The Secret Life of an American Freelancer: 3 Resolutions for the Workplace Revolution(er)

With only a few weeks left in 2015, most people are taking a self-inventory of successes and failures learning experiences and setting new goals for the upcoming year.

This year was my maiden voyage as a full-time freelancer, and like Jack Dawson (you’ve seen Titanic, right?), I felt on top of the wor(rrrr)ld as I hit the high seas.

“Oh! The places you’ll go!” I told myself as I began the journey, with a virtual fist bump to Dr. Seuss.

But, as it turns out, freelancing is not always smooth sailing. From writer’s block to tax shock, I sprung a few leaks … and I may have capsized once or twice.

I’m counting on what I learned from those sink-or-swim moments to help me find the north star … or any star, really … to help me better navigate 2016.

Bow to boundaries

The other night, I scolded my daughter for bringing her iPad to the dinner table. She furrowed her brow at me and said, “Well, you go on your computer during dinner sometimes!”

[Flashbacks of the 1987 Anti-drug PSA, anyone? “I learned it by watching you!”]

Unfortunately, she was right. More often than I care to admit, I am rushing to finish a project, and the lines between work and home get blurred. My ongoing battle to maintain a consistent schedule is epic.

So, first order of business in 2016: I need to set healthy boundaries and prioritize so that my job does not get the best of me while my family gets the rest of me.

My husband is especially excited about this resolution because it means I will stop checking my emails while he tries to convince me of the relative merits of each original Star Wars movie by calling a weekend-long movie marathon a “couples activity.”

In all honesty, meeting project deadlines is the (Darth) Bane* of my existence right now, so a healthy boundary system is sure to keep me in check as I say farewell to my rookie year as a freelancer.

*My husband has kindly asked that I just watch the movies and don’t try to incorporate their jargon into my blogs. I don’t get it. Is Darth Bane not a thing?

Perfect my pitch

Now that I work for myself, I get to be the Queen Bee, but I am also the worker bee, the accounting bee, the research bee … and the sales bee. That last one scares me the most. I can manipulate words to make things sound pretty, but actually having to sell my product to potential clients is a bit intimidating … okay, you got me … it’s terrifying.

Successful networking begins with a clear pitch, so in 2016 it’s essential for me to perfect my elevator speech – you know, a 20-30 second spiel about my services … for all those times I ride in elevators.

Before I can tell other people who I am and what I do, I guess I have to know who I am and what I do.

I am a freelance writer. A solopreneur. A mompreneur. I am a pioneer in the workforce revolution (too Oregon Trail-esque? Clearly, I’m still living in the days of yore).

As a freelancer, I write to motivate people to action. Depending on the client, that may mean crafting compelling product descriptions or humanizing a brand with blog posts a consumer can relate to.

At my core, I am a storyteller. I get my kicks from learning the backstory of a business and writing stories that help drive its future. I’ve always known words are powerful, but I firmly believe that emotion is too (ergo, my “professional” excuse to weep like a child during ASPCA commercials). Learning to marry the two in a way that is effective but not manipulative … that is my Stanley Cup, my Heisman trophy, my World Series championship ring (the latter of which I have never seen, as a diehard Cubs fan).

And then, of course, there’s the task of determining how to confidently calculate the value of my services instead of hiding under the table when clients ask about my rates. I recognize what I deserve, but communicating that to clients sends me into a panic. I have been known, much to my dear husband’s chagrin, to dramatically sabotage pay-rate negotiations out of low self-esteem-itis.

In 2016, I vow to respect the quality of my work and charge fair, competitive rates. Or at least hire a business manager to fight those battles on my behalf.

Say sayonara to self-pity

Right about the time Q4 rolls around, my Facebook newsfeed is chock-full of pictures of company potlucks, holiday parties, Secret Santas and people getting paid to take days off work. I feel that familiar twinge of 9-to-5 nostalgia and wonder why I chose this road less traveled … and less potlucked.

But this morning I attended my daughter’s school holiday program, and when my eyes met hers across the crowded gym, she smiled.

That smile is the trump card. It’s not just about doing something I love for a living. The flexibility that freelancing provides allows me to be with the ones I love when it counts (although, if you have company-potluck leftovers you want to share, you’re welcome at my dinner table anytime).

So this year, I will remember that smile when I start jonesing for a watercooler chat about last night’s Scandal and remind myself that I’m doing this for a reason.

An optimistic outlook for the new year

In 2016, I commit to being proactive about my schedule, having purpose behind the work that I do and the way I present myself, and letting passion drive me.

If none of those work, I will just crawl back under the table and pin motivational thoughts on Pinterest until I feel better.

Congratulations to my fellow freelancers on a successful 2015! I raise my glass to you (and since we work for ourselves, we can do that at noon) and send warm wishes for an even better 2016. May we live long and prosper! (That’s a Star Wars thing, right honey?)