I'm writing this post poolside from my sister's beautiful back garden in San Antonio, Texas. For the last ten days I've been minding my two year old niece in Brooklyn and Texas while my sister has been travelling for work. While it was planned quite last minute and wasn't framed as a holiday per se, it has been such a welcome break and I feel thoroughly relaxed heading home to Dublin tomorrow. I've had my sister's car for this time to drop my niece to and from school each day and while I had grand plans for exploring Texas during her school hours, the 6 lane Texan highways and driving on the opposite side of the road are slightly more daunting than I'd anticipated, so I've been "forced" to spend my free time doing very little by the pool! I know, woe is me :)
After an insanely busy week before I left Dublin, cramming three weeks of work in to one, I've had some time to reflect on the pressure I, and I think most freelancers put on ourselves to always be busy, always hungry for the next job. While it's a necessity from a financial standpoint to be constantly working (as quite simply, if you're not working, you won't get paid), we can get completely carried away with this addiction to "busyness", and fail to reap the rewards of working for yourself. I consider the luxury of being able to come away for this trip to help my sister out with only a few weeks notice a major reward of self-employment. If I worked for someone else, this would have counted as 10 of my 20 days annual leave and it's unlikely I'd have been approved the time off with only two weeks notice. It's a reward that you can choose to take an hour in the middle of the day to go to the gym and make up for it by working later that evening. It's a reward you can decide to have a few drinks on Sunday evening if you know your Monday morning won't be too challenging.
While non-freelancers reading this might think it sounds like working for yourself is a dream, there are many downsides to it too. We don't get paid for our holidays, hence why we feel the need to cram three weeks of work into one before we go away. We don't get paid sick days so a doctor's cert means nothing when you're working for yourself. In fact I have never taken a sick day while freelancing. There's always work that could be done, even from your sick bed, and you're constantly doubting yourself on whether you're really that sick.
One of the hardest parts of freelancing is enjoying the quieter weeks and even months. Work will come in ebbs and flows (and usually feasts and famines!) and for me, it's the summer months that are jampacked with work, then months like November, Januaury and often February are relatively quiet. I'm learning to book my holidays in those months, get on top of my admin and taxes (oh yes the joys of self-employment taxes!) or just enjoy taking an afternoon off to go for coffee with a friend. Social media doesn't help as it's hard not to compare yourself to others, who seem "so busy" while things are quiet for you, but if we believed everything we saw on Instagram we'd probably all be bed-ridden with anxiety! It's happened to me many times during quiet periods where other freelancers have commented on how "flat out" I seem to be, and vice versa, after some honest conversations it appears we're all doing the same hard slog!
So for anyone who is working for yourself, firstly, well done, it can be scary and I don't think anyone is immune to experiencing imposter syndrome at some stage in their career so it's brave to just keep on going. And secondly, don't forget to take some time and space to step away from it all, breathe and reflect on how far you've come, because we so often get so wrapped up in the day to day "busyness" we fear time off will only be a distraction. Now back to the pool I go!