working from home

thoughts on how to support your freelancing + side hustlin’ + WFH friends.

I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through these first (almost) two years of freelancing and of working from home and for myself if I didn’t have the support of some pretty kick-butt people. I was reminded of how lucky I am to have such amazing humans in my corner more recently when I launched The SSR Podcast. This whole “nontraditional career” thing is no joke, and as much as I create structure and routine for myself, it can sometimes be the people in my life who provide me with what I really need to move forward with my writing — and now with the podcast, too.

IMG_9954.JPG

I’ve been thinking about writing a post like this for a while, but I found myself hesitating about it a few times over the last few months. I never wanted anyone to feel, when reading it, that they had done something “wrong” in approaching a friend who, like me, is pursuing a freelance or self-employed lifestyle or who is trying to launch a business or side hustle. The truth is that any effort you make to support a friend who’s doing this is meaningful, and I know I speak for all of us when I say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the love!

In the past two years, I’ve been on the receiving end of all kinds of efforts to support and understand what I do, and since freelancing and side hustles seem to be on the rise (at least, according to my editors!), I thought it might be interesting to organize some of my thoughts about the best ways to be there for people in those situations. I do think that there are a lot of misunderstandings out there about what it’s actually like to be your own boss or to work from home, and it’s easy for those of us who do it to be oversensitive about them. Hopefully, these tips will help you cut through those misunderstandings so you can (respectfully!) be the cheerleader I know you want to be : )

1. Ask questions. When I left my corporate job to pursue writing full-time in 2016, I’m sure that plenty of my friends felt confused about what I was doing. And I totally understood that! There were moments when everyone’s confusion made me question what I was doing, but what helped were the many great conversations that came from it. When people asked genuine, earnest questions, it gave me the opportunity to get more and more clear about where I was going. More importantly, it made me feel like they respected me enough to talk to me about my “work stuff,” even if they didn’t quite understand it right away. And that’s still true! Ask your freelance, WFH, and side hustle friends respectful questions about the work they do, just as you would anyone else. You’ll learn more about their world and you’ll boost their confidence by giving them a chance to demonstrate some of their expertise.

2. Minimize assumptions. Yes, working from home or running your own business can afford you flexibility when it comes to when and where you work. But that doesn’t mean that we freelancers or WFH-ers don’t have routines that are necessary in order for us to be productive! When people equate working from home or being your own boss to habitually sleeping in, taking long weekends, and blowing off work commitments in favor of last-minute fun, it can strike a nerve! While all of those things can happen, they’re the exception and not the rule for most of us.

3. Celebrate milestones. If one of your friends who worked in a more traditional career got a new job offer or earned a promotion, you’d probably congratulate them, right? You might buy them a drink or call them to hear more about the good news. Your friends who have side hustles or work in less traditional settings don’t have those clear milestones, and they probably struggle with that themselves! We’re taught to pursue logical checkpoints, to achieve things in a linear way — and as rewarding as it can be to be your own boss, that lack of a clear path can be a bit of a mind game, too. Look for opportunities to celebrate major professional moments for your freelancin’ and side hustlin’ pals, whether it be when they bring on a new client, launch a new project, or earn enough money to upgrade their workspace.

4. Stay engaged. It’s 2018, and if your friend has their own business, side hustle, or passion project, I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one way that you can engage with it online or via social media. Liking, commenting, following, or subscribing might seem like a small gesture to you, but that kind of engagement is quite literally the fuel that keeps these projects going. Take every opportunity to participate in these ways, and to encourage other people in your circle to do the same.

5. Play the role of a boss or colleague (when appropriate!). Whenever I’m feeling down on myself because a new project isn’t growing quite as quickly as I want it or or because I’m struggling to make connections with the editors I want to work with, one of my best friends reminds me that I’m in unchartered territory and that I’ve already made strides down an untraditional path. This advice is a great motivator because it helps me remember that I’ve already proven myself capable! After that, she helps me talk through small goals that will allow me to make progress. In the absence of a boss to have these conversations with, I do need my loved ones that much more. You know your friend well — what kinds of conversations do you think they might be missing from an office environment, and what kinds of conversations will help them do more and do better with their work? Consider how you can be the one to facilitate those conversations, then make sure they know you’re available to have them if — and only if! — you need them.

How do you support friends and loved ones who work in untraditional ways? If you’re a freelancer or have a side hustle yourself, what kinds of support do you look for? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

1 Comment

finding a summer state of mind.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while (first of all — thank you!), you might remember that my first summer as a freelancer in 2017 proved a bit of a challenge.

I came out of a corporate job that was wildly generous with its benefits, one of the biggest of which was summer Fridays. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, all employees would work an extra hour Monday through Thursday, then leave at lunchtime on Friday. The hours themselves were great, but the spirit of summer Fridays bled into the culture of the company for the whole summer. Obviously, we worked hard in the summer months, but everyone felt a little lighter. The promise of a shorter workday on Fridays changed the whole tone of our weeks. It was kind of the best.

Summer Fridays aren’t unusual here in New York City, and many of my friends have adjusted schedules at this time of year, so when I watched last year as my pals began posting photos of Friday afternoon happy hours and regular long weekend trips, I couldn’t help but feel bummed out. Yes, I had left my former job with eyes wide open about the benefits I was losing, but giving up summer Fridays felt particularly sad.

You’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “But you work for yourself! Don’t you have full control of your schedule?”

Well, you’re right and you’re wrong. Freelancing is kind of funky, because while I don’t technically have a Boss (yes, with a capital B), I still work for plenty of people, and I’m constantly hustling to deliver work to those people on time and to put myself in front of other people who might be interested in hiring me in the future. I don’t quite have the flexibility that other entrepreneurs (in the truer sense of the word) have, because I don’t get to call all of the shots in my work. I probably call about half of them. Once I’m in a successful business relationship with an editor or client — which is obviously my goal — there are only so many liberties I can take with my schedule and workload. Since I’m always balancing a handful of clients and a lot of deadlines with my own passion projects, that can mean that I’m working 60-65 hour weeks… even in the summertime.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this last summer. A few of my freelancer friends and I even thought about trying to hold each other accountable for taking summer Fridays and granting ourselves a little more down time! That didn’t quite work out, and since I have even more on my plate this summer, it’s not exactly happening in 2018, either. Still, we’re now halfway through the summer (?!?!?!), and I want to find small ways to make the season feel more special, even if I can’t take a ton of extra time off. Ever since I started working from home, I find that minor changes to my routine can make all the difference!

Here are a few of my ideas for finding those summer vibes even in the craziness. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you if you don’t have any big trips planned or are feeling overwhelmed by work, too : )

1. Get outside. It sounds simple, but making a point to step outside of my home office is big for me. Summer in the city can be hard because there’s not a ton you can do to minimize the heat, but I walk to and from The Wing whenever I can, and if I know I have a crazy day head of me, I’ll take an extra lap or two around the block on my way to the gym in the morning.

2. Treat myself more often. I’m naturally pretty frugal, and one of my biggest concerns when I started working from home was that I would constantly be tempted to buy myself lunches, Starbucks, etc. This summer, I’ve been allowing myself a few extra indulgences — especially strawberry bubble tea from the Vietnamese restaurant under our apartment! These drinks are a great way to cool down, and they taste like summer to me.

3. More date nights. Summer is one of the best times to live in New York (as miserable as the heat can be), because it’s easier than ever to explore your neighborhood. Matt and I have been making it a priority to go out more frequently on weeknights, even if it’s just on a walk to the bookstore or to get an ice cream cone. There will be plenty of time to curl up on the couch and watch TV in the winter!

4. Get dressed up. If you work from home, you know all too well how easy it is to keep things casual — to put it generously — in your day-to-day life. Most of the time, if I don’t have meetings or events, I throw on a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt and call it a day… but I’m trying to do that less this summer. I always get such a boost in confidence at this time of year, so I’ve gotten reacquainted with my closet and have been much more likely than usual to actually put on an outfit, even if I’m planing to work out of the apartment. I still don’t wear a ton of makeup most days (better for my skin that way!), but fully embracing my boho style with maxi dresses and long skirts and rompers on a daily basis has been really fun.

5. Drinks! A few months ago, I stopped drinking almost entirely. I’ve never been a huge drinker, but in the late winter and early spring, I was finding that even a glass or two of alcohol here and there was seriously messing with my stomach and giving me a raging headache. I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who likes to drink a lot, but I love me some rosé and girly cocktails in the summer — our summer social life in the city involves a lot of rooftops, and a girl needs rosé on a roof! — so I started working the occasional drink back into my rotation a few weeks ago. It hasn’t been making me feel sick… only celebratory!

What do you do to capture summer vibes? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

0 comment

pre-summit feels.

I didn’t become a work-from-home-ing freelancer because I like spending time alone, but I can’t say that spending more time alone didn’t seriously appeal to my introvert soul when I decided to do it. I’m lucky to have met some of my best friends when I was working in my corporate job, but I knew back then that I would become an even better friend to them once I was able to transition our relationships out of our cubicles — especially when it became clear that I was no longer a great fit for those cubicles.

These days, I’m admittedly alone a lot. I’m in constant contact with plenty of editors and sources and I have face-to-face meetings with people a few times a week, but there are days that I don’t actually interact with another human being until Matt gets home from work. Working from home is most definitely not for social butterflies, my friends, but most of the time, the quiet doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been pretty content doing things on my own, and thanks to the magic of texting, Gchat, and social media, I’m never far from a friend : )

The fact that I spend so much of my time alone makes it that much of a bigger deal that…

I’m leaving for a summit today.

Yup, a summit. Like, the kind where there a lot of people. And icebreakers. And the possibility that I might be expected to share parts of my story with total strangers. 

(Even before I was a constantly-alone writer type, that whole “sharing with strangers” thing wasn’t really for me.)

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 5.15.29 PM

I know from my fellow creatives and solopreneurs that there’s a lot of value to gatherings like this, so when one of my biggest social media and podcasting crushes Amber Lilyestrom opened registration for her Ignite Your Soul Summit in Portsmouth, NH, I thought it would be a good place for me start putting myself out there in a new way. I texted my friend Brittney Lynn (you’ve heard me gush about her before) to see if she would be open to going, too, and within 24 hours we’d both purchased our Early Bird tickets and were planning our takeout and trash TV lineup for our nights sharing a hotel room. Brittney and I have been close since we connected through blogging and Instagram back in October, and I’m so excited to officially meet her! I feel like we already know each other so well, but I’m anxious to find out how tall she is (I know that sounds silly, but it’s one of the only things I really don’t know about her!) and have wine and sushi together.

fullsizeoutput_b45.jpeg
All of the photos that Brittney and I have together so far look like this. Definitely planning to change that this weekend!

Honestly, if not for Brittney, I’d be having all kinds of social anxiety heading into this weekend, and even with her as my friend and security blanket, I can’t help but feel a little nervous about all of this. Even a year and a half later, it’s hard for me to confidently share with people what I do (hello, imposter syndrome!), and now that I’ve added a few more projects to my plate (hello, podcast-to-be!), it’s that much more confusing. I know that if people are going to take me seriously, though, I need to take myself seriously… and if they’re going to be open to me, I need to pay that forward proactively.

I decided to take the train to minimize the stress of air travel, and I’m actually really excited to use that time to get some work done, read, and decompress as I get ready for the summit. I was an Amtrak regular back in college when Matt and I were maintaining our relationship from a few states away, so I have a weird sentimental attachment to trains, anyway.

Wish me luck! I’m sure I’ll be sharing a lot of the weekend on my Instagram stories, so tune in if you want to check it out. Even with my nerves, I feel really grateful to have the chance to experience something like this, and I’m excited to see what’s in store.

What are you up to this weekend? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

…AND don’t forget that there are still a few days left to enter the April giveaway! All you have to do to be eligible to win a Color Intense Lipstick from Beautycounter is comment on this post or this photo.. The winner can pick the shade of their choice! Be sure to get your entries in by midnight on Sunday 4/29. I’ll announce the winner right here on the blog on Monday 4/30. Good luck! 

Image 4-22-18 at 8.47 PM (1).jpg

2 Comments

a day off.

For the last two months (check out my February and March posts for proof!), I’ve been prioritizing a day off. Not just a Friday afternoon that frees up by default because we have to drive somewhere or a holiday like Christmas day when everyone has off. A real day off — the kind I used to take when I worked a corporate job that usually involved little more than binge watching the Real Housewives and getting a manicure. Putting this kind of day for myself on the schedule didn’t pan out for the first few months of the year for a variety of reasons, but about two weeks ago, I glanced at the calendar and realized that last Friday looked promisingly free. I immediately blocked out the day in my planner and started thinking about ways to keep it free. I got weirdly protective of Friday the 13th. It was all I could think about.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I really needed a day off.

I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to put on the brakes and step out of the work routine for a day — let alone a week! — but I’ve found it even more challenging to do so since I started freelancing. There’s no one else who can serve as my email back-up, no reliable colleague who can handle any surprises in my absence. Plus, since so much of my workflow now revolves around rolling deadlines, I almost had to pull back on commitments for the whole week leading up to my day off, simply to ensure that there wouldn’t be a last-minute Friday deadline added to my calendar and that I didn’t leave anyone hanging on emails about big new projects! As a result, I ended up with a slightly calmer week, which was just what I needed. It’s nice to be reminded of what it feels like to work an eight- or nine-hour day (instead of a twelve-hour one) and to realize that, even if you bring in a little less money than usual for a week or two, there will still be plenty of opportunities waiting for you when you get back.

kvTfzdlXRMuuHSOKHWZpCw_thumb_6e1

Somehow, I lucked out and ended up with the best weather day of the year for my day off, which was the cherry on top of an already perfect sundae. I tucked away my winter coat and broke out the denim jacket I bought when we were in Charlotte a few weeks ago and pulled out my favorite sandals from the back of the closet. Here’s how I spent the day off…

  • I stayed in bed until 8 AM — which is pretty late for me, even on the weekend — watching old episodes of Trading SpacesI’m so glad they brought this childhood favorite of mine back to TLC, and as fun as the reboot is, having access to the classic shows might be the best part.
  • An unhurried workout! It’s nice to have a little extra time to play with at the gym.
  • A stop at Books Are Magic, the independent bookstore here on my block that I mentioned in last week’s Brooklyn-themed Gratitude Diaries. I picked up copies of Text Me When You Get Home (the next pick for my book club!) and The Female Persuasion, written by one of my all-time favorite authors Meg Wolitzer. Both books were signed, which makes them that much more special.
  • As soon as I officially decided to take a day off a few weeks ago, I booked myself a massage at Element Healing Arts here in Brooklyn. At this point in the half marathon training process (more on that later this week!), my body is never very happy with me, so it was nice to have some of my knots worked out… though I was pretty sore after!
  • I treated myself to a makeup facelift at Sephora. As I’ve started prioritizing taking better care of my skin, I’m also trying to test out different kinds of makeup. Since I work from home, I don’t put on a full face of makeup every day, which has given me some wiggle room to spend a little more money on higher-quality products. My favorite buys? The Anastasia Brow Wiz (how have I not been using a brow pencil for all these years???) and the Smashbox Be Legendary lipstick in Pretty Social. With springtime almost in full swing, I wanted to treat myself to some new goodies so I can feel totally confident and fresh.
  • met Matt near his office in Bryant Park and we went to grab a drink with a friend at a patio bar in Midtown Manhattan. From there, we got a bite to eat at the Urbanspace food hall and finished the night with some spontaneous McFlurries on the steps of the New York Public Library.

clrxn84bSYqz9gpb%VkNrw_thumb_6e2

Start to finish, it was a pretty perfect day.

I’m not usually one to love shopping or pampering myself, but when I do, I go big… in case you couldn’t tell from that list : )

The biggest lesson I learned from this day off is that email has far too much power over my time and mental health. I knew that in order to really appreciate some free time, I would need to ignore my inbox, but I took the extra step of deleting the Gmail app from my phone entirely. I didn’t reinstall it until Sunday afternoon, and I can’t tell you how big of a difference it made. Now that I know how great it feels not to be so tied to my email 24/7, I’m going to try to make more of an effort to avoid obsessively checking it on my phone whenever I have a free minute. It’s all about phone boundaries, right?

What does your perfect day off look like? Tell me more in the comments below!

Finally, if you have a small business or side hustle that deserves a little love for press and podcasts (or know someone who does!), check out this deal that Brittney and I are running for our complete Partnering for Press series! Through tomorrow, we’re offering 25% off, which grants you lifetime access to all of the highly informative free webinars we’ve been running over the past few weeks, as well as an invitation to an even more comprehensive live session tomorrow night. You’ll also get a set of customizable tools that you can use to pitch your own business to the press so you can increase your reach and revenue! Click here for all the details — and to register! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

Facebook & Twitter2.png

1 Comment

how i handle to-do lists.

As soon as I started working in my first full-time job out of college, I became addicted to to-do lists.

You already know that I have a thing for planners (if you’re new to the blog, it’s worth noting that I use both a Passion Planner and Powersheets on a daily basis), so I was thrilled with the prospect of graduating from the academic agenda I used in school to something a little different. If you’re wondering where I got this weird obsession with stationary and calendars, you can blame my mom. Growing up, I watched her fill the pages of all kinds of planners with colorful pens and neat handwriting, so it felt natural to me to do the same. I was meticulous with my agenda as early as middle school — although I did go through this weird phase where I covered every inch of each page with a highlighter mural that, in hindsight, was very messy — and I developed different systems with each year that passed. By the time I got my corporate job, I knew that a paper planner was necessary for me to stay focused and organized. I picked one out from Barnes & Noble, packed it in my new bag, and got on my first early morning commuter bus to New York City.

Within a few days, I realized that I would need to go a step further in order to keep up with my new workload. I started sticking Post-It notes to the pages of my planner, each one with a list of must-dos for that day, the following day, and the day after that. When I got tired of juggling all of those Post-Its (and when it became clear that I was responsible for using most of the sticky notes in our department’s supply closet), I streamlined my process by keeping daily to-do lists in the same notebook that I used for projects and meetings. I lived and died by those to-do lists.

When I first went out on my own as a freelancer in September 2016, there was honestly no need for a to-do list system. In those early days, I was still building up my workload, and since I wasn’t managing deadlines at that point, there wasn’t much to prioritize! I would make notes in my planner about what I wanted to accomplish, but it was much less specific than what I’d done before. And for more than a year, that worked!

At the end of 2017, I started to hit overwhelm. I’d taken on a bunch of new clients and projects in a short period of time and was forced to make some major adjustments to my schedule and routine. I struggled in that place for a long time, and while I still have my moments, I’ve been feeling a lot better lately. So, what’s helped? I brought back the to-do lists. And the Post-It notes. So many Post-It notes. 

In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few specifics about how I manage my to-do lists in hopes that they’ll help you the way they helped me! I know it seems like a pretty straightforward subject, but I always find that it’s helpful to break things down into their smallest details. Plus, I just love talking about systems and productivity and all things related to my planners! Here we go:

The Do’s of To-Do Lists

Srf7iVSLQ1aQZXbGoSTvbA_thumb_6da.jpg

  • DO… be consistent. Once something becomes a habit, you don’t have to think about it anymore. I write my to-do list every night and stick it in the same place (the bottom-right corner of my planner page for that week).
  • DO… make your to-do lists chronological. I add all of my deadlines and assignments to their respective days in my planner as I learn about them, but I’ve become so much more focused — and so much less overwhelmed — since I started creating a separate daily list of what I need to accomplish in order. I determine the order based on urgency, when I know I’ll be mentally freshest, and how different tasks will slot in around meetings.
  • DO… add the easy stuff. I’m a big believer in setting yourself up for easy wins. Once you start checking things off your list, you’re going to crave checking more things off your list over the course of the day. Even if it feels silly, add something super simple to the early portion of your list.
  • DO… write your to-do list the night before. I started doing this back in my corporate days, and I think it’s really important. It cuts out a lot of mental energy first thing in the morning when you can open up your to-do list and already know what your priorities are. In my experience, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed at the end of a workday, but if I start listing out to-dos for the next day — especially anything that I didn’t get to that day — I can wrap things up without feeling too far behind.
  • DO… include meetings and appointments. This is especially important if you’re writing out your tasks chronologically! It’s also an easy way to ensure that you’ll have something to check off.
  • DO… include email maintenance as part of your list. I don’t know about you, but managing my inbox is easily one of the most — if not the most — stressful parts of my working life. It seems like there is no end to the messages that come in, and it can get pretty overwhelming sometimes. If I don’t plan out specific blocks of time for email as part of my to-do list, I tend to feel like I need to respond to every message as it comes in, and that’s just distracting. I usually keep track of follow-ups and outreach that I need to send in my planner, and that dedicated email time gives me a chance to go through all of those at once, too.
  • DO… make your to-do list dynamic. I typically write a rough to-do list for the day as I’m finishing my work the day before, but I come back and take a second look at it right before bed. Taking some time away gives me a chance to gain fresh perspective on my priorities and have a more realistic sense of what I can accomplish the following day.
  • DO… use your inbox to support your to-do list. If there are important messages that you need to respond to within a certain period of time, keep them in your inbox so they’ll stay top of mind as you figure out how to prioritize. I tag my emails to make it easier to see what needs to happen in my email and why. I talk more about my email systems here.

What kind of systems do you use to get things done in work and life? I’d love to hear more in the comments below! 

 

6 Comments

imposter syndrome + the big picture.

Over the past few days, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with other writers — all kinds of writers: writers who haven’t been paid for their work yet but who know they have a passion for the practice and want to figure out how to make a living at it, writers who are in the freelance game like me, writers who have finished real books (insert so-impressed-jaw-is-dropped face here). I didn’t plan for all of these meetings to happen over the course of the same week, but they did, and in addition to filling my heart with all kinds of joy and appreciation for other people who do what I do (and leaving me with a bit of a scratchy throat), this coincidence of timing has gotten me thinking a lot about the journey that I’ve been on figuring out how this new career that I’ve made for myself is supposed to look. Lately, I’ve been working so fast and with my head so. down. that it’s been a while since I really thought about the big picture.

Let me tell you something that you might have already guessed…

When I first started this blog in September 2016, it was because I honestly had no idea what was about to happen with my life or how I was going to spend my time. 

I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and I had a vague picture in my head of what a writer’s day would look like. I pictured myself toting my laptop around Brooklyn, posting up at various coffee shops, always casually and comfortably hipster chic in a loose sundress — or a loose sundress with a chunky sweater and tights, for winter. I’d learn to enjoy the taste of coffee and drink three or four cups a day, mostly because the people who worked at said coffee shops would learn to know and love me so well that they would offer free refills without a second thought. I’d crank out content for magazines and Web sites and maybe a few corporate clients here and there, but being in the constant flow of writing would also make it suddenly easy for me to finish the novel I’ve dreamed of writing since I was seven years old.

I knew that this wasn’t my reality in September 2016, and I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get there (which hopefully makes it sound a little less silly), but the best thing that I could think to do in the meantime was start a blog — and to use that blog to share with a few people the journey of actually achieving that writer lifestyle fantasy. I also knew that having a blog would give me an advantage when it came time to reach out to editors who would surely need to check out samples of my writing before they could agree to work with me. I didn’t set out to be a Blogger-with-a-capital-B, and it felt awkward when I started putting links to new posts on social media. There are still days when it feels awkward putting myself out there like that, but this blog has evolved with me over the last year and a half, and I’m so grateful for the community that’s built up here in that time.

In some ways, my life looks a little like the fantasy I had — but in a lot more ways, it doesn’t. I do occasionally tote my laptop to coffee shops in my neighborhood, but most of the time, I just feel anxious about whether or not I’ve spent enough on snacks and drinks to deserve a table.. and since I still don’t like coffee, my options are limited, anyway. I can rock the sundress or chunky sweater look after a meeting, but more often than not, I show up wearing gym clothes and sneakers. I most certainly crank out content for magazines and Web sites and the occasional corporate client, but being in the constant flow of writing sometimes makes me feel so creatively tapped out that I go for a few weeks at a time without even touching my novel.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 5.15.25 PM
Positively cheesing with my first official byline last fall.

I say all of this not to somehow show that going this route has proven to be less glamorous than expected or to prove that working for yourself is harder than it looks. Even with the ups and downs — and the minimal glamour — I have a genuine appreciation for the way my days look now because it’s taken me a long time to get here. I feel pretty comfortable owning the fact that I’m a Writer-with-a-capital-W, even if some days I can’t help but wonder if real writers would wear the same sweatshirt for three days in a row.

But let me tell you about something else that has happened, something that I didn’t expect.

As I’ve grown into myself as a writer, I’ve also been so inspired by the social media and solopreneur communities that I’ve found myself trying to diversify my workload even further. I’m working toward launching a podcast this summer, I’m building an awesome PR/journalism education program with my friend Brittney, and I’m even feeling added pressure to turn myself into a Blogger-with-a-capital-B. It’s in these spaces that I find myself feeling insecure again. If I’ve already “found plan A,” should I keep showing up here? And if I’m “just” a writer (even one with a capital W), will people think I’m stepping out in a way that’s inappropriate or irrelevant when I put myself out there in new places with projects that have nothing to do — in an official capacity, at least — with my work?

EIbHJrnkTsG6H49Q327mJQ_thumb_6d1
Things get real with a podcast when the microphone arrives.

I guess the answer is that I don’t know. And I’m sharing all of this with you not to imply that I’m right and other people are wrong or to make you feel sorry for me, but because I think it’s important to pull back the curtain a bit and show that imposter syndrome is still a thing over here, and that I’m still not quite sure where I’m going to land as the big picture keeps getting bigger and bigger. In that way, I guess I haven’t totally “found Plan A” yet, so I hope you’ll keep sticking with me while I do : )

In the meantime, I’m so excited to share one of my latest new ventures with you! (Cue imposter syndrome…. now.) I’ve been teasing to my new venture with Brittney Lynn for a few weeks now, and it’s finally time to reveal the details of Partnering for Press. We’re launching a series of three free Webinars all about the intersection of PR and journalism, so if you want to learn more about what I do or have a secret side hustle that you’re dying to get out in the world, I would love, love, love for you to tune into the first chapter, which will be live on Tuesday 3/20 at 8 pm EST. It’s free, so you have absolutely nothing to lose, and you may even decide to stick around for the rest of the series!

Facebook March 20 Chapter 1-3

You can register (for FREE!) right here. If you have aspiring writers or entrepreneurs in your life, I’d be so grateful if you could share the details with them, too!

 

 

5 Comments

february stir craziness.

I’m about to share a riveting series of photos with you. Are you ready?

… are you sure you’re ready?

You might want to hold on to your seats.

It’s almost mid-February, and I feel like this picture represents the scope of my life for the past few weeks. Like, the whole scope. One end of my entire living and working space as viewed from the opposite end.

TWUU8mS1QzCxGjb6YCPvEw_thumb_6b2

Actually — you know what? That’s a little unfair.

Sometimes, it’s actually more like this picture:

EdQOXqv%SN6l45Y1MR%EQA_thumb_6b0

Or maybe this one:

8GCsPjqsS7yHnFCflJacVQ_thumb_6b3

(Yup, that’s approximately two feet away from the last photo.)

Occasionally, when things are getting really crazy, this becomes my perspective, and I get to stand up!

kyuHFm2MSGmzFcWhqWuebQ_thumb_6b5

I told you it was going to be riveting.

I don’t know about you, but I find this late-January-to-early-March period pretty brutal. It was the same when I worked in a corporate office. The excitement of the post-holiday return to routine wears off. It’s endlessly gray outside (and endlessly cold, too, if you live in most parts of the country). Spring feels impossibly far away — and don’t even get me started on summer. Regardless of where or how you work, I just think this can be a really challenging time mentally. I find myself dragging out of bed most mornings, checking things off my to-do list throughout the day but never feeling quite inspired by any of it. When you do creative work like I do, that lack of inspiration just adds a whole other layer of mental exhaustion.

When I told my family almost a year and a half ago that I was planning to leave my job and try working as a full-time writer out of my home office, they were almost entirely supportive. My mom’s one concern — and as moms tend to be, she was right — was that the work-from-home lifestyle would be especially difficult come February. Like I said, I struggled with Februarys even before I was working for myself, but this month’s low energy is particularly draining when you spend the vast majority of your time in a teeny tiny apartment with the windows closed. My routine isn’t that much different in the spring, summer, or fall… but the whole world feels different — and that translates into my apartment in a really heavy way. Do you know what I mean?

Because I’m so busy these days (a good problem to have!), I’m finding that I need to make that much more of an effort to combat the February stir craziness, since it’s really easy to drown myself in work for ten or more hours in a row and finish the day feeling like a shell of a human. Whenever I can, I’ve been trying to take my exercise break in the middle of the day (I usually go first thing in the morning) to break things up, and if I can’t do that, I’ve been prioritizing a walk in the afternoon. Fresh air goes on my daily to-do list with everything else! Even if it’s raining, I bundle up and get out of the apartment for half an hour. It’s amazing what a difference that time can make. And how could I possibly miss out on exploring all these pretty streets in my neighborhood?

+OT3mWTWRnaht4WQzGig6A_thumb_6b6

nrXbEPBxRp+hsSqVr41SVg_thumb_6af

5cd26XzjTwOXb9cDncuc2g_thumb_6b1

E6D+jupNTVemOjEutj%QMw_thumb_6a8

NqL%p5CTQ0ODz5GpL5Fezg_thumb_6a7

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if February is wearing on you, you’re not alone. And while working from home in the winter does offer some serious perks (I’m definitely very content to not have to rush out the door to the subway every morning at 7:30), it comes with some unique challenges, specifically an intensified version of the general feeling of “meh” that sets in with so many of us in late winter. We’re all in this together!

How do you handle winter stir craziness? Whether you work in an office or from home, I’d love your suggestions! 

 

2 Comments

monthly goals recap -> december + january.

As I write this, there is a ton of snow falling from the sky (at crazy speeds — and in all directions!) thanks to this crazy “Bomb Cyclone” we’re experiencing here on the East Coast. Oh, I am so not cut out for winter. Nothing makes this whole “city living” thing feel or look less glamorous than a nasty snow storm. Grubby boots and grimy snow and subway rides that start off freezing and end up with you sweating like it’s the middle of the summer because you’re wearing so many layers… it’s just as fabulous as Carrie Bradshaw made it out to be, right? Check out my current view:

HMxitTVPTAug5kX6ik9kbA_thumb_688

Let’s just say I’m pretty happy on days like today that working from home is my default!

Following up on Wednesday’s Word Of the Year post, I’m here to recap December and January goals for you! I’m especially excited to share my goals this month, because it’s the first time I’ve been able to work on goals with my new Powersheets, which are (quite literally) a GOAL PLANNER. You know I love my Passion Planner (and I always will), but Powersheets have definitely added another layer to the way things are operating around here.

December was an interesting one for me.

Technically, it’s my second December as a freelancer, but in a lot of ways, it felt like the first. In December 2016, I was just starting out as my own boss, and my plate was a lot less full than I may have been letting on : ) At that time, I was doing a lot of outreach to editors and other potential clients, but I didn’t have many deadlines, and I was really able to enjoy the holiday stress-free. When I made my goals for December 2017 (you can read more about those here), I honestly didn’t know what it would be like to balance a fuller workload with the schedule changes and general shake-ups that are par for the course in the last month of the year. And it showed! I wasn’t as successful as I would have liked to be on my work goals for December, largely because I didn’t account for the fact that it would be harder to get in touch with people around the holidays… and to plan around my own holiday preparations! Next year, I’ll know better.

Here are all the December details:

1eX1fCxCQYC75R2mfnaLcw_thumb_691

  • Be more intentional about early morning work time. I don’t think I can fully give myself a checkmark on this one, but I did take some baby steps in the right direction. I didn’t set an early alarm as many days as I would have liked to (partially because I was sick for a few days mid-month), but I did get myself out of bed and working (without an alarm) more often than usual.
  • Start 2018 planning. √ YES! Now armed with two planners, you can bet that I spent A LOT of time on this last month. It was exciting — if a little scary — to get specific about the things I want to accomplish in 2018.
  • Work on the book three days a week, every week.  Between being sick and traveling for the holidays and (if I’m being honest) getting distracted with the end of the year, I definitely lost some momentum on the book in December. There’s always next month!
  • Read three books. √ YES! I finished Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened (which I would recommend no matter how you feel about HRC), What We Lose (a quick and beautiful — but heartbreaking — read that I don’t think you should read until any winter blues you might be experiencing have passed), and Breaking Free (say what you will about this choice, but I finished it in less than two days).
  • Successfully pitch to editors at my focus outlets for the month. December was not a great pitching month. I sent pitches to some of my regular editors, but not for anything super exciting. My head just wasn’t in the game, and I didn’t want to send anything that felt half baked.
  • Avoid shopping for gifts last-minute. I was so close to succeeding at this one! For the first time ever, I did most of my shopping online — but I ended up experiencing some shipping issues with a few gifts that forced me into a last-minute scramble on December 22.

fullsizeoutput_aba

  • Continue to cultivate holiday excitement. √ YES! I can confidently say that I succeeded at this one! Matt and I agree that this was one of our favorite holiday seasons to date.
I’m really excited about my January goals!

I think goal-setting is most fun at the beginning of the year, when you’re feeling really clear about your vision for the 12 months ahead and can be that much more intentional about making sure your short-term plans match up with the big picture. One of my favorite things about my new Powersheets is the way they’re encouraging me to look at goals in a different way — more specifically, to break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily chunks in a way that ensures I’m still keeping my eye on the prize.

I know I talk a lot about goals here, and maybe you’re asking yourself why it’s such a focus for me, or why I need all these tools to help me get it done. Totally fair questions!

LuFE%GX0S1CumN4mCJyNjQ_thumb_68f

All of this work around goal-setting does for me as a freelancer what working with my managers and supervisors did for me when I was working my corporate job. People often ask me how I’m able to work for myself and work from my apartment full-time without getting distracted, and it’s this discipline of setting goals (and using multiple tools to do it!) that’s really been key for me. I don’t have anyone giving me performance reviews or sitting down to share feedback with me after a project’s complete anymore, and this is the next best thing! I’m always happy to answer questions about all of this, though, so feel free to ask in the comments below or to send me an email.

ANYWAY, here’s what’s up for January:

  • Create a list of target outlets for the year. So many exciting things happened in 2017, and I want to make sure I continue to create opportunities for myself and my writing in the new year. I’m going to spend time this month putting together a list of “dream” sites and outlets that I’d love to be published in by the end of 2018.
  • Work on the book three to four times a week, every week. The chaos of the holidays is behind me, and it’s time to re-focus on this very important passion project.
  • No sweets during the week. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know this isn’t the first time I’ve challenged myself this way. This kind of health goal works really well for me because I’m not trying to lose a lot of weight or revamp my workout schedule — I just know that my sweet tooth is probably my biggest downfall in this area, and by retraining my appetite for a while, I know I can get it back under control so that I don’t need to restrict myself anymore.
  • Get back on track with weekly pitching. Once again, I’m aiming to send one “big” pitch or pitch to a new editor every week. Something I’m planning to incorporate more in 2018 is batch working, which means that I’ll try to block out my time in such a way that I’m doing similar kinds of work all at once. At this point, I think that Fridays are going to be my pitch days. I’ll spend a few hours each Friday at a coffee shop (maybe eating a pastry) and putting together ideas for my editors. The biggest hurdle I find with pitching is that it’s easy to get distracted with other, more urgent work while I’m trying to do it, but by Fridays, I’ve usually met all of my deadlines for the week — and I think that getting a change of scenery will help, too!
  • Eat better lunches. I’m really bad at eating lunch. I either don’t eat enough or I go way over the top with something too involved and complicated. I really want to work on this in January!
  • Continue podcast research. Starting a podcast is one of my “big” goals for 2018, and while it feels like an extremely overwhelming project, the best way to start is, well, to start! I did a little research about the logistics of podcasting at the end of 2017, but I want to do more this month so that I’m ready to start brainstorming concepts for my show in February. (Ahh! So weird putting that out into the universe!)

gPT5EoC6RFmlNV4zc+m2iQ_thumb_692

  • Plan weekend trips with Matt. Ugh… isn’t the post-holidays winter so depressing? Matt and I want to plan some little getaways for the first few months of the year, so we need to get on that.
  • Read 3-4 books. My goal for the year is to read 40 books, and I’m ready to get back into a good groove with reading now that life has settled down a bit.
  • Stop checking Instagram first thing in the morning. Four days into this one, and I can already tell you that it’s been worthwhile. I’ll report back with more when I recap January!

What are your goals for January? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below!

 

1 Comment

the WFH challenges of the holiday season.

Happy Tuesday, friends! (This feels super weird to say because it’s a fact universally acknowledged that Tuesday is the unhappiest day of the week. But it’s the holiday season, so we’ve all gotta spread as much cheer as we can whenever possible, right?)

Tell me — do you notice anything different here today?

I should hope so! I spent some time over the weekend (when I wasn’t binge watching the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show, of course) installing a new look over here on Finding Plan A and generally moving some things around. What do you think!?!? I, for one, am super psyched about it! It’s really fun to get a jump on the new year with a fresh design and I’m feeling all kinds of energized about continuing to grow this little space with you in 2018. Thanks, as always, for your support! (Also, if you’re ever in the market for a new theme for your own WordPress, check out Bluchic. The prices are super reasonable and everything is fully customizable, plus user-friendly.)


Now that we’re done collectively fawning over the new look of the blog — you can continue to fawn if you’re not finished, of course — I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve been having recently about the particular challenges I’ve noticed about working from home during the holiday season. I’ll start with the disclaimer that I fully realize that working from home is, in many ways, a serious luxury. Having commuted in and out of a corporate office for five years, I totally feel your pain if you’re over there thinking to yourself, “This girl and her whining! She’s working out of her apartment!” I really do get it. All of that being said, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about this whole self-employed-freelance-creative-working-from-home lifestyle lately… and you know that I can’t help but fill you in.

This time last year, I was very new to freelancing. If I’m being honest, I was spending most of my working hours chasing down work, and I could devote all the time I wanted to my few paying gigs because, well, there really weren’t many. Officially, I didn’t take “off” at all during the holiday season — but I wasn’t exactly overextended. I remember last year’s holiday as a time to really savor the fact that I’d taken the leap and embarked on a new journey. I wish I’d appreciated it for what it was: a time to rest and relax before real work picked up and I became a full-on freelancer who also had no choice but to become a bit of a workaholic. This year, I’m faced with a very different (but good) problem: when — and how — can I take some real time off to recharge before the new year?

If it sounds like I’m patting myself on the back, I might be (just a little). The holidays always stick out in my memory, so it’s easier than ever these days to think back to last year and realize how much has changed… and what all of that means for the progress I’ve made over the last twelve months.

There are, however, some unique challenges to working from home and working for myself at this time of year. Some are serious and some are a little silly, but I’m here to share them all with you today. Fellow WFH-ers, I know you feel my pain.

  • I miss all the fun holiday vibes! Working in an office in December felt a little like being back in elementary school, with gift exchanges and cookies being passed around and festive sweaters. Plus, we got to leave early once or twice for a holiday party. How great is that?
  • Our holiday decorations are admittedly a little distracting. As you know, we tend to go a little crazy around here with our seasonal decor (you can read/see all the details here), and sometimes I’m really tempted to spend more time than is appropriate just taking in the winter wonderland. I definitely allow myself to work in the living room more often than usual these days, but it’s hard to strike the right balance between my workspaces.
  • I can’t stop picking up pine needles. Here, my friends, is the downside to those beautiful holiday decorations that I was just gushing over. Our tree is pretty much shedding constantly, and neat freak that I am, I can’t help but try to retrieve every single pine needle I find on the floor. When you’re home all day, you just notice these things more! It’s driving me cuh-ray-zee.
  • Holiday snacks are ever-present. I’m usually pretty disciplined about staying out of the kitchen between meals while I’m working, but that’s way harder when there are delicious seasonal treats sitting right. on. the, counter. SOS.
  • I feel totally overwhelmed by work. The company I worked for before I became a freelancer was officially closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so there was a natural winding down process that started to happen in early December. Yes, there was plenty to be done before the holiday, but it also seemed like all of my colleagues and I could breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that business would have to come to a halt on December 25. That’s not what happens when you’re running your own business. If anything, I feel like I’m ramping up more than ever to ensure that all of my clients and other contacts are set to go before they leave the office for their own Christmas vacations.
  • It’s tempting to work on my other holiday to-dos. In the midst of the aforementioned overwhelm (ugh) it’s easy to consider just breaking away from my laptop and getting away from work for a bit by shopping for gifts, prepping for our upcoming Cookie Swap, or doing pretty much anything that feels both festive and even the tiniest bit productive. Also, there’s a TV full of Hallmark movies on demand mere steps from where I work. Temptation, thy name is fake snow and wholesome Christmas romances.

What do you find to be the most challenging thing about these pre-holiday weeks of work — whether you work from home or in a more traditional office? I’d love to hear how you manage those challenges in the comments below! 

 

0 comment

my first WFH sick day.

FIRST OF ALL, I want to say a big, fat thank you to each and every one of you who reached out with encouraging words about my very first podcast guest spot! AHHH! This was such a bucket list thing for me, and I’m so grateful to everyone who tuned in. And if you haven’t listened yet, you can check it out here (or you can find it as the most recent episode of the Day in the Life podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, etc.).

DITL Instagram Post Alli Hoff Kosik3 (1)

I’m so grateful to my friend Brittney Lynn for giving me the opportunity to share my journey with freelance writing (so far, at least) on her show. Honestly, I was nervous to listen to it myself, but once I got over the fear of hearing my own voice for an hour-plus (eek!), it felt great to give myself permission to lean back and listen to my story. I’ve definitely learned a lot in the past year!

Anyway, what I really wanted to share with you today is what I can see now was actually a pretty major milestone in this seemingly never-ending transition to working from home. When it happened, I didn’t think much of it, but Matt immediately told me I should blog about it, so here I am. (And if you don’t think it’s interesting, you know who to blame!)

The week before Thanksgiving, I was totally off my game. My throat was sore, I had a headache, and (as always seems to happen when I’m sick), I was struggling to get consistent sleep. I just felt… crappy. And run down. And, if I’m being honest, maybe even a little sorry for myself. As great as it can be to work from home and to be my own boss, it’s been easy to build up a narrative in my head about how impossible it is for me to slow down or take a day off. If I don’t do it, no one will. Nothing will get done. Which is true! I’m a one-woman operation, so any day off for me is a day off for, well, everyone. Shop’s closed, people.

When I woke up that Thursday (I use the phrase “woke up” loosely here, because I only actually slept for an hour or so), the thought of working my full Bustle shift was totally overwhelming to me. I couldn’t imagine staring at my computer for that long. It felt like my brain wasn’t working, and even the smallest amount of light was hurting my eyes. And it wasn’t just my Bustle shift! There were plenty of other things that had to get done — interview prep and blog posts a few stories with a deadline. In order to accomplish all of those things and put in my time with Bustle, I would have needed to start working the moment I got out of bed at 6 AM. On a normal day, that would have been a non-issue for me. But on this particular Thursday, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I asked Matt what he thought I should do. I texted no less than four of my friends, asking them what they thought about my taking a sick day. I asked Matt what he thought I should do again. The thought of telling my Bustle editor that I couldn’t clock in that day made me feel sick in an entirely different way.

The whole scene reminded me of the first time I’d wrestled with the same question — to take a sick day or not to take a sick day? — when I was a newbie at my corporate job. Back then, I was living with my parents in Pennsylvania and commuting back and forth to New York (yes, that was about four hours on the bus every day), so I naturally consulted with my mom first. I had plenty of sick days to use, but I was afraid of how my boss would react if I actually took one. I didn’t even know how to word the email telling her I wouldn’t be showing up.

In the end, taking that first official sick day was just like (and I realize this is cliché) ripping off a band-aid — and when I finally swallowed my own pride and told my Bustle editor that I couldn’t work that shift two weeks ago, it was exactly the same thing. She wasn’t mad. I didn’t get fired. She just told me to feel better.

Being a freelancer is weird. I work for myself to the extent that I manage my own time, but I’m also accountable to a lot of people. And while there have been days in the last year or so that I’ve allowed myself to take it easy or to sleep in because I wasn’t feeling 100 percent, last Thursday was the first time I was in a position to ask for “permission” to be sick, largely because I work with Bustle on a per-hour — instead of a per-story — basis. It was interesting to be reminded of that feeling of clearing something with a boss.

I have zero regrets about taking that sick day. I took a Benadryl and got a few hours of sleep. I drank a lot of tea. I watched a lot of embarrassing TV. And the next time I talked to my Bustle editor, she didn’t even remember it had happened. It’s freeing to realize that these decisions aren’t quite as important as they can feel in the moment, don’t you think?

….AND don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway! I know last week was a little crazy with Thanksgiving and family and travel, but the November prize is really awesome, so I don’t want you to miss out! This month, I’m giving away  TWO (yes, two) bracelets from The Shine Project — a white druzzy and a feather charm. Both are on gold chains and would look great paired or worn separately. All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner here on the blog this Friday 12/1, so get those entries in ASAP!

0kCDVwbRToq63eBh89Ttkw_thumb_639

2 Comments