You Are Now Allowed To Give In To Your Mondays

Posted: January 25th, 2010

Photo by Queguenae (Flickr)

Photo by Queguenae (Flickr)

I’m fairly amused to live in Spain where the average workday is very atypical for that of the average freelancer or employee in English speaking countries. In fact, here is what would occur on a normal working day:

9:00 AM – Start work by checking email and chatting with the workmates.

9:30 AM – Break for a cup of coffee or beer (yes, this early) with the workmates down at the local bar.

10:30 AM – Return, begin real work.

1:00 PM – Break for lunch and a siesta (and maybe another beer).

4:00 PM – Return to work, chat with workmates (going back to bar optional).

4:30 PM – Continue with real work again.

6:49 PM – Hmmm, about 7 PM, time to go home.

Now, it’s probably a given that sticking to this kind of schedule would not get me too far as a freelance programmer. You might even go as far as to equate this as “treading water.”

Except on Mondays when it absolutely rules.

To explain, I always have it difficult on Mondays. You know, having to deal with the email requests that come over the weekend, thinking of something to write for the blog post, periods of sluggishness followed by moments of caffeine highs. Stuff just doesn’t get done like, say, on a Tuesday. I’m not even talking hangovers here either.

So I decided, screw it, I’m going all Spanish on Mondays from now on.

Sleep in an extra hour.

No more Monday deadlines.

Chat with my friends down the street over a beer (at 9:30 sharp).

Not bang my head trying to write THE blog post. Halfway crappy will suffice.

Nice long siesta. Now we’re talking.

Don’t get me wrong, I probably hover around 50 hours a week working my freelance projects, blogging and doing other personal projects. I’m not quite that lazy. (I know, I know, only 50 you say with a laugh)

But you know what? Tuesday thankfully come a lot easier now. All 18 hours of work that follows it.

I’m just hoping the day never comes where we have the morning beer over Twitter.

The One Single Quote That Still Keeps The Focus

Posted: August 13th, 2009

Photo by Johnny (The Freelance Rant)

Photo by Johnny (The Freelance Rant)

Maybe you can relate, but if you had ever worked in a sales position or freelanced, then at some point or another you had selected motivational quotes posted on the walls of your room to keep up the moral. Or worse, you had one of those motivational posters with the eagle and some kind of bullshit words of wisdom below it.

For myself, those motivational quotes tended to lose their luster over time to the point where they might as well have been the actual paint on the wall. I mean there was always the cycle of glancing at the quotes, pepping yourself up a bit then forgetting about them by the time you are working. Seemed logical to not waste my time and bother reading them.

That is until I read a quote several months ago from Newt Gingrich, a U.S. Representative:

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

I don’t know how many times since then I stopped working, thought about that very quote and put in an extra hour or two. Today those extra hours added up and are starting to pay off dividends in personal projects I have in process and other goals I am working towards in my freelance career.

And yet I find it hard to believe that, after all of the quotes I’ve read and liked then gotten bored of, there is actually one that I still follow word for word. Maybe it helped that I didn’t do it the disservice of posting it on my wall but, instead, put it in a file on my computer in case I forgot it. I haven’t yet.

You may or may not find the quote above useful or interesting. It really isn’t the point of this post anyway. Although, after the influence it had on me, I dont’ mind sharing it with everyone. Somewhere out there, like the perfect significant other, there is some saying or quote from an ex-president or Ben Franklin that will hit it home for you.

Just do it justice and keep it in your mind, heart and off the walls of your room.

Survived The Recession So Far? Time To Thank Those Reponsible

Posted: July 30th, 2009

Just the other day I received an email from a client, actually a long term contractor, that said something that made me really happy but really made me think:

“We’ve got a bunch of projects coming up in the queue.
Thank goodness the recession didn’t wipe us out!”

To give you the quick fill-in, I’ve been contracted as a programmer by a small company of four in Santa Fe, NM called Desert Elements Design for the last few years now. They supply the majority of my work, pay me at a premium and have been incredible about consistently sending me work even through the hard times of this recession.

Even though their business is down slightly from years past, it really got me thinking that, hey, I made it though this recession on top while there were many many others who have fallen victim. I’ll admit, too, that I really didn’t do much to combat the effect the recession could have on me. The work came and I didn’t ask how or why.

While some sectors are survivable during a recession, web development being one of them, it still takes some serious marketing to draw in business since virtually no one has been willing to spend. It didn’t a genius to put two and two together and see that there was a candle burning on both ends to market DE services along with managing the design projects between just three people.

And all of this while I completed the steady supply of assigned work and enjoyed my weekends in the summer visiting pristine beaches and attending a multitude of concerts like longtime favorites Neil Young and AC/DC. All the while being completely oblivious to a recession at hand.

So now I sit here and realize like a slap in the face that I am luckier than a good chunk of the workforce out there. Lucky to work and earn a living. Lucky to be associated with the intelligent and hard working ladies of DE. Luckily to be able to buy an imported beer and drink it while writing this.

So time for me to stop thinking and give thanks. Right now.

Obsessive Compulsiveness and Freelancing Success

Posted: July 21st, 2009

Photo by Oliliqui (Flickr)

Photo by Oliliqui (Flickr)

In a class on abnormal psychology in college I remember vividly a few lectures going over obsessive-compulsive disorders which can range from washing your hands 200 times a day to constantly worrying about whether you locked your front door while away from home.

While the majority of us don’t have have one, nearly everyone of us does have obsessive-compulsive tendencies that drive us in our everyday lives. When it comes to freelancing, however, these can be an indication of whether we merely survive or actually become successful at it. I can explain it a little better.

Its pretty obvious a freelancer’s ability to stick through hard times while learning the ropes is a required trait to succeed. The following characteristics, which can borderline on the obsessive compulsive side, are also present in those freelancers who take it to the next level and become the best at what they do and make a name for themselves:

Dissatisfaction: This doesn’t refer to not liking what you do, but rather the “is this it?” feeling you may feel doing the work you do in your career. What usually follows is the need to branch out and advance the skills you have or even learn something entirely new. The real benefit to dissatisfaction is that motivation is high to obtain an ideal career and the pursuit of it becomes second nature. The drawback, however, is that sometimes satisfaction is never achieved.

Workaholism: All freelancers at one time or another has burned the candle at both ends to get work done. Then there are those who do this habitually every day. Needless to say, a lot of hard work will quickly advance your career, not to mention your bank account will be pretty healthy. Bouts of workaholism is necessary for every freelancer to grow in their careers, too. A complete obsession with it, however, might not be so good for the head.

The “Mad Scientist” mentality: I don’t think I’ve ever met a freelancer who didn’t have some idea for the next Google to serve the masses or some dream of making it big in their own niche. As far as knowing freelancers who even attempted to realize their dreams: well, the list dwindles from there. Those who do end up following through on their dreams aren’t any different from the rest of us and get this… many fail in their attempts.

It’s the I-can’t-get-this-idea-out-of-my-head mentality, though, that creates the compulsion to act on it regardless of whether success or failure lies on the other end. Sooner or later you are bond to come up a winner, at least in my belief. That is if you really believe it also.

So what’s your obsession?

It is my firm belief that a successful freelance career requires some sort of obessive-compulsive behavior that drives us to succeed. While one could argue that it is our passion that fuels us (and that would be correct too), our behaviors can also directly affect our careers and our knack for being obsessive can actually drive us to success without even thinking about it.

Do you have an obsessive-compulsive tendency that helps you in your career? Or do you feel this all complete BS? Feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to respond.

The Client Is Always Right… But If They Are Wrong?

Posted: June 10th, 2009

Personally, I like to pride myself in the fact that I really take care of my clients. Just doing the little things, such as communicating every step of the way on projects and doing high quality work, go a long way in keeping you, your business and your client happy. More importantly, clients also reciprocate with respect and usually nothing but positive things to say to you and others.

Recently, despite good services provided to a particular client, I had one that decided to suddenly send an email going off on how I messed up on a project pointing out to issues that were beyond my control or I had nothing to do with. Without going into details, I became enraged and reached a decision point: do I fight back with a scathing email and drop this client like a ton of bricks or do I bite my tongue and give in?

The knee-jerk reaction is, of course, to come out swinging. After all, if you are in the right, you have the right not to tolerate such disrespect and continue working with those that show it to you. But is it really the smartest thing to do? There are major drawbacks to “getting even” and ceasing all business with these types of clients:

  • You lose business
  • Any pending payments may be difficult to collect
  • There may be a possibility of backlash that can damage your reputation

Well, I’m proud of the fact that, for this particular client, I went through the following steps that brought everything under control without sacrificing my own pride nor losing the client:

  1. No contact for a day. Take a full 24 hours to calm down and think rationally and without communicating to the client. Giving in to the urge to send an immediate response stating your case isn’t the smartest thing to do, even if you are right. Remember, being right doesn’t always pay the bills.
  2. Respond with an email to contact you immediately by phone or instant message. Keep it to just that and no response to “get a jab in there.” Any grievance by a client is best handled by a phone call or, if a call is not possible, a session on the IM. The reason is that the client will most likely be calmed down and not likely to lash out.
  3. Talk over the client’s differences and be diplomatic. Being nice and calm helps the client be nice and calm, too.
  4. Explain that you will not tolerate future insults or angry emails. The key to this is be polite, acknowledge their frustrations and tell them, if any issues arise in the future, send an urgent email to call or IM you immediately.

This isn’t to say that all clients will be able to be dealt with in this manner. There are rare cases where a client could turn out to be a jackass, in which case, better to cease all activity with them (politely here too). The majority, however, who show a bad side of themselves are actually good people who are venting when a real person isn’t right there to speak to.

Its just up to you to set the rules when potential arguments are about to take place.

Perfect Words of Wisdom On A Busy Friday

Posted: May 8th, 2009

I just got through a pretty tough day as a programmer which leaves little left in the tank for a screaming post. I can only think about my typical Friday night pizza with a cold draft as I start typing away. Luckily, I ran into an inspiring post by Sarah from Helium. Some words to live by:

Another thing you can jeopardize, besides sanity, health (come on, you know you’ve been picking up every cold and flu bug that creeps your way) and your relationship with your loved ones is this: perspective. Every deadline begins to take on a life or death importance. You forget that the world will not implode if you take time for lunch, sleep in an extra hour or go home in time to eat a good dinner and catch an episode of “Lost.”

TGIF… your work won’t go anywhere, but you can. Now time for that pizza…

Freelancers Are Most At Risk From Swine Flu

Posted: April 27th, 2009

I’m sure you’ve read it all over the place or saw the news bulletin on CNN. Oh man, there is a sudden global “pandemic” of swine flu that started out in Mexico and has spread to other parts of the world, hopefully, putting a scare in all of us. Really, don’t you get the impression this strain of flu will invade your household in the next day or so the way it is “spreading” around the world?

But haven’t we also heard the same story before with avian or aka “bird” flu? This strain was also projected to also be a global pandemic and scared the news-weary public enough to cause hoarding of the short supply of medication that supposedly treated it (remember tamiflu?). Isn’t it kind of funny we haven’t heard about it for a year or two since it was major headline news? Makes you think what the big deal was in the first place and if this swine flu really is something we need to pay attention to.

Now let’s go ahead and switch the subject to employment. Heard any bad news lately? Does this bad news directly affect whether you start freelancing or how you continue your freelancing? To put it in bluntly, did it bring about fear concerning the situation of your career?

The truth of the matter is that the poor state of the economy will affect you in much the same way as the swine flu will. In other words, worrying about either won’t do any good. If by little chance you will be directly affected by swine flu, chances are that this will be dealt with locally by professionals and you will be advised on what to do. So why worry?

The same applies to the economic situation. It may or may not have directly affected your employment but, rest assured, it will if you let it. Personally, I have had to make some adjustments such as spending more time searching for clients and making more of an effort to take care of the ones I do have to gain repeat work. Overall my freelance business hasn’t taken a hit as a result.

Surely my case doesn’t speak for everyone but sitting there and worrying won’t get you anywhere either. This little bit of knowledge, though, can keep you ahead of the masses that do worry. So stop, think and take action… or let the swine flu affect you too.

Thinking Outside The Box Means Getting Out Of It First

Posted: April 20th, 2009

Choosing to work on your own means you have the creative freedom to do whatever pleases you in your work. It doesn’t just stop at work. I mean, sure, we have the luxury of working in our pajamas (or naked), scheduling our work hours when we want and sleeping in every day. Those really just scratch the surface of the true freedom that lies before you.

When you really think about it, we become freelancers to not be “one of them” lost in the corporate world and climbing the proverbial ladder. Not that this so bad, especially in these times, but there is something inside of us that screams out we are distinct and have our own ways of doing things. Really… think about this for a second.

Don’t we have the capacity to recreate a mini version of, say, Apple or Google?

I’m not talking about inventing the next tech wonder, but recreating the environment that does. Skip the traditional office setup and let your mind wander into uncharted waters. Since most freelancers work over the internet and wireless internet service is readily available almost anywhere, the choices are unlimited.

Have a tree outside? Build a treehouse office.

Spare bathroom? Turn that into your workstation.

Take your work on the road. Check out a new state each day.

I might be a little facetious here but the truth is, you never know where the next great idea may come from. OK, so you probably won’t invent the next super gadget wonder, however, your next big successful idea could suddenly be inspired by your new found creative freedom. It just has to be tapped.

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