Turns out this freelancing thing is harder than I thought

307025_10150790948930538_10150138498640538_20446241_1361639187_nI’ve been raving about my freelancing career for a couple of posts now, but I recently had a run in with good ol’ Mr. Rejection…again.

Yes, I have a big client. But, I would want to diversify a little. What would I do, income-wise, if my client went bust or just decided to go another way? I mean some stuff I am doing for free (potfolio building) and other ideas just don’t get met with the enthusiasm I bring them.

I am lucky enough to be part of a closed online group of freelance newspaper and magazine writers. They are a huge support. But still….rejection is never cool.

I’ve been trying to pitch to several newspapers, magazines and websites and most of my emails just go unanswered. I got a “great idea,unfortunately, we focus on other things” reply as well, which was somewhat encouraging. But the silence…oh the silence…

My fellow writers encourage me to, either suck it up and chalk it up to experience or just keep chasing. As a lawyer I was the mother of all chasers and I still possess the skills. However, I just don’t feel like it. Isn’t stuff supposed to happen if they are right for you, and not happen if they are not right? Or do you force destiny now, just to find out later that it was all wasted effort, because something much better came along and you were too busy to notice?

What do you guys think?

(k)

C

Bacon & Rags

Hi All!

It’s been a while (again) and I have a lot of catching up to do! Where to start?

So, while I was away, my “second” client became my biggest yet. They gave me a couple of projects to start with- write a commemorative book, draft their annual report and design a corporate brochure- and along the way we’ve added a couple of smaller (and bigger) projects. Now I am their “Chief Listener” (fancy title, huh?!) as well, as they are trying to move into last century (island-style) by focussing more on social media.

603064_571057909575126_1220985643_n

Hard to believe, but in addition to that client I am also collaborating on an online magazine and a new blog. All behind the scene, i.e. proof-reading where I can, tag along to interviews and come up with awesome ideas. If you want to find out more about Curacao and how regular people give back to the community, you should definitely browse through the first issue of the magazine here. It has nice pictures too!

But what I’m most invested in is the new blog Bacon & Rags- where food meets fashion. I have some other stuff on the side as well, e.g. I’m trying to land this freelancing gig at the oldest newspaper with the biggest readership on the island, however that’s all talk for now. So, if you guys don’t mind, I would really love to share the “story behind the blog” so to say as the Bacon & Rags team prepares to launch the website and tries to win over its audience.

BaconNRags-naam-logo

It all started after a couple of weekends of eating at several great restaurants and obscure dives. There was some great food to be had at the most unlikely places, we just had to share it somehow with the world. Needless to say, some of us fashionistas were a bit frustrated with the shopping on the island, until we looked harder. We were surprised to find some treasures in the biggest dumps. Then, just one day, Bacon & Rags was born. Island food & fashion. A perfect combo, am I right?!

If I’ve peaked your interest, check out what we have on Facebook here, follow us on Twitter @BaconNRags or stay tuned for the launch of the website http://www.bacon-and-rags.com!

Thanks for hanging out here today and I hope to see you back soon.

(k)

C

Happily Ever After Starts Here….

Sober-IndustriesA new year, endless new possibilities. Everyone is screaming their new year’s resolutions from the top of their lungs. Drop multiple dress sizes, be “nicer” to people (what does that even mean btw?!), start saving, stop racking up those debts, so and so forth. I used to be right there with those delusional people. I used to write them down on December 31 of Old Year and reread them December 31 of New Year and realise how disappointing the past year was, because I didn’t keep any of my resolutions. Great way to start a new year, right? Nope.

So these past few years I’ve started first reflecting on the past year, then writing down new year’s intentions instead. Things I wanted to accomplish the coming year and what I needed to do to accomplish them. Then I would just forget about it and drink myself silly. January 2nd (or 3rd in some instances) when I recovered from all the partying, I would just choose one thing I really wanted to achieve that day (big or small) and do it. I didn’t wait for the most convenient time or the beginning of a new year. I didn’t resolve to do anything, but just did.

Result: last Monday, like any other December 31, I walked around reflecting on the past year and thinking about the year ahead. All last year’s new year’s intentions never grew to be more than that- they were just intentions. And that was ok, because I have a long list of goals I have achieved during the year. 2012 was a good year- with ups and downs, painful conversations and harsh realisations and good times. I’ve managed to pursue my dreams- I’m freelancing as a writer and I finished that first draft of my novel. I am happy in a relationship and I’m closer to my family than ever before.

Of course, in reality, there’s a lot of bickering in my family, my boyfriend has his flaws and that first novel sucks. But the point is, I did stuff that I can be proud of! No disappointments about failed intentions, no telling off of myself for not keeping those crazy resolutions. Rather a proud moment for everything I have achieved and the only resolution I need: to keep on trucking!

Happy new year everyone- may it be a great one, with lots of little attainable goals.

Dear Blog

Dear Blog,

I pretty much ignored you for the past couple of months and before that I didn’t treat you right. I’m sorry. The only way I can think of to make it up to you is to share amazing news! Yes, it is about myself, but since you love me unconditionally I’m sure you’ll be happy if I’m happy.

I’ve quit my job two months ago- yay! I’m no longer a lawyer, but that stresses me out because I kind have to update my “About” page, which I’m not really in the mood for. Not to even mention the fact that in a couple of months the reference to “twenty-something” will no longer be accurate. I’ll just update it then…when I’m in tears and not thinking straight- should make for an interesting “About” page.

I’m officially a freelance writer now- double yay! It turns out the only thing better than landing your first client, is landing your second. Especially if that client gives you three projects “to start with” that will keep you busy (and most importantly keep you above the poverty line) for the next, say, 8 months.

I live on a beautiful island which I can proudly call home once again- triple yay is implied here. I’ve been writing a lot (a lot!) on the side. I’m working on my first novel and I’m trying very hard to write consistently. Who knows? Maybe one day I will be promoting my book here :))

So lotsa good news. I won’t bother you with the teeny tiny fact that I recently opened up my heart and soul to someone I thought was special and that certain someone just crushed my heart, stomped on it and flatly ignored it. Not important.

I promise not to ignore you anymore (even though I will be v busy over the next few months).

Lots of luv,

C

So True!

“Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”
Jules Renard

…the new rich…

The 4 Hour Work Week

I can safely say that Timothy Ferriss opened my eyes as well as confirmed that I was right all along. I’m reading his best-seller “The 4-hour work week- escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich”.

I stumbled upon Ferriss’ book when browsing a news paper kiosk at Schiphol airport, while waiting for my father’s arrival in Amsterdam. He was supposed to land at 7pm- I arrived late as usual- but his flight was delayed. I’m not sure what it is with airport news stands and I, but I always come across the most interesting reads at the airport. Perhaps it’s because I rely heavily on the recommendations from Amazon.com when purchasing books online or that I simply never venture out in the wold between business hours anymore, let alone take my time to browse. So when I do have the time to browse, I usually find myself at an airport.

I bought the book together with The Economist’s style guide to the English language (can’t hurt right?). I started reading Ferriss’ book that same evening after a long and relaxed dinner with my father, brother and his girlfriend. At 4 in the morning I forced myself to set the book down and get some shut-eye. I am now half way through and not only did it inspire a story I am working on (yay!), but it includes numerous tips on how to work smarter. Since I’ve decided to turn my life around and chose happiness, without the intention of getting fired or a bad appraisal, I started to think of ways to work smarter. Not shirking on the job or free riding (hate that!) or anything, just work smarter and more efficient in order to free up time for myself and my writing.

Through trial and error I came up with basically the same things that Ferriss suggests. Take the concept of face time for example. Face time, in the wonderful and magical world of commercial law firms, means that associates should be available during business hours, which, depending on the law firm, can range from 8 am to midnight and beyond. Clients and partners alike should be able to reach said associate at the office no matter the time.

Not only do I hate the concept, I think it is utterly ridiculous. If I should be in the office anyway, why make sure I have a working blackberry and token for remote access to the system before I even get assigned a desk? Besides, why not make use of the wide range of IT solutions allowing employees to work off-site? Nowadays, technology is so advanced that you can work from anywhere in the world with internet connection without the client even knowing! Assuming. of course, he or she won’t just drop by the office- but let’s face it, the chances of that happening is remote as the client is probably travelling all over as well.

Tim FerrissSo, I’ve started analysing the concept and thinking of ways to beat the system. I’ve noticed that most partners come in early (say around 8.30 am) to read their emails in peace, work through the tons of documents that they have to sign before opening of business and to just enjoy a cup of coffee. Most associates mimic that schedule and find themselves picking their noses out of boredom and taking on unimportant tasks or know-how development work just to keep busy. Between 8.30 and say 11 am, no partner will ever ask you to do any billable work.

I also noticed that partners are human beings too and need some human interaction from time to time. They aren’t energizer bunnies, so around 5.30 pm their batteries are mostly depleted and they start roaming the office for some good banter. Most associates are AWOL by then, which is perfectly understandable as they had an early start and some want to run personal errands before shops close. During lunchtime, partners are either having lunch with clients or injuring themselves in the gym. Most partners leave around 7 or 7.30 pm as clients have usually gone home or are reading whatever memo or contract we have sent them. After 8 pm most clients don’t bother to respond to any emails that can wait until the next morning- which are most.

I started planning my work day around the partners’ schedule and trained my clients to email me (by responding quicker to emails and responding to phone calls by emailing) instead of calling me. Presto change-o! As a result I have more free time, which I use to write or dream or read or run errands or whatever. I feel like I get my personal errands done during the week, leaving my weekends free for me to lounge, read, write, Skype with friends, shop, sleep and generally be lazy.

Thing is, everyone still thinks I am one of the hardest working associates in the office. At first I thought it was because I built enough credit with the firm that the partners generally accept more crap from me. Or maybe because my output remained constant. Or because I am always sitting behind my desk at the right time looking (and actually being) very busy. Anytime a partner needs me, he can find me sitting behind my desk. Also, I’m always the only one there when disaster (read: some client requests something outrageous after 7 pm) strikes. My utilisation is still high, as I work efficiently and effectively during the hours I am there and unlike others I don’t have a lot of time allocated to non-billable stuff (which brings the utilisation down, calculated as the number of hours billed divided by the number of hours you are in the office). ...thinking inside the box...

Associates often ask me how I manage to pull it off- in their eyes I get away with murder! Easy-I come in between 10 am and 10.30 am, avoiding any non-billable work that was allocated earlier to bored associates. I take a long lunch break between 12 and 2 pm to either enjoy a long lunch or run personal errands (while my peers do a desky). I usually leave around 7.30 or 8 pm, long after other associates have sneaked out. My schedule allows me to have free time, while avoiding non-billable work, allowing me to have some good chat with the partners in the afternoon (that is always the best time to discuss topics like bonuses, vacation time that seem unreasonable and other topics you don’t want to discuss when people are stressed) and being the big hero if disaster strikes. While effectively working only 8 hours a day instead of the usual 12 or 15 hour days I used to (and other associates still) pull.

Lately, I have been struggling with distractions at work- colleagues walking in an out my office for a quick chat, some input on a matter. I also catch myself spending a great amount of time sending BBMs, browsing social media sites like Facebook or other entertaining websites like Roll on Friday or Here Is The City (boring sites only City lawyers and bankers visit). And this week, it got worse! I have to share my office with an intern for the next two month (oh, the horror!). She keeps asking the most ridiculous and pointless questions ever (other than that she is tolerable, nice even). Those interruptions are nothing but time wasters in my new uber efficient work day.

Comes in Ferriss with his helpful tips and tricks to eliminate those time wasters. He recommends little changes you can make based on the presumption that no one can actually multitask (of which I am a believer..I really can’t!). E.g. limit the frequency you check your emails. Let the emails accumulate and read and respond to emails only twice or at most three times a day. Only allow yourself to spend an x-amount of time on social media sites and other time wasters. Do not check them every time someone updates a status or posts a pic. Same goes for BBM.

...satisfaction guaranteed...My personal favourite- manage those chatterboxes. I admit it can be useful to chitchat with colleagues (e.g. if you want time off that’s the best moment to ask for it), however people shouldn’t interrupt you willy-nilly. Ferriss suggests keeping chitchat to a minimum by the way you respond to people. Don’t invite prolonged chitchat. Imagine something like this:

Peer: “Hi, how are you? How was your weekend?” You: “Bit busy here. My weekend was great, probably as enjoyable as yours! How can I help you?” It totally cuts the chitchat off, without you seeming unfriendly. Winning!

I will definitely give Ferriss’ tips and tricks a try starting Monday. Who knows, I might actually be able to increase my productivity, while keeping my face time to a bare minimum.

(images of Timothy Ferriss and his book from http://www.fourhourworkweek.com)

Working towards your goals…Now!

www.sober-industries.com

I must admit, I have been absent for quite some time now. Believe me, I’ve written tons of posts, but never finished them…let alone publish them. What have I been doing, you might ask. Well, simply put: I’ve been working towards making my dreams a reality.

I am a firm believer in making dreams come true- I’ve seen people do it and I have made my parents’ dream (of me becoming a successful career woman or anything really) a reality, but never made a real effort to make my own dreams come true. Now that I’m pushing thirties (ow yes, in less than a year I will be mourning…ahum I mean, celebrating the big 3-0), I’ve decided to really make an effort.

But before being able to make your dreams come true, you must have a clear view of what your dreams are exactly. Mine revolve around a couple of pillars- start a family (i.e. settle down with someone decent and have kids), teaching maybe (either through my writing or at an actually school with real life students) and become a writer (i.e. actually being able to pay bills, go on holidays and support myself and my family by writing and publishing books, articles and stuff). The exact dream changes slightly with time, but for now I am focusing on transitioning towards becoming a writer and not losing focus on the other goals.

Of course, being a risk avers academic, I have struggled with how to achieve the transition from a corporate lawyer to a full time writer. It won’t happen overnight (I found that most things that you do want to happen, don’t happen overnight) and I will have to eat in the meantime and secure a roof over my head. And my over-ambitious self doesn’t make the transition any easier- not only do I want to settle, have kids, become a writer and return home, I want to do them all at once and as soon as possible.

Like any academic, I started my quest by doing some research. Like any Gen-Y-er, I started my research online: Google is our friend (in most cases)! I read blogs about how people did it- timing, budget and support from friends and family. I asked around and actually inquired with my friends and family in order to determine whether I could count on them through what seemed to me to be a fairly painful process. Especially if you are a shopaholic like myself. So here is what I’ve learned so far (through my own experience as well as from blogs and other sources):

  1. Scream at the top of your lungs! And act on it. You can’t be embarrassed at what you are trying to achieve. Tell people about it- your friends, your family, your coworkers, the man on the street, the lady at the public restrooms. You’ll be surprised how many people have helpful tips they are willing to share with you. Some are damn useful! Also, if you are a firm believer of The Secret method- you can’t just talk about it, you have to act on it. Pretend (to the extent realistic- but that’s just my take on it) you’re already a writer, settled, with kids..what would that person do?
  2. Quit your current job- I have to qualify this. Don’t go right ahead and quit your current (day) job, however if you are planning on transitioning to another career, you can’t be fully committed to your current career. It has to be put on a back burner. Also, you would probably want to get started on those 10,000 hours The Outliers talks about. So for me, I need to find a less demanding job for starters and possibly one where I can practice my writing and build my portfolio. A course I am doing right now, suggests starting writing for your company newsletters etc, which I have been doing for the past year. So there you go..I’ve been on the right track all along.
  3. Timing is key- If you want to have it all right now, you must be prepared to suffer the consequences. Hello poverty line! As things won’t happen overnight, the person transitioning needs to have a money buffer (i.e. you must have paid off all debts and saved up enough money to be able to survive for at least a couple of months). I don’t belong to the 1%, but rather to the 99% bracket of the nation, meaning that I do have credit card debts (not a lot), loans etc. Also, I love to shop! (I just bought a vintage afternoon tea set the other day, but I digress). So, instead I will have to be patient- first get a decent paying, less demanding job and make an effort to write on the side. Once I’ve build my portfolio and some contacts in the business and had some practice, I can get a part time job and dedicate more time to building a freelance career. Once I’ve got that started and it pays the bills, I can start writing that novel of mine.
  4. Ask and accept help- According to my coach (yes, fancy lawyers need a coach apparently…turns out it’s also useful!) I have a real issue with asking for help, let alone accept help being spontaneously offered to me. I promise I’m working on it (together with my coach of course…), however I do realise that I wouldn’t be able to transition alone. So once I get over my “fear” of asking, I will be actively involving all my friends and family. In the mean time, I will be taking courses on how to accomplish a career switch, how to become a freelance writer and some creative writing courses to get the juices flowing.
  5. Start writing! So I was chatting with my friend the other day. We were talking about my plans to move back home and my amazing boyfriend with whom I plan to settle and have kids (yes, he’s aware of my plans and he’s totally on board. I checked!). As I was telling her how excited I was about this new job I applied for (manager of the oldest museum on the island), she dared to ask me “what about the book?”. I went silent for just a second to ponder that question. Yes, what about the book?! I was so busy figuring out my domestic life and how I would provide for it in the short term that I haven’t scheduled any time for writing! So, over the weekend (instead of working as I’ve been told to do by my partner at the firm) I’ve written a few paragraphs for my novel, did my assignments for my writing course and written this post. Now, if only I could keep this up….

The above is a non-exhaustive list and basically it sums up what I’ve learned so far. One thing I know for sure is that I am headed in the right direction and my heart is definitely in it. Next step is to secure that decent paying, less demanding job for which I’ve already applied. This evening I’ve received an email from the managing board confirming receipt of my application and that I would be hearing from them soon. I replied with appropriate enthusiasm. This is the hardest part though- the wait….