The Freelance Game

You gotta flip the off switch. by Nikki Van Noy

When I first went freelance, I essentially never took a break. I worked long, long hours every day, seven days a week. Holidays meant nothing to me. I was a working machine. The truth is that I was happy to do it. Coming from the world of publishing, I was used to working long hours, so it just felt good to be dedicating those hours to my own cause. And what an incredible position I was in to be able to do what I loved ... in my pajamas, to boot!

The pace only picked up when I went from freelance writing and editing to writing my own books a couple of years later. For years, it was go, go, go. I was either on the road interviewing and gathering information or writing until all hours. I would quite literally stay up all night writing, arriving at Starbucks as they opened to continue writing there. 

After I finished my second book, I remember feeling very depleted and wondering why all I wanted to do was sleep. As I was discussing this lethargy with my friend M., I realized that it had literally been years since I'd had any time off. Of course I was experiencing a crash. 

I started becoming more mindful about my work: getting in yoga in the middle of the day for a re-set and taking at least a day off every week. As the years have gone by, I've tried to pull myself more and more into a regular five-day workweek. When I do this, I'm more efficient and more present for my clients. Of course, this isn't always possible with the pressure of deadlines, but it's a good general rule to abide by. 

Lately things have been busy (always a good problem to have), and I've been working with a lot of international clients, which means working late hours because of timezone differences. The other night, for the first time in several weeks, I had the opportunity to go to my favorite evening yoga class (my favorite time to do yoga) and meditation after. I was so relaxed that I decided not to check my email as I walked home around 9:45 that night. It was glorious.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I felt both physically and creatively rejuvenated the next day ... which better serves both me and my clients. So I'm getting back in the saddle with halting meetings at a normal-ish hour (for the most part), allowing myself to do the things that refresh me, whether that's meditation, yoga, or spending time with my husband and our farm of animals, and going on an electronic blackout between nighttime and morning.

This feels like an almost revolutionary, scary thing to admit in this day and age of constant connection. But the truth is, I think that we would all lead happier, more productive lives if we did this. If we gave ourselves the time to recharge and set aside time for those things that make us feel alive. And that, in turn, allows us to enjoy our work more and to be better at it. 

We're in this together! by Nikki Van Noy

I have had two great strokes of luck in my career as an author and freelance writer and editor, both of which sound innocuous, but have made all of the difference. The first one is the chance meeting I had with two other editorial assistants, M. and C., when we all started working at Random House at the beginning of our careers. We bonded like war veterans, and our friendship has lived long beyond our tenure at RH. In the ensuing years, we have all branched off into our own freelance editorial niches and personal writing projects. The second stroke of luck is the fact that one of my oldest and dearest friends from childhood, A., went on to become a freelance graphic designer and creative director. 

Why does this matter? It means that even though I've gone it alone in my writing career, I have a constant support system of like-minded creatives who understand where I'm coming from. Yes, I work in an office alone, but I can call any of these three at any time (and in some cases many times in a day) to kick around ideas, ask procedural questions, or get a read on my current project. This off-the-cuff think tank has been invaluable to me, both logistically and emotionally. 

I often hear from creatives that they have experienced jealousy and competition among their peers. This is always somewhat confusing and sad to me. The beauty of being creative is that it's a signature thing. There will always be other creative people--and, yes, sometimes you will be in competition with them for certain gigs--but no one else will ever be you, with your voice, your brain, and your way of viewing the world. It may sound trite, but I truly believe we all win when we support one another. Creativity multiplies when we combine forces, whether that's in conversation or in craft. At the end of the day, if you work hard and continue to hone your craft and stay passionate, the projects that are meant to come to you will. And those that are better served by someone else will land with that other person (and, let's be honest, you'll be lucky they did!). 

I'm sharing this because that's what I want this blog to be: a voice of solidarity for those writers, editors, and current and would-be authors out there. I will offer some tips that have worked for me and some insight into my own experiences. But also know that just because something works for me, it doesn't mean it will work for you. I think one of the most awesome benefits of being a creative is that we get to go through this process of discovery, figuring out what works for us and what doesn't. And, so often, figuring out what doesn't work for us is an integral step along the way to figuring out what does.

I'm so excited to start this discussion, and I'd love to hear your feedback moving forward. Always feel free to leave  a comment or drop me an email!