Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Freelancing pour les nuls

A friend recently dived off the solid rock of in-house employment into the icy (often shark-infested) waters of the freelance market.

We were discussing the various aspects of working from home, cancelled contracts, weekends spent hunched over a hot laptop, a slave driver of a boss who has you up at all hours to meet a deadline (psst - by the way, that boss is You).

- But doesn't it drive you a bit nuts working from home on your own??
- No it's fine, really. I only ever go two or three days at the most without speaking to anyone.
- Two or three days?!
- It might be a good idea to get a television...

I've been going it alone for about a year and a half now, but only then did I suddenly realise how horrifying it all sounds.

Fortunately, I've found this helpful - if rather patronising - brief guide on how to be a freelancer. All you need to know on how to work from home... and not go utterly nuts.

1/ Make sure you eat properly. Properly means high-fibre breakfast cereal, lean proteins and green vegetables. You will be a lean, mean translating machine. It does not include Liegois waffles, Leffe brune or Nutella.
Eat at a table or - if no table is available - in front of the television. Munching over the computer keyboard (especially while Skyping) is strictly disgusting and we would never dream of doing such a thing.

2/ Leave the house once a day. Checking your letterbox does not count. Good excuses for leaving the house include: running out of milk, buying European Voice (I know you can read it online, but just pretend), visiting the Bureau des Etrangers, going jogging. If you are having trouble getting out of the house to do exercise, try buying new sports shoes or a high-tech sweat-absorbing hat. The prospect of sport is far more enticing when it involves outfits.

3/ Speak to at least one (real) person a day. This can be the lady at the Post Office, the bloke behind the counter at the 24-hour corner shop, the customer services staff at Mobistar, etc. NB Skype chat absolutely does not count.

4/ Maintain your sartorial elegance. Try to be out of your pyjamas by noon. Make sure you own more than one pair of sweatpants. So that you can wash them at least once a week. Remember where you left your hairbrush. Compensate for lack of grooming by wearing very girly earrings.
If you find yourself pulling on a pair of old comfy jeans every day... well done. You still haven't hit the bottom. Real home-workers find jeans formal and restrictive and are longing to ease them off and hang out in baggy tracksuit bottoms.

5/ Try to moderate time spent sitting in front of the computer screen. Do not on any account spend your evenings checking Facebook, scrawling on Twitter or writing blog posts. That is what office hours are for.

6/ Build up a good network of colleagues. You can then meet for regular lunch and coffee breaks. This is an excellent procrastination strategy as it will take you at least twenty minutes to get to the meeting point and back. Plus it counts as work (especially if you speak in foreign).

7/ Build up a good network of other layabouts people who like to drink during the week. This is a lot more important than you would think: Monday morning deadlines are pretty common, which tends to put a damper on your weekend. Then, when you get to Wednesday and are gasping for a G&T, you have someone to call on. This network may include other freelancers, students, the long-term unemployed, musicians, British people.

8/ Remember what time of day it is. This is trickier than you might think. Investing in an alarm clock is probably a good idea. If you can, try and remember the days of the week. It's nice to have an Actual Paper Diary, with little paper corners you can tear off. When things become chronologically distressing, it gives you something comforting to hold on to.

9/ Remember that none of the following are abnormal: talking to yourself, talking to the television, jumping when the phone rings, giving names to household appliances.

That's about it.

Thank goodness for that.


Ryszard Wasilewski said...

I catch this thing about the spaniel and all that but, would not life be different if you had a dog, not just a dog in your life, but a dog, real dog, living there, with you...
...or perhaps a hamster.

Anonymous said...

Really funny about the layabouts!

I've been favoring a pair of black, flannel sweatpants lately. Oo they're so comfy. And I totally agree on the jeans--too restricting to sit in all day!

You are not afraid to be dead honest. Love that about your writing.

Thanks much,


Laura said...

An excellent list - despite being an unemployed, so much still applies to me.

Korie said...

Agree with Laura, when I was unemployed, this list would've been quite handy.

Laura said...

Maybe you could earn a second income as a self help guru?

Anonymous said...

You tell it exactly how it is, I am also a freelance translator and I am definitely the worst boss anyone could ever hope for.
I have excruciating bouts of procrastination on non-deadline days, meaning that I sometimes find myself sitting at the screen, with document awaiting impatiently to be translated, flitting from blog to newspaper to blog again, absolutely INCAPABLE of closing all the little windows and concentrating on what needs to be done. Soon a few hours have gone by and no work has been done, which measures the pressure starts to mount. I always find myself either translating like there's no tomorrow to meet a deadline, at a furious pace, or locked in that terrible procrastination loop of "I can't do any work/ neither can I do any exercise/ cook a proper meal/ get out of the house/ have any fun". When the loop is over, the deadline looms. And so on, and so forth.
Monday morning deadlines are the worst thing ever. I worked non-stop last weeked from 6 am (yes, 6 am) until 8 am the following day (no, no sleep at all). It's amazing it made any sense at all, but in fact reading back over that document, I did a very good job on no sleep. I think the stress/ caffeine overload/ deadline anxiety really gets the neurons jumping.

OK, sorry for hijacking the comments box. :)

Anonymous said...

"...which means the pressure...", sorry!
(today is a non-deadline day, the neurons are slow)

Anonymous said...

BTW, Pinolona

competition is coming ha.