Free Advice Friday: The Purposeful Freelancer

What I’m listening to: One Thing Leads to Another by The Fixx

Know those weeks when you’re trying to get a lot done so the next week won’t be so bad?

Forget it. Nothing is getting done and next week looks like more of the same. I have four deadlines, three of which are indeed next Friday. I’m getting little-to-no cooperation on a few interviews. And I have houseguests, an ailing father, and ongoing personal junk.

Did I mention I forgot to have a vacation this year? And no, four days doesn’t really count.

Truth is, I’m just in the mood to complain. I have enough work (not too much), enough personal space, and enough downtime. I’m tired, but emotional stress plays hell on the nerves.

We all get days (or weeks) like this. Too much work, too many stimuli coming from too many directions… Yet we have control.

We just don’t exercise it.

It’s about working more purposefully, with more intention and less worry.

It’s about sensible boundaries.

Think about it. You are working and have enough to handle, but that next request comes. And the next. And pretty soon you’ve said yes to seven people, most of whom want their projects done at the same time.

Oh boy.

It’s also about taking care of you.

You cannot be great at what you do if you’re stretched too thin. I know when I’m running on empty. Right now, I am. I need a break, so I’m scheduling one. October may be my month of doing zero. Well, once I clear up the two projects I’d already agreed to…

And so it snowballs.

It’s about setting a date.

My personal deadline will be the second week of October. After that, my month of rest begins. I’ll complete those ongoing things that I know I can do without stress. I will blog if I want to. I will reconnect with the things that make me happy, not that pay my bills.

It’s about honoring yourself first.

As they say in the flight instructions, secure your own air mask before assisting others. Today, I’m making a personal commitment to get my business shit together. I have wonderful clients, but even they go on vacation. Even they take time off. Today, I will send out the early warning that in October, I’m off for some overdue R&R.

It’s about fulfilling all of you.

Massage time. New experience time. Creative writing time. Time with family. Time with friends. Time to make new friends. Time to do all those things that are on that wish list for your rainy day. Consider this your monsoon.

Writers, how do you put sensible boundaries around your work and life?

Where is it hardest for you to let go of your work life?

About the author




  • Paula September 22, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Oh, Lori. You know how each time you tell clients you’ll be away for a few days they all seem to want to pile on more work. Maybe this time only tell people when you’ll be gone on a need-to-know basis.

    Despite a growing number of interviews I need to transcribe and an article due Monday, I took yesterday afternoon off to see a former neighbor’s new house. My timing was right, too, since I spilled two drops of water on my keyboard and now several keys are glitchy – like pressing w and getting and e and a w, or getting a complimentary d with each s.

    I ordered a replacement keyboard, but it wasn’t easy to find. I don’t want to mess with or worry about batteries for a wireless keyboard, and the only wired Apple keyboards I could find were used. Yeah, right. So is mine. The wireless ones were super expensive and would likely require a wireless mouse, too. I just had to buy a new TV, or I might have considered that. I paid for expedited shipping, so I hope I it arrives soon. Until then, my ability to work is curtailed, since trying to transcribe on an iPad without a keyboard would be even more annoying and time consuming than normal transcribing. So I sort of have a little time off despite a busy week.

    • Mary Schneider September 22, 2017 at 11:11 am

      Oh man… I feel your pain! Recently I moved the table my laptop sat on… It started to tip, and I grabbed for the computer… caught it by the screen and POOF. All of a sudden my screen fades to white and develops stripes that remind me of the off-air signal from network television.

      The keyboard’s been going for a while now so I’m using a $15 wired keyboard from wally world. Thankfully my husband had a spare external monitor, so that’s hooked up, too. We’re experts around here at patching things together with ductape and bubblegum. lol

      Replacing screens and keyboards is quite simple on most laptops. Unfortunately, my Toshiba has a sealed keyboard, making life more difficult, but with most laptops, you can pry the edge of the keyboard up with a butterknife and pull it gently out of the case- it’s just a rubber mat with keys attached. Then unplug the wiring harness, plug the new keyboard in, and tuck it gently back into the case. Voila, problem solved! 🙂
      Screens are much the same- unscrew the frame, take out the broken screen, unplug the wiring harness, plug in the new one, replace the screws, and you’re back in business.

      If it weren’t for my need to travel so often, I’d swap back to a tower- components are even more replacable in a tower than a laptop, but for now we still have a busy lifestyle and I rely upon my ability to take the laptop and go.

      Best of luck with your new keyboard! May the shipping gods smile upon your order and have it arriving faster than a tight deadline. 😉


      • lwidmer September 22, 2017 at 3:42 pm

        Oh Mary, that sucks! Have you tried just getting a regular monitor and hooking it up to the Toshiba until you can get it fixed?

        I hear you. I have a Surface that cracked years ago. I didn’t see it until much later (and I know because I heard a bit of a sharp crack when I put it down on the ceramic floor). It was a hairline crack that hasn’t grown much, and it’s been a year, so I put up with it. The Surface is my sometimes machine. I have a desktop for everyday. Switching between them isn’t too tough, but it takes time getting used to the smaller keyboard.

      • Paula September 26, 2017 at 10:12 am

        I’m glad you were able to find a creative work-around! That’s why I don’t think I’ll ever use a laptop. Well, that and the fact that they’re ergonomic nightmares.

        When I told my editors about the issue, one told me that on a family trip to Paris, her (grown) son accidentally knocked a bottle or glass of water onto her laptop. They got to know the Paris Apple store really well in the five times they had to visit it.

        My replacement keyboard feels like a child’s toy – clunky plastic. The “slim profile” and “responsive keys” are neither. It’s noisy. I also discovered it doesn’t have a built in USB port for flashdrives (or the mouse). I think I’d rather deal with batteries. After I get paid for the current workload I think I’ll splurge on the Apple keyboard & mouse.

        Luckily I have a Mac Mini, where you can use any Mac-friendly monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

    • lwidmer September 22, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      I hope it arrives too, Paula! If not, put your keyboard in a zipped bag with some rice overnight. Should dry it out nicely.

      • Paula Hendrickson September 26, 2017 at 10:17 am

        I wish I’d thought of that the day I spilled the water! I have two big bags of rice that I bought to make my siblings some large back-size heated rice packs.

  • Mary Schneider September 22, 2017 at 11:03 am

    I’m framing this.
    Been working 12 hours a day at freelancing, and took on a part time job in retail just to get away from the computer, 10-15 hours a week.
    Recently, I remarried. My husband has CP, and uses a chair some of the time. We also took on fostering cats and kittens through a local rescue- correction, my stepdaughter took it on… but she works full time and I’m “home all day,” so you know how that works. Mom became the ACME Automatic Bottle Holder for a batch of furry jellybeans…

    Needless to say, the chaos has been tiring. But it has also forced me to rethink some things about my business… to start working smarter instead of harder and to go after better-paying clients and drop some content mill work I’d been relying on for steady income.

    This blog is fantastic, and I appreciate the nudges I get from reading it so much. It’s improving my business and our lives as a family. 🙂

    • lwidmer September 22, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Consider me your serial nudger. 😉

      You’re right — it is about working smarter. I’m tired right now and could tell everyone to leave me alone, but I had already agreed to these projects, and I will follow through with them.

      Any upcoming projects will have to wait. I need a breather.

  • Krista September 26, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I felt some major burnout coming on in the spring. Just some things that have happened since 2014: horrible HG pregnancy with a 30 pound weight loss, gestational diabetes, going back to work six weeks postpartum (not typical in Canada), supporting husband on parental leave, baby who did not sleep through the night until after age two, change of job for husband, starting work day at 5:00 a.m., mom diagnosed with congestive heart failure, sudden death of FIL, two moves, home sale/purchase, home purchase falling through 10 days before closing, chronic post-partum back pain, and I’m sure there is more. This was coupled with no break at all from work. I had two long-term clients that kept me going full throttle. I didn’t mean to write all that (or sound whiny) but once I got going I couldn’t stop. LOL

    Each thing on its own is manageable, but all together it just gets to be too much! I worked my butt off over the winter to relax during July. My first day “off,” my mother had emergency surgery and spent basically the entire month in the hospital. What I pictured as a month going to the beach/sipping wine/doing fun activities with my toddler ended up as weeks of daily hospital visits. At the end of all that rambling, I don’t know what the answer is. I did not have a restful, rejuvenating summer, but now I feel the need to make up for the time off (and lost income) over the summer. Reading this, though, I feel like maybe I should just say screw it and plan a mental health day or two for myself and go get a massage! So thank you! I have been sorry to read about your recent struggles with your father (I don’t comment often, but I read regularly). Wishing you the best.

    • Paula Hendrickson September 26, 2017 at 10:20 am

      Cut yourself some slack, Krista. You’ve been through more in the past two years than many people go through in a lifetime. And it sounds as if all of the hard work you put in before July is what is (or should have) paid for that less-than-restful time off. Being free to help your mother is priceless, so in that way the timing was right. Or at least better than if she’d needed surgery while you were juggling your already hectic life and deadlines.

      Even if you can’t take a week or two off at once, try to give yourself a little time each day or maybe one day (or a half day) each week. You earned it.

      • Krista September 26, 2017 at 10:27 am

        Thank you for the kind words, Paula. I agree, it would have been far worse to not be able to be there or to be dealing with hospital visits and pressing deadlines. And I think you’re right about taking a bit of time each week for myself. I tend to want to dash to the babysitter’s as soon as possible to get my little guy, but I’m sure he would be okay if I sat on my front porch long enough to have a quiet coffee!

    • lwidmer September 26, 2017 at 11:45 am

      Krista, given all you’ve had to shovel, you’re well within your right to vent. My lord! I feel for you on the HG pregnancy — my daughter had lost 16 pounds (she lost 16 prior to getting pregnant, too) before the baby started adding to the total. She called me today, excited that she ate and kept down an Egg McMuffin. 😉 Eight more weeks…

      You’re right — each thing separately can be managed, though I think an HG pregnancy is probably the straw that would break my back.

      Go get that massage. Hell, take a few days off and don’t think about work or apologize for not working! Bills can wait. That’s one thing that’s a certainty — bills will always be there.

      I wish you the best too, Krista. And I’m happy you commented. Thank you. It means a lot.

      • Krista September 26, 2017 at 12:44 pm

        Oh my goodness, give her a virtual hug for me. It is a horrible thing to be that sick for so long and something most people don’t understand. I think because a lot of women have nausea to some degree people tend to think you’re being dramatic or exaggerating. It is also very isolating because (speaking for myself at least) it is hard to get excited or bubbly when you feel so wretched, and people question why you don’t seem happy. I hope the final weeks of her pregnancy go by fast for her!

        • lwidmer September 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm

          You’re right — she’s been told by relatives it could be her anxiety. It’s not. It’s a diagnosed condition. Her anti-nausea meds work, so guess what? Not anxiety! People think they’re being helpful when they’re really being a-holes.

          She’s hoping the same thing, Krista. I think she’s wishing the baby comes a few weeks early just so she can eat again! That she has a bucket her husband has named Oscar tells what it’s been like. 😉