Writers Worth: Realign Your Values

Once upon a time, I had a client who worked hard. She juggled multiple projects within her department. One of those projects was a document I was tapped to help with. Every year, we worked together to get this document ready. Time wasn’t a factor — this was a paper version of an online document. It would be seen by shareholders and investors only, and that the information was nearly outdated as we started didn’t matter. So every year, we assembled and formatted and edited.

And every year, she asked if I worked a particular holiday weekend.
It wasn’t a request or anywhere near a demand — it was just a question asked every year for four years. “Do you ever work holiday weekends?”
The guilty writer in me wanted to say yes. 
The smart business person in me said no.
Why I said no:
  • The deadline wasn’t urgent
  • My family was together only on weekends
  • I needed a break from the intensity of that project and others
  • I didn’t want to
I’ll admit that first time I said no to her question, I held my breath. I thought she’d drop me from the project (sometimes, corporate people aren’t as flexible as they pretend to be). I wanted — needed — that project. I prepared for what would happen next.
Nothing happened. She said “Okay, no problem.”
That was my first lesson in putting boundaries on my time. Had I said yes to her request, I would have worked four holiday weekends for no additional pay and the project wouldn’t have been but a few hours closer to being finished. Plus, I’d have resented both my client and myself.
No thanks.
So today, on this holiday, I suggest you realign your values, too. Shut off the computer. Switch off your cell phone. Go out and enjoy Memorial Day in the way it was intended. Spend time with the people who love you best, and create memories instead of invoices and resentments.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone.
Writers, have you ever worked during your scheduled time off?
Have you collected a higher rate as a result?
Do you have clearly established boundaries around your time? If so, when do you allow for exceptions?

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  • Paula May 25, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    I sheepishly admit it: I'm doing a LITTLE work today. None of my clients asked me to, it was my choice.

    Why, you ask?

    Because I took Thursday off and have a major article due Tuesday. Instead of rushing to transcribe the final interview and write the article all in one day (like I did with another project last week), I'm trying to pace it out.

    My sister's in Paris and my brother's family is off at their lake house, so I won't be missing any family time. But I did tell Doggie's Lily & Stella that if any of my friends call and ask me to hit the (tiny) flea market or something, I'll go.

    Rest assured, I won't work all day. Just a couple hours so I'm not running behind tomorrow.

  • Anne Wayman May 25, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I'm working some today… unofficially… because I got laid low for a couple of days with a stomach something or other – but I don't work holidays as far as my clients are concerned.

  • Cathy May 25, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Not working-on my was to San Diego. 😎

  • Paula May 25, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Good point Anne: None of my clients know I absolutely never on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and New Year's Day. There's no "writing emergency" that could justify that.

  • Jennifer Mattern May 26, 2015 at 4:52 am

    I'll admit I sometimes work on my own projects over holiday weekends. That's mostly when hubs is stuck doing client work because it's his only time to put in extra hours for them outside of his day job. But I don't make myself available to clients during those breaks.

    I'm happy to say I didn't do any work-work this holiday weekend (including Friday). I sat around. I slept in. I played games. I visited family. For the most part, I relaxed. I felt a little bit guilty, for about 5 minutes. Then I got over it and took a nap with a very appreciative cat. πŸ™‚

    I hope you had a great long weekend Lori!

  • Lori Widmer May 26, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Paula, that you have the option not to is what's important. I love that. It's yours to decide — isn't that why we decided to freelance anyway?

    Anne, glad you're feeling better. Another good reason to work when others are playing — deadlines. πŸ™‚

    Jenn, it sounds like you had a great weekend. πŸ™‚ And you're right — it's your option to work or not work whenever you like. Today (Tuesday), I spent two hours having lunch with a friend. I wanted to, and I'd done as much work as I cared to after a long weekend.

  • Ashley May 27, 2015 at 4:51 am

    Oh, this post is perfect! Love it. And it makes sense that I'm only getting around to making a comment today πŸ˜‰