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Two weeks of bossing myself around

Mr. Coffee

I set my alarm clock for 8:30am, but I’m usually awake before then. Nature’s alarm clock goes off first when sunlight streams through the Venetian blinds on the eastern wall of my bedroom. Then I’m up and the cats are skittering about my feet, mewing as I walk to the kitchen and fill their bowls with food. I fill my own human bowl with oatmeal, precisely measured out like the kibble at my feet. Then Mr. Coffee starts brewing some Folgers Classic Roast for me as I eat my breakfast and perhaps catch a clip of Good Morning America. With coffee cup in hand I head to my office, closing the door to keep kitties out. Then I open the curtains and read my emails, sometimes in my pajamas.

After the emails are sorted, I go put on pants and get my second cup of coffee. Next up I tend to any estimates that need estimating. This requires lots of thinking and analyzing and spreadsheeting. I break down the project into the different parts, estimating how many hours each task will take. I look at the timesheets I’ve kept on previous projects to see how long similar jobs took. I might also have to explain some technical stuff to my clients, so I work on translating technobabble to English. Sometimes a client wants something that I’ve never done before, so I have to poke around the Interwebs, checking out plugins or programs or documentation, figuring out the best way to handle their problem and how much to charge. Then I look at my schedule, which I have been keeping in Google Calendar because it nicely color codes work projects and personal commitments. I can also easily drag and drop tasks when I don’t have time to do them that day, not that that happens, of course not. I scan the days and see when I will be free and add that start date to the estimate.

By then someone else has replied to something I emailed yesterday or last week or back when grunge was cool . I pull up the email and momentarily wonder, “Who is this person? What did they want? How much did I say it would cost? What color is their dog?” and think to myself that I must keep better notes because constantly rereading all my emails is confusing and taking too much time. I have not seen my clients’ faces or heard their voices and all this text looks the same. So now I take notes in a spreadsheet with different pages for each estimate. I break down each task and how much it will cost by row, and I have text files which contain my common replies, all of which I use to copy and paste information into an email with the estimate information. If the client decides to go ahead, I create another spreadsheet where I track my time when I work on the project.

This also means I have to bill the client and track how much they’ve paid and for what. There was a spreadsheet for this too, but it didn’t integrate with my email, so now I’m using Freshbooks which makes pretty little invoices, tracks payments, lets me enter expenses, and makes handy, dandy reports which will be priceless come tax time, which is every 3 months now that I’m a freelancer. Uncle Sam wants his money as I make it, not in a big lump at the end of the year. I can also analyze how much I have billed this week and how much I’ve been paid this week and compare that to the goals in my business plan.

Now it’s on to, oh yes, the actual work, the work I am now contracted to do, but look it’s already noon! Off I go to run and eat lunch, maybe with a friend, and pet my kitties who want to be let out onto the porch. Then it’s back to the office, which my oh my is rather hot, isn’t it? That’s what happens when you keep the door closed and have an eastern-facing window. At least I have my fan circulating air past my face. Now I am working on a project, actual web design work, which I will do for 3 or 4 hours, until my body starts to ache. Maybe I’m done with the work now, so I email the client with mockups or links to check out. Then they email me back later and I think, “Who? What? Where am I?” but now I have my notes which I refer to and can remember what my name is and how old I am and what I am working on and that their dog is brown.

Then perhaps I shall write, either a blog entry or a chapter in my book. Or perhaps I will surf the Internet or chat on IM with a friend. It might be someone from my old job and I will laugh to myself when I see that the home page is broken and it is not my job to fix it. Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha! Happiness is HTML you don’t have to fix.

Oh my, it’s evening now and I am tired. I might go to my bedroom and read a book or watch some TV in the living room. I might make some dinner, but I’ll probably just zap something in the microwave. Then I’ll check my email before bed and respond to people if it’s easy or sort messages to reply to tomorrow if it requires thought. Perhaps I didn’t get as much done today as I wanted to because I felt tired and unmotivated, but oh well, got to work. Got to pay the bills. Got to cash the checks.

It is fun though. And exciting. And new. And I know why the word “freelancer” starts with “free.” (Hint: It’s not my hourly rate.)

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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22 Comments

Benita • July 22, 2009 at 9:04 am

At least you know who to blame when you go to get a cup of coffee and the pot is empty. :)

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Jean • July 22, 2009 at 10:01 am

I SO admire you for taking the leap of being a freelancer – setting your own schedule, working in your pjs, and all the other stuff that comes with it. How do you think that you will do with the lack of social interaction – or did you not have much when you actually left the house to work? I actually like being by myself, and the boys (cats) are good company, but I think I would need to ‘come out of the cave’ every once in awhile so I don’t forget what being around people is like!

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Lori • July 22, 2009 at 10:30 am

Now that you aren’t working in an outside office with other people, you should think about upgrading your coffee LOL!

And I love this:

“Happiness is HTML you don’t have to fix”

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PastaQueen • July 22, 2009 at 10:39 am

@Jean – I’ve been doing lunch with friends, and next week I’ve made a note to start finding community activities to take part in so I don’t go stark raving mad.

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Deb M • July 22, 2009 at 11:24 am

There’s definitely something to be said for not being a 9-5 wage slave! Structuring your time can be tough. I did the freelance thing (not by choice-got laid off) for several months. My biggest challenges were organizing my day so I didn’t futz away all the time I was supposed to be working in my studio, keeping the cats out of my face, and of course, remembering to put on my pants.

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dietgirl • July 22, 2009 at 11:44 am

I love the minutae of organising and time management, it is always strangely fascinating to read how people do things :)

do you use Gmail to handle your emails? i run all my POP accounts through it, love the labels on there, you can coordinate the colours with your calendar. AND there’s a Canned Responses plugin thingy so adding your pre-written text to emails is easy as clicking on a dropdown. My “Feck Off, Clueless PR Person” one gets used a fair bit :D

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Ruby Leigh • July 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Loved this:

It was strangely inspiring !

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PastaQueen • July 22, 2009 at 12:20 pm

@dietgirl – I’ve thought about passing everything through Gmail, but right now I manage all my accounts through Thunderbird, a cross-platform email client. It works pretty well because I know what type of email to expect in each account – personal, blog, web design etc.

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Katy • July 22, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Ahh…the perils of the self employed! Now you can call yourself business manager and web designer. Sounds like your doing a good job of it though. I did bookkeeping for my dad’s small business for years and he struggles with organizing the business and doing the work. Do you do only blog design or do you do other websites too? My dad wants me to help him with a website but I said he needs to hire someone. If you do other sites…how much does it cost? We’ve purchased a domain name. Just need the web design.

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Kelly • July 22, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I’m so impressed with your mad organizational skillz. You sound like you’re really enjoying this new free life of yours.

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Rachel • July 22, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I expect this description will scare off some but attract others – I’m in the latter category. Sounds great to me!

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Dee • July 22, 2009 at 1:47 pm

This is the best motivational speech for becoming an entrepreneur that I’ve ever read! And “motivating” wasn’t even your aim. (I don’t think).

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Amy P • July 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Just a hint from my short time while working from home. When you finish your work for the day is the best time to go outside for a run. It makes a nice break between the end of your work day and the start of your evening.

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Daisy • July 22, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Well I know quite a few people (including myself) who’d love to trade with you. The only drawback for me would be the lack of contact with co-workers. I do miss that!

I also use Thunderbird to manage my accounts. There are so many add ons to make life easier (lightning calendar!) it makes Outlook look like an amateur.

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JEM • July 22, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Lucky!! :-)

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DanaDanger • July 22, 2009 at 2:33 pm

As one of your former coworkers, I would just like to — oh crap, hang on, the database is acting up.

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Sarah • July 24, 2009 at 2:07 am

Wow, that all sounds really complicated with the labels and spreadsheets and whatnot.

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Ro • July 24, 2009 at 10:25 am

OK maybe I need to boss myself around more then maybe I’ll get more done. LOL! Glad to hear your doing good.

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Maggie • July 24, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I didn’t see any time carved out of that schedule for reading blogs. Personally, I’ve just spent 1.5 hours catching up with yours and exploring various links it provided — this is how all my good intentions for allocating my work-at-home time get shot to h*ll every day!

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Quix • July 24, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Very good to hear the freelancing gig is going well. I was pining away for a change last time you talked about it and heh, I got it. Liking the change so far. Don’t want to quit and work in my PJs just yet!

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Fern • July 26, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Okay, you got me…I’ve not really tried google calendar before, but you made me curious, and now I’m hooked! I guess it’s probably a good addiction…

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Deb • August 1, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Your time management and organization skills are impressive! I predict great success for you!

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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