Monthly Archives: December 2016

Tips for Working for Yourself

I feel like I’ve been hired by Dateline to write this exposé (related: if you are a Dateline producer, have your people call my people—we’ll do lunch).

Time and time again, I hear from folks who are freelance-curious who think working for yourself amounts to a walk in the park. Literally, more walks in the park than actual work.

Let me break it down for you, and bring your dreams of getting paid to sit on your couch back to reality.

 

Myth #1: You Can Work from Home in Your Underwear

Reality: The only reason you’re working at home in your underwear is because you’re so busy you haven’t had time to get dressed—in four days. And now, your mother is coming over to visit and you also realize that you haven’t done dishes or even bathed in the last four days, either.

 

Myth #2: All Freelancers Make a Ton of Money

Reality: Hold off on buying that 157-foot yacht for a few minutes. Sure, you can charge decent money as a freelancer, but those rates also need to cover all your expenses, including MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, Apple Watches, and even a few non-Apple products (like software, tattoos, a desk, a chair, an internet connection, website hosting, a mailing list, it goes on and on). You also need to think about insurance, savings and investing, and paying a large chunk of your hard-earned cash money to the government.

 

Myth #3: No More Bosses Means No More Stresses

Reality: Know how you get hired by clients who give you money and expect work? Well, those people are your new bosses. And instead of having one boss, you’ve now got all of the bosses. They all want your time, your attention, and for you to reply to their 14 emails right now. Even though you’re your own boss (think Mona from that show in the ’80s), you still have to answer to a lot of other people.

 

Myth #4: You Now Have Free Time All the Time

Reality: Sure, technically you can brush off work on a Wednesday to day-drink in your underwear and binge on Netflix. Really, though, if you aren’t working, you aren’t making money. Which is why most freelancers will work more than 40 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else.

 

Myth #5: Your Work Can’t Even Be Considered Work Anymore Because It’s So Awesome to Do

Reality: Until someone monetizes Netflix-binging as a career, working for yourself still means a whole lot of work. Especially in the beginning, you’ll have to work harder than ever because you aren’t just responsible for doing the work, you’re also responsible for finding the work. That takes time. Sometimes a metric ton of time. Seriously though, someone please find a way that I can monetize binge-watching TV series on Netflix’

Virtual Internship

To get a job in the real world , I knew that getting an internship was a good first move. The problem was fitting one into my already hectic schedule: The requirements of many internships—travel, 40 hours a week in an office, or complete relocation—just weren’t an option.

But lucky for me—I found the solution: An internship that didn’t require me to move from my own desk and, yet, provides me with a world of opportunity. An internship with no office, no dress code, and no travel time—because it’s 100% virtual.

Virtual internships are becoming more and more common, and they’re a great way to get hands-on experience while being able to keep a flexible schedule. But there are some tricky aspects to working online, too. So, if you want to make the most of an internship like mine, check out these tips to help you on your way.

 

Do: Get a Feel for the Environment

Everything I do is on the computer or over the phone. I don’t have to show up to the office, and it’s possible that I’ll never meet the people I’m working with in person.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s not important to get along with them. Before I even applied for my internship, I checked out the publication’s “About” pages to get a feel for the company, and I read through the staff bios to make sure they seemed like people I’d enjoy working with. I also got to talk with my future bosses during a phone interview , which gave me more insight into the company and staff than merelyexchanging emails would have.

And I’m glad I did my homework. I correspond with various members of the team on a daily basis, and if we didn’t get along, then the internship—virtual or not—could very well be a disaster. Before you sign on to an online team, make sure you’ve done some research to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

 

Do: Be Timely

When you’re working at an office, you know exactly what days and times you need to show up. But in a virtual environment, there’s no official schedule, so it’s harder to be timely. You can easily ignore that email or put aside those assignments you promised to do until just a little bit later.

But whether you’re working at a cubicle or in your pajamas on your bed , it’s important to stay on top of deadlines. You won’t necessarily have someone checking in with you every day, so keep track of important dates and assignments in your personal calendar. (This is great practice no matter what full-time job you take later.) Even if the company you’re working for is easygoing like mine, you don’t want to disappoint them—like with any internship, your goal should be to stand out as best you can.

 

Don’t: Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

By the same token, when there’s no “end” time to the day or week, you might be tempted to take on more than you can handle. But remember that you can only do so much. Your supervisor knows that you’re enrolled in a full semester of classes and taking on extracurricular clubs and activities, too—in fact, she may have chosen you for the work you do at school!

But, that doesn’t mean she always has a good grasp of what you can reasonably balance and what is too much —especially since she doesn’t see you every day. Make sure to communicate with your supervisor when you’re overwhelmed and, to prevent that from even happening, only take on what you know you can handle. Chances are, she’s going to prefer quality over quantity (plus, you can always take on more later).

Great First Step on Your Job

In an effort to increase creativity and efficiency, U.K.-based company Coexistunveiled a new company policy: period leave. Yes, it’s what it sounds like.

The policy, which is essentially an extension of a lenient work-from-home initiative, would allow women to take time off during their menstrual cycle, a time which Bex Baxter, director of Coexist, says women “are in a winter state, when they need to regroup, keep warm and nourish their bodies.”

The idea is not to have women call in sick when they’re doubled over with cramps or battling nausea coupled with an aching back and irritability levels through the roof; rather, the company considers the compassionate leave a way of encouraging employees to work when they are feeling at their very best. (It’s following the menstrual cycle, apparently, when “women [in the spring state] are actually three times as productive as usual.”)

Instead of working through a debilitating period month after month (which, as many women can attest to, is a real struggle), the taboo and stigma surrounding taking time off from work when you’re in bed with a heating pad and laptop on your lap is dismissed.

As a woman who has experienced all of the above-mentioned symptoms and more, I fully support the idea of being able to stay home on those particularly trying days of the month, but I also find this leave policy short-sighted.

If every workplace allowed for greater flexibility, we wouldn’t need this type of official strategy to begin with. Menstruation isn’t the only item that should be taken into consideration when organizations are determining and defining the WFH policy.

What about allergies? Insomnia? An emotionally draining conflict with a friend or partner? A dog who’s spent too much time alone lately? A child who’s having a meltdown? The day after taking a red-eye flight?

In no way is it my intention to undermine the impact of a woman’s period on her physical and mental well being (that would be like turning my back on my sex and pretending like my own monthly friend is a walk in the park), but, really, aren’t there so many reasons that one might be better off working from home (or not working altogether) because, barring official sick days or the death of a relative, that’s the rigid expectation?

If more CEOs understood the positive effect that instituting a flexible work policy has on its employees, the better off and more productive we’d all be. What’s it going to take for companies everywhere to embrace flexibility and trust that their staff isn’t going to drop the ball just because they met their deadlines from the comfort of their coach without ever changing out of their period, er, I mean, comfy pants? The period leave policy is an applaudable start, but it’s just that—a start. We have a long way to go.