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The Working Day

Friends with Structure

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“This is about structure,” the therapist said.

I’m sitting across from her because my husband found me sobbing into the carpet of my home office, again, some more. She’s sitting there because I’ve reached the point, now, where I need to pay people to listen to me.

“I thought this was about huge, huge amounts of anti-depressants.”

“No. For the first time in your life, you don’t have outside structure dictating your every move. And it is affecting your writing, and you are very angry.”

“Even though I hate structure.”

“Even though you hate structure.”

I sat for $7.28 worth of silence. Then: “Well, how do I fix it?”

“How do *you* think you need to fix it?”

This is why I have never seen her in the same outfit twice, and it is often a struggle for me to find clean shorts to climb into for the sessions.

How I wish this were a cheerful, ten-bullet list detailing how freelancers produce creative work in structured circumstances. But outside of “How to Build a Particle Accelerator For the Production of Synchrotron Radiation,” there’s perhaps no article I’m less equipped to write.


Breakin’ In the New Guy

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It’s inevitable that many freelancers will watch the people in the companies they work for come and go. You know, turnover. But as a freelancer, you may be the one sticking around while others leave, and the transition can be difficult.

That’s because many freelancers love an ongoing gig—so when you get a new contact at a company, the shift can be unsettling. What if they use another freelancer? Will they communicate as well as your old representative did? What can you do if they’re not performing well? Is it your job to intervene when you’re a contractor?

As you watch a client’s organization change as a freelancer, you’re not always privy to the who, what, when, where, and why of it all. Who knows why Chuck left the company—he may not even send you an email to let you know that he’s moved on. You may not hear from him for months and contact the company only to realize that he’s left. The worst is when he doesn’t pass along his freelance contacts to his successor. Then you could get lost in the shuffle and you could lose the client!

While you may be happy to be the veteran when a new contact comes on board, the change can also make you feel a little on the offense (or defense). It’s crucial to approach the new contact with caution and not let your emotions about the shift affect the new relationship you’ll need to forge.


How to Measure and Evaluate Yourself and Your Work

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One of the problems with becoming a freelancer is that there’s no longer anybody watching your work, your progress, your ability and efficiency. Sure, there are clients bugging you about their projects, but who’s really evaluating your little operation?

I’m sure many freelancers are more than happy to be rid of the annual review, but it’s easy to get sloppy and miss opportunities when you’re not looking at your work, measuring your progress, and implementing changes.

Let’s take a look at a few metrics that are useful for spotting trends and problem areas, and how to track them.

Time worked per project

It’s a good idea to track your time, and not just how much you work, but how much you work on each project. Which ones are you getting stuck on for hours, and which are you able to complete efficiently? You can use this metric to find out which activities need optimization, and also to find out which jobs can be done quickly and thus are often good candidates to take on more of (unless they’re quick jobs because they’re small, low-paying jobs).

Money earned per project

Unless you’re working on multiple projects from one client and track your finances by client and not by project, you’ve probably got this information. If you don’t, you’re probably not doing much business bookkeeping!


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