week mega sale. Regular $70 with 35% off – SOLD!

cn6891944

It’s a great investment because it will keep me warm but it matches the office decor and that’s what it’s all about.

DSC_0752

Happy Thanksgiving Canada. xomeg