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Here’s the thing…….

The Truth

For you to thrive in the freelance world, you’re going to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

What I mean by that is simply that you’re going to have to be more aggressive. That might be the norm for you, but it’s a critical part of whether or not you’ll get the interview, the job, or the promotion.

I am classified as an ambivert- so neither strongly extroverted nor introverted. But I do have moments where I just don’t want to human nor communicate, and sometimes that happens when it’s time to either get the job or get the job done. Over the years I had to learn how to “switch off” those moments and push to accomplish what I need to.

I had to learn to be uncomfortable and function within it. I had to learn to be okay with having to do short notice video interviews (always worried that I looked worse on camera than in person) and having to mainly self-train when I started jobs that weren’t wholly prepared for the difference in training methods for home-based staff. I had to learn to speak up when there were needs for improvement. I had to learn to be aggressive about chasing down gigs and full time jobs and telling people what my time is worth.

And sometimes that breaks people.

If you are the type that needs some level of coddling or things being handed to you, this will be difficult (and cumbersome) for you. By “this”, I mean finding sustainable work or sources of revenue that allow you to work from home. Matter of fact, most people that have asked me to help them find home-based work generally give up after a few days because it’s such an uphill battle.

Family Life & Relationships

Honestly, the decision to dedicate to working from home full time will change everything at home. Maybe it’ll be more subtle, but it’ll change.

My relationship with both my partner and his kids was strained for the longest because of a simple thing that became an issue: YouTube. Oftentimes I’d need to work a job where I had to be able to answer phone calls via my computer, which required a decent connection. So, the usual Saturday evening of streaming videos became taxing and pretty much destroyed the bandwidth. Spare having an entirely new line put in or buying 10 gigs of data at a time (both costly ventures), I had to insist that everyone was more mindful of the data usage in the house while I was working. Changing what was routine caused a lot of stress for everyone.

It also impacted my relationship because my hours became erratic, or I’d never fully detach from the work. Most times when my phone makes a notification sound, I’ve either gotten a sale for services or a new job offer….even requests to cover shifts for others. It caused our schedules (since he’s a traditional 9-5 type of guy) became horribly out of sync whenever I’d take roles for companies in other parts of the world. I had to make sure to start dedicating blocks of time to just us. It sounds silly to have to schedule dates and such, but that’s what it boiled down to.

 

Social Woes

I’ll be 100% honest here: it’s going to change your social life a bit. You will become more aware of expenditures and start to weed out those excessive outings you used to go on all the time with friends. Your tastes will likely shift from dining out to pulling out that food delivery app and Netflix-ing it. And you will learn to loathe being in the house as much as you are.

I still assure you it’s worth it, but it definitely takes a more concentrated effort to maintain a social life when a lot of our daily socializing can actually center around workplace peers. So what I suggest here is making sure to maintain some level of free time and make a plan. Apps like Meetup are fantastic for finding local events to jump into, and maybe even other home-based pros that can totally understand your struggle. But it’s important to not let the work and the house consume you whole to the point where you forget to human and connect with others.

 

In the end….

Would I do it differently? Not at all. But let my experience be your lesson. Working from home can be a blessing and a curse- but you can control the negatives by making sure to still retain some time for you and your loved ones. Set boundaries with everyone early. Remember that your household can’t center around you exclusively, and sometimes you just have to meet in the middle.

 

Sara

Fraud and Freelance

So, today I experienced something that is not at all uncommon for those of us who are looking for legitimate long-term remote jobs: a fraudulent job listing.

Even on revered platforms like Upwork, us remote professionals come across “companies” that pose as bigger companies in order to look like a legitimate opportunity. Today, I had someone claiming to be an HR representative from a Fortune 500 company.

Now I know I’ve  been at it too long when I pick up immediately that the job listing is pure bullshit. But, as an experiment, I went ahead and played along as if I didn’t know.

Why? Because I was well aware that their pitch would fool someone new to freelance. The person I was chatting with even pulled up the LinkedIn page for the person they were impersonating, which I reported to the company  and person they were pretending to be. What it led to was a two hour chat-based interview where it ended in them insisting I send a copy of my ID to an email address made to look legit. I promptly reported it.

So here are the steps I take to sussing out the validity of the clients that may approach you on a freelance site like Upwork (or avoid applying to them entirely):

 

1: Track Record On The Platform

This is my first go-to on Upwork and a reason I stick with them. Do they even have a confirmed payment method on file? If not, don’t proceed.

How much have they spent? If it’s less than $100, move on to someone else. Some companies will fake a contract to look like they’ve hired before.

Do they have reviews from past employees?

2: Can you validate them?

Legitimate companies usually at least provide a company name or real professional website……enough info that you can verify them yourself.

3: Keep the convo safe

What I mean by this is that if they urge you to email or contact them outside of the freelance platform, proceed with caution. Skype is a practical go-to but Upwork does feature the ability to do have text, voice and video conversations right from their interface. This is important because you can keep a record of all of your interactions there and ensure you’re safely speaking to someone. Be cautious if someone is insisting on speaking externally. Not practicing this is also how I unknowingly ended up being sexually harassed in the past via a “video interview”, which then became hard to report to Upwork to ensure no one else would be subjected to that.

4: No Voice, No Interview

While it seems incredibly appealing to only interview via chat when it’s offered, don’t. If a prospective client will not do a voice or video interview, that is one big red flag. It’s also indicative of a lack of standards, especially if you are being considered for a customer-based role.

5: External Pay?

If the potential client is asking to pay outside of the freelance platform, you also lose any security that comes with…..never mind the fact that it’s likely a violation of TOS for both parties. Upwork, for example, ensures that each hour worked is an hour paid and also has protections for the client/company. It otherwise puts your finances at risk. You could sink in a ton of hours and never get paid. Laws don’t fully protect the self-employed quite yet.

 

Yes, you can find wholly legitimate work from great companies, but unless you apply directly to the company itself you need to protect yourself and your information while playing in the freelance arena. And, as they always say….if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

 

 

Balancing The Home And Home-Based Work

One of the misconceptions about working from home is that you’re automatically going to have this wealth of time to do whatever you want whenever you want. If you’re living alone, this might not apply so much since you’re just doing your own thing. But if you’re like me and in a relationship and have kids floating around, simple things can become quite complicated.

When it comes to being the sole home-based income earner, it often comes with this mindset that if you have more time at home, it’s easier for you to handle everything around the house and balance your work. We’re not even talking about gender here; many couples have mentioned the struggle of being the “one at home”, regardless of antiquated roles in the home.

What makes it harder is when you’re the sole home-based income earner and work as much as your partner (if not more). I found myself in a situation where both my partner and I were maintaining 60+ hour weeks, which was insane. While we’re not going to focus on how that can impact a relationship if your schedules are out of sync (that’s an entirely different post) we are going to talk about how it can make things stressful at home otherwise.

Here are 3 ways you can better balance your “home” and “office” times and maintain some sanity:

  1. Everyone has a job. No excuses. 

It’s imperative that you realistically divide the housework and maintenance tasks in a way that no one is totally swamped with it. My fiance is responsible for taking out the garbage and on weekends (when I’m busiest) he’ll take up the dishes and general cleaning. The kids each has a task that’s their responsibility. While it’s not always perfection, it does take the stress off of me to not have to worry about those items tasked to other people, and we eventually get it done. The key is to not let yourself get entirely overwhelmed.

2. Schedule, schedule, schedule

This might be a “duh” statement, but actually creating a daily schedule based off of your workload and housework and other obligations will help simplify the chaos. It sounds tedious, but it’s really not. Set up chunks of time where you know you need to just work, and chunks of time to tackle the other stuff. Make sure you’re also delegating time to non-chore items like reading, listening to music, taking a walk….time you can commit to some detoxifying normalcy.

3. Utilize Time-Saving Hacks

“Life Hacks” is a term that’s sometimes abused, but there’s easy ways to help cut down on the stress of juggling work and home. Some examples would be to invest time into meal planning so you already have meals created for the days where you are too busy to sit in the kitchen or decluttering hacks to help make daily maintenance of your house a breeze. Not everyone can afford to have someone assist with the things we don’t have time for, but there’s ways we can take the pressure off of ourselves.

 

No matter what, finding that balance is something we can all do if we have a plan. Communicate with those who share a space with you, delegate, execute, repeat. With the freelance/home based workstyle being so unstructured at times, it’s very beneficial to learn to be incredibly fine tuned when you’re off the clock.

 

 

My Battle With Depression & Working From Home

I feel the need to preface this with a statement that should be obvious: everyone’s situation is unique. There’s no blanket answer for anything I’m about to discuss; this is more about how I personally cope with my mental health and balancing maintaining a home-based workstyle. What may work for me may not work for someone else, but I’m hoping it’ll shed some light on a little-discussed struggle.

I’ve been fully committed to the home-based workstyle for nearly 5 years now. While it wasn’t something that was as much of a choice, I have learned to thrive within a very difficult way to build a career. For me it meant having to hustle and fight for quality long term work for companies I could be excited about. I took it as seriously as how I’d approach finding traditional work; I was not interested in anything that was just a means to pay the bills. I wanted something I could feel passionate about doing. I wanted to be kept on my toes.

I know how I am- if something is monotonous and repetitive, I get bored as hell. I am always pushing to do something a bit different or contribute a bit more. That eventually paid off long term, as I have been able to minimize salary negotiation, often getting exactly what I asked for. I knew my worth and both my record and presentation showed I was worth every penny. And this isn’t a matter of arrogance; time is the one thing we can never get back, so it had to be worth it for me to dedicate mine to something.

However, the past few years have been an incredible strain in ways that were initially financial, then emotional and physical. First, I was laid off of a very well-paying full time contract I was on because they had to cut back 30% of the staff. That caught me entire off guard, as I had sold myself on the idea that THIS was the long term role I was after as an Operations Manager for an Australian company. I loved it so much, so I was understandably quite crushed when I found out that I was no longer employed.

This happened on the heels of my partner and I having to have our entire relationship tested by what was the first of three legal matters involving his ex (to date) and trying to cope with the fact that I had to throw my support behind him and what he was going through. While we knew what the end game was going to be (an eventual custody case) it was just the start of over three years of legal-related stress, which eventually took a toll on us financially.

I was also only finding work where I was employed initially as full time just to end up part time within a couple of weeks. I was getting discouraged and felt defeated, and I realize in retrospect there was a multitude of things that contributed to that. My partner didn’t fully understand why I’d sometimes just break down in tears or spend entire days in bed, not bothering to human. But, because it wasn’t all of the time, neither one of us really said or did anything about it, until one day…..

He suggested that, perhaps, if I was more active with housework that maybe I’d feel better. Of course I totally took offense to it at first, but then I crumbled. I tried to explain to him the level of anxiety that I was at where I felt like everything was out of my control and I felt like I was suffocating under a non-stop task list I could never conquer. It got worse before it got better, and I could tell he still couldn’t understand.

Part of his perception is that I was feeling claustrophobic from being in the house so much. I was always either working or trying to find more work until I found myself abundantly employed again in late 2016. By then, the third court case had begun….but I was motivated to conquer some of the setbacks we had and was excited about planning our upcoming wedding.

And, not surprisingly, pieces of the puzzle started breaking loose faster than I could put them together. Setback after setback kept coming but this time I maintained my 60-70 hour a week work schedule. And again, I found myself entirely consumed by being overwhelmed and paralyzed by anxiety. The only time I was okay was when I was working, but that was because I was distracted and felt in control.

I stopped going to social obligations and offerings almost entirely. I also had a very strong wave of homesickness, because I felt the people that understood me the most were the least accessible. My friends knew about my struggles. My friends accepted me regardless and I felt safe. When my anxiety hit an all-time high for me, I felt entirely isolated and that I didn’t have anyone I could speak with that didn’t pass judgement or insist they could tell me how to fix the problem, like it was just a squeaky hinge that needed some oil.

Between the depression coming around for another visit and my anxiety, even as recently as a couple of days ago I was spending entire days in bed, only bothering to get up and shower, hydrate and go back to bed. I was finding myself forcing meals because, logically, I knew I had to eat, but I had no interest in it.

A major setback had caused us to have to postpone the rest of the wedding planning for three weeks and I started to crumble realizing the entire month of June was going to leave me scrambling to put together the rest of the pieces so by August everything was done and done well. And I was still juggling working more than full time from home and trying to look after domestic needs with what little time I had. I was hitting a wall at high velocity.

Something made me decide to try to explain it to my partner again, especially when I realized he knew I wasn’t doing that well when he found me in the kitchen looking pained. Except this time he didn’t try to reason that I wasn’t staying busy enough. I told him I felt overwhelmed again and asked him to just empty the dishwasher so I could load it. He didn’t even hesitate and went further, loading the machine for me and asking me how my day was. I started crying, and he didn’t judge. Eventually we went to watch a movie and everything was peaceful.

There was something very relieving about being listened to and not told how to fix it as if it was no big deal. And today I find myself in much better spirits and incredibly motivated. I haven’t felt that in a while. I spent time doing the one thing that I really find to be helpful to ease the lack of feeling of control: rearranging things. I decided it was time to move my entire home office setup near the dining room so I could be near the brick walls and plenty of natural sunlight. I happily busied myself in crafting the setup, knowing that I’d probably find myself moving it again in a month….but it gave me such a sense of calm that I was overdue for.

That’s how I learn to cope, really. I find something I can feel in control of, like a small project or even working on my blog. And, more often than not, it helps reset what’s making me go haywire and I can function again. But sometimes it’s just having to push myself to get out of that bed, to communicate, and to achieve.

If you live with someone who is struggling, by all means, be that ear if they ask it of you. Most times they’re not looking for your advice as much as they’re hoping to be heard, so don’t offer it up unsolicited. Understand that the little bit of consideration could legitimately make or break us. Understand that the little extra love can mean everything to someone that’s drowning in their own head.

Today I am optimistic. I’m ready to kick the shit out of this day. I hope I can stay on this path more often.

Smoothie Blenders Might Be Your Biggest Health (And Time Saving) Life Hack

While there’s tons on the market to choose from, smoothie blenders are becoming common in many households. They’re generally affordable and offer the ability to quickly whip up smoothies….but they’re also a great way to shortcut your meal prep if your work schedule is getting a bit hectic.

I just spent 10 minutes in the kitchen and prepped plenty of vegetarian eats (since I’m currently on a diet and trying to stick to more nutrient-dense foods) that will totally agree with the teens and partner alike. It took me far longer to prep and finish this post!

I made:

  • My breakfast smoothie (spinach, orange, lime, apple, honey and a bit of water)
  • Dinner for the kids,since they’ll be with their dad at work at dinnertime (spinach and basil soup with coconut milk, cilantro, sea salt, stewed tomato, raw onion and a touch of lime)
  • Snack for my partner and myself (carrot sticks and melba toast with a spinach and chickpea dip made with ginger, cayenne, olive oil and raw onion)
  • Pasta sauce for rice noodles that I’ll prepare for dinner for my partner and I (coconut milk, basil, chia seeds, sea salt)
  • And my partner and I will have our Diet Fuel shakes for lunch.

While this all sounds very green (and possibly bland to some), I was able to quickly throw together plenty of flavorful and healthy eats without any of the stress of sitting over a stove or doing excessive meal prep. The most time consuming parts were peeling the lime and orange (which I did with a knife) and rinsing out the cups after I transferred the products to containers. This saved me, realistically, at least an hour or two of time in the kitchen that could be better utilized elsewhere.

And mind you, this doesn’t have to only be used for vegetarian meals. You can prep a lot of things quickly with health and budget in mind- it’s on you to get creative about it. It’s the perks of cooking from scratch without all of the hassle.

If you use this in conjunction with a meal prep schedule, you can knock out more meals well in advance, which leaves you more time to focus on your work and your family without compromising what they’re consuming.

Looking for some healthy foodie inspiration? Check out Nicole Michelles for some great menu planning ideas and healthy alternatives.

Life > Work

It’s easy to get seduced into the idea of chasing money. I’m well aware of it, and I’ve been there. It’s also easy to get sucked into the vicious cycle of feeling like you’re living to work, rather than working to live.

If you’re working to the point where you’re failing to maintain your basic human connections or keep “postponing” quality time with family or loved ones, then you need to take a step back and find some fresh balance. Oftentimes I see people breaking their backs to work to keep their heads above water, but also there’s the folks that will break their backs to simply accumulate. That’s great if you can, but what is it for, exactly?

It can be especially tricky when you’re working from home, because work is never far away. I’ve found myself finding more excuses to work and less effort to actually take time to do the things I loved, like reading and traveling. There was a point where I simply couldn’t afford to do some things, but the things that really would bring me joy cost little to none.

That’s something that is important to remember, even if you struggle to make ends meet (regardless of the workstyle you have). You should always block off some time to do something that brings you joy and make sure you are dedicating time to focus on quality time with the family, your friends, or your passions…..but avoid the additional screen time.

This doesn’t always have to be about spending money. Quality time could be curling up with your favorite book, or spending an extra half hour playing with your dogs in the yard. It can be tackling a new recipe for dinner with the kids so you can all learn together, or investing time into a small project around the house you’ve been stalling on.

Sure, you an work relentlessly and amass and buy all the fun things. You can have a “sleep when you’re dead”  mindset and convince yourself that you’re busting ass now so you can relax later. But at the same time, are you really living? Are you missing out on priceless moments, quality of health, even possibly the love of your life? In the end, is the money really worth the one thing you can’t replace: time?

It’s important to establish ourselves and provide- there’s no doubt about that. It’s important to handle core responsibilities. But always remember to maintain the humanity and seek inspiration to balance the hustle out. The relationships you form and the experiences are what make life worth living, no matter how simple you might think they are at the time.

Life is meant to live proactively. Our time isn’t guaranteed. Make the most of it!

 

Where will your work take you- Twitter

Don’t Fall For The Scams!

Working from home was long treated as the unicorn of employment: beautiful, somewhat believable, but no one saw something real emerge from it. For decades there have been ads claiming you could make loads of money with no effort- much like companies that would promote weight loss without dieting or exercise. Short version: a lot of what we’d see was BS. 

But times have changed considerably! There are actual companies seeking qualified talent to join their ranks, and this handy guide will give you a head start on how to tell the real from the fake. 

MLM’s- Just don’t. 

Oftentimes you might see people (even friends and family) gushing about a great “opportunity” to make a bunch of money utilizing social media or something else that’s prevented as effortless. Let’s be honest- multi-level marketing has been around for ages and depends on the ability for you to prey on others and sell something that either doesn’t work nor exist…..and often with a chunk of change invested on your behalf. Don’t fall for this timeless trap.

Interview?

Although this might not apply to once-off gigs that involve a single project, credible companies that are looking for hourly work should responsibly screen and interview anyone that they are looking to hire. If they are not looking to have a voice or video interview, nix them. Even if it’s a verifiable company, it doesn’t bode well if they don’t show some level of professionalism and standards to ensure that you, the applicant, are what they are looking for outside of “what’s on paper”.

Do They Exist?

A job listing should include the name of the company. Before you invest time in applying, dedicate time towards doing some simple research. Do they have a professional website? Are there any reviews? Do they exist in social media? Basically, a little research can help suss out if the company looks legitimate. With the power of the interwebz this isn’t a very difficult thing to do.

No Down Payment Required

Basically if a company requires you pay up front in order to make money, run away. They should be the ones investing in you. This also ties into the MLM schemes that often float around still.

 

Bottom line- awareness is key. If it sounds too good to be true, take a moment to actually do your research. Sometimes you might get a great opportunity with ease; I have before. But proceed with caution and make sure it’s not a smokescreen for someone just out for money or your information.

 

Boundaries & Working From Home

Placeholder ImageIf you’re balancing a family and working from home, you will quickly learn that it becomes a struggle to be able to pull it off without there being a level of conflict. Whether it’s just you and a partner, or kids, or even pets…..you will need to be proactive to create the ideal productive environment. Here’s a handy “cheat sheet” on how you can go from the cubicle life to adjusting to a home office in the most painless way possible.

 

Establish Your Work Space.

Where are you planning to work? While the obvious perk of working from home is that you can be untethered, I highly urge you to consider having a consistent space that is marked as your “workspace”. Unless you live alone, this will be a critical step towards setting some boundaries in the home that will allow you to focus on your work. Having an established workspace also gives you an area that is for productivity and will allow you to “shut off” easier when you walk away from it. That separation is helpful in ways that will make sense once you’re heavy into the home-based workstyle.

Establish Some Rules

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones that can have a soundproofed and isolated work space at home that you can lock, make sure you lay down some ground rules for the household. This includes division of chores, privacy, voice and entertainment volumes (especially if you need to do phone work) and other things that could lead to distractions. Explain the importance of treating your work no differently than traditional work and that you are to be left alone when you are in “work mode”. Communicating your schedule/when you plan to work will also be useful, as those can be clearly “off limits” times. If you are dealing with kids, age can obviously play a role…but setting boundaries with children of any age is crucial, especially if you’re a parent they often seek out.

Social Calls

One of my biggest struggles was that there’s this misconception that if you are home, you are available…..whether it be for random Facebook calls, house visits or outings. Usually just letting the “offender” know to contact you in advance (or during certain times) will help resolve the issue. If not, you may need to consider moves like silencing your phone, logging out of social media (especially if you have desktop notifications enabled), putting Skype on “do not disturb” or even a more blunt “go away” mat at your door.

Speaking Of Your Phone

While it’s fun that you have access to it, it’s probably best you silence it. Unless you’re expecting an emergency, it becomes an easy distraction if your entire life is connected to it.

In The End, Comfort Is Key

Working from home isn’t all about fun and games, though it can be for some. But if you’re serious about fully committing to a home-based workstyle, take a realistic look at how you can make your home office environment one you can take seriously and stay productive in. It’ll only help elevate your cubicle-free game.