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My husband and I are both freelancers. This is how we make it work.


The challenges

My Office, Clutter And All.JPG

Shannon Page’s office.
Courtesy of Shannon Page

I mentioned the finances: That’s a big one for us. We’re still trying to figure out how to manage the new federal tax bill; we got slammed at tax time this year, despite having made quarterly estimated payments. We’re making much larger payments this year, and we also formed an S corporation. We’re hoping that will help … we’ll see.

One early challenge was work space. When I started freelancing, I lived alone, working at the dining room table. Once my husband moved in, that didn’t really work anymore. I need uninterrupted silence to do my job, and the dining room was right in the middle of the house. Fortunately, not long afterward, he got that year-and-a-half-long gig; income from that allowed us to build me a “tiny office” in the backyard out of a toolshed.

Beyond money and office space, you might think a big challenge of being your own boss is discipline: making yourself actually sit down and do the work.

That might be true for some freelancers, but we have the opposite problem. We have a terrible time making sure we have a day off. Even one a month — forget “weekends.”

When we had day jobs, there was a clear demarcation between “work” and “not work.” When I was at work, I was on their time, and everyone knew it. When I went home, even though I might think about the job, it was clear that I was on my own time. I did laundry or worked on my novel or went out to a movie or napped or whatever.

Now? Work and home are in the same place, and my time is fluid, mine to manage — or mismanage. If everything is going as it should, there is always work to do. (I’m writing this article on a Saturday, in fact.) Where it gets confusing is in figuring out what is supposed to happen in each hour. I always left my day job with work unfinished at the end of my shift, just because it was time to go home. Not only that, but everyone else was leaving then, too — their departure helped enforce mine. The work would be there tomorrow.

That’s a lot less clear now. “Time to go to work” is always now; “time to go home” is … never defined. I like my work — as I am fond of telling people, “I get paid to read books all day” — but the fact remains that it is, actually, still work. And yet it’s always right here, at my house. Do I stop — in an hour? Three hours? Tomorrow for sure? Or only when the next imperative interrupts?

I don’t really know how to take a whole day off anymore. To just … laze around. Lie on the couch reading a book for fun, like I did on weekends back in the olden days. I just want to finish this job, I think. Turn it in and invoice it.

And there’s always another job after that.

Which is good! I do really like it, and it keeps us from starving. But it would be healthier if we could figure out how to strike a better balance.


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