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.
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lonely boy

Remember Lonely Boy from Gossip Girl? That’s not what I am talking about, but good show! il_570xN.468504829_h0vv

I am in awe by people who seem to know how many kids they want and I feel like two is the magic number for most.

I am from a family of three and as a kid (middle), I swore I’d never have three kids. Four seemed much more sensible and I’d have two girls and two boys. I do not recall the boy’s names but the girls would be Connie and Victoria. Fast forward a few years and things changed. Two kids seemed doable but then I had David and for the most part, right now I think one is a great place to stay.

To be fair to my child, there is nothing he did to make me rethink having a second and I am not totally saying a second won’t happen but time is ticking and is life is good.

David is five and I’ve noticed I rarely get asked these days if I am having a second. When he was one… two… three… and even four I got asked a lot! I hated hearing “you can’t just have one”, “you need to give David a sibling”, “that’s not fair to your child”. REALLY people?

Why can’t you? Why is two so much better?

There are good and bad things about siblings. I love(!!) my sisters but the best thing I ever heard from an only child was “you don’t miss what you never had”. I never had a brother but I also never had cable tv as a kid… I missed the cable more than having a brother. Sure, a brother could be great but a brother could also be a big jerk.

As I said, from pure observation, a two-kid family seems like the safe spot – a place of least judgement and as we all know these days, it’s all about the judgement!

The Childless: You are selfish! Do you not like kids? / The Onlies: You’ll have a spoiled brat! / Parent’s of three: Now you’ve out-numbered yourself, what were you thinking? / Parent’s of four or more: Are you crazy or super religious or both?

So what are the Pros to an only child? Here are a few I came up with:

  • Education! Daycare! Sports! Travel! Oh my. News flash, Kids are expensive!
  • You have more space. One kid = one room and when they’re done with a toy, you haul it out of the house and move on.
  • We have the time and energy to read at night together and can both attend his games, events and parent-teacher meetings if we want to. No need to worry about managing time for the other child.
  • If we think David will be bored on the weekend or on an outing we can bring a friend. Borrowing a child is cheaper than owning a child in the long run. Plus you get to return them when you are done.
  • In exchange, when someone takes our child, we are child free!
  • We have room in our backseat for our dog and room in our trunk for the junk. And by car, I mean car. Not a mini-van.
  • It’s easier to find a FREE babysitter for one kid. More kids are more work and free babysitters may be more reluctant.
  • You do not have to worry about dividing up food, money and love.
  • Did I mention travel? Plane tickets are hella expensive. So are museums and eating out.

What are the Cons?

  • You bought all of this stuff for your baby/kid and are now stuck either donating, selling or giving away a lot of perfectly good things.
  • Family passes! They usually cover a family of four. Families of five or more pay additional so why can’t we pay less?
  • Guilt, yah I have guilt but what mom doesn’t? I feel bad when he’s bored and I can’t find a friend to borrow for him.
  • The future. Will he wish he had a sibling to pawn us off on when we’re really old? Will he wish he had someone to bitch with about the crazy parents? No doubt.
  • Wasted good names. Yah, I have a name bank. Names I’ve held on to just in case I have a second. They’re awesome and may never be used.
  • Pressure. As Eminem said “You only get one shot”. Damn, we better not screw it up.

Now that most of my friends are at a place where they’ve settled on their family head count, I have secretly made a club. I call it the Onlies Club and if you have an only child (for whatever reason), you are in! I will admit, sometimes I sigh a little when I find out I’ve lost a member. I like to think of us as a united bunch going against the norm and raising spoiled brats together. Or at least we can simultaneously roll our eyes at the people who assume our brats are spoiled. You know what I am saying.

Let me know if you are an only child or only have one child. I would love to hear all about it. For me, finding new onlies is like finding coins in your couch! Or, let me know if you are still undecided or set in your ways. I am always fascinated by people who do not overthink Every Damn Thing.

In the meantime, here is some online reading I found for people who may be thinking about only one…

Photo: Invisiblecrown’s Lonely Boy notebook

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