New Work and choosing Clients

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Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. 

One of the scariest things for a new freelancer is the terror of no work.

You will start off by taking on anything that you can find, writing for anyone who is willing to let you. That is how you start and that’s fine.

You need those first projects to get a feel for who you as a writer. You want to find out where your strengths are, what you love and what you don’t. It is, in a word: Experience.

The tricky thing is not starting out. The tricky thing is moving to the next stage. You will eventually find yourself in a place where you have to choose between clients, and maybe even let some of them go. “Firing” a client is a strange kind of terrifying. You know, logically, that you have to let them go to free your time up for the more satisfying, better paid work. But you can’t help worrying that you are making a mistake.

The truth is – you might be. You have to take risks sometimes to get ahead. You have to let things go to make space for new things. Yes, it’s scary. No, there are no guarantees.

Living to live, not to survive

One thing I have observed repeatedly is that the people with the biggest success stories are the people who live their passion. There work is meaningful to them. Your work should be meaningful to you.

Regardless of what it is you do – you should be doing something that gives you a sense of satisfaction. As long you keep moving towards the work that leaves you satisfied you are moving in the right direction.

You don’t have to be film star, a famous author or famous artist for your work to be meaningful. If we all derived joy and meaning from the same work we would be pretty screwed. You can be an accountant, a nurse, a domestic worker cleaning and caring for people, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you do you can be happy – as long as your work leaves you feeling satisfied.

Choosing your day (or night) job

–  and being happy doing it.

There are some basic guidelines to being happy in your job. They are not my original ideas, they all come from different places. I have spent a lifetime reading up on how to be happy and these are some of recurring themes that I have noticed:

Be Present

wherever you are, even if it’s not where you want to be, be there, 100% ,in the moment. Give your full attention to what’s going on around you. You are there now so may as well make the most of it. Another way of saying it is “start where you are”.

Have a Back Up Plan

I would never quit a job or fire a client without a working back up. It’s not a romantic notion, but it is common sense. Don’t get too bold and proud and quit your day job just because you don’t like it. That’s just stupid. Make sure you have something else working in the background to keep you afloat.

Make Someone’s Day

Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

To do something kind for someone else is so satisfying. It’s good for you. It’s good for them too. Sometimes the kind thing can be as simple as listening to them with your full attention for a few minutes. So few people actually try to understand each other.

Choose the clients who’s work you love to do

You deserve to be happy. I don’t know you but I do know this. You should be happy. So as soon as you are able, choose work that makes you feel good. This is your inner voice’s way of saying that you are heading towards the life you envisaged for yourself.Contrary to popular belief – you are allowed to love your job and be happy.

Choose Your attitude

Shit is always going to happen.  You have to choose to be happy anyway. This is probably the single hardest thing that anyone ever has to learn to do. And you will have to relearn it every single day of your life. Choosing to be happy. Choosing to find a positive spin on things, and realizing that you HAVE A CHOICE! Many people don’t want the responsibility of their own happiness. It’s a scary thing, having to be responsible for your own inner state. I try and fail often. But then I try again.

Choose to work for people who value your work

Yes that means the people who pay you well. If someone values your work they are willing to pay for it. A client who values you (or a boss) is going to make a commitment to you financially. He doesn’t want to loose you. If they don’t pay well you can be guaranteed that you are disposable to them. Needless to say this does not go for Non-Profits and works of charity and love.

Work for Free

You don’t have to go out looking for a cause. Usually the things that are meaningful to you will present themselves in your life. When you see the chance to take on something that is within your abilities and will make a difference to someone or something that you care about – do it. The inkling will be that you actually want to do it. It’s called “Paying it Forward” and it is a huge privilege to be able to do it. Do it!

One word of caution though – set up boundaries. If you can commit to an hour a week then that is it. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of either. You should be able to see quite clearly where the boundaries should be.

Be Brave

The worst that can happen is that you stuff up. As long as you have your back ups you should be okay. When you come to the point that you are compromising good clients because you are too scared to let go of your old clients “just in case” then it’s time to let them go. choose the good client. But…

Honor your Contracts

No body likes an arrogant know-it-all. You never know when you will need a reference. Also just don’t be an A-hole. Being an A-hole will not make you happy, and no-one will  think you are clever. So make sure you give ample notice, help get projects finished off properly before you leave, and behave as you would like to be treated.

 

So get out there and love the crap out of your life. It already is beautiful.

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Big Mouth

shut mouth

(I only open my mouth to change feet)

 

I have an unwitting ability to cause trouble (mostly for myself) with my great big gabbing mouth.

The painful part is that I never actually intend to cause trouble of any kind, for anyone. I just do.

I remember clearly the first time it ever happened. I was seven years old. It was the first day of grade two (we used to call it Sub B back then) and I had just joined the “big” school that my sister attended.

The whole frigging school was gathered in the hall while the prefects sorted us out into houses or something. I don’t really remember. I just remember that the hall was crowded with kids.

My sister, who was in standard six (grade eight) had a terrible crush on one of the older boys. His name was scrawled all over her note book. I knew that she was painfully besotted and she wouldn’t so much as talk to him out of shyness.

I loved my older sister and wanted very much for her to be happy. She was perfect in my eyes and I couldn’t imagine that anyone would ever reject her, if they only knew she liked them.

But on this fateful day I saw him, in the hall. I was so excited, so enthusiastic about her upcoming jubilation that I ran up to him and said “My sister is in love with you!” or something equally horrifying. He asked me who my sister was and I told him. I couldn’t understand why his friends started laughing. Never had I imagined that a matric boy might not want to have a grade 8 in love with him.

My sister was devastated, humiliated and furious with me.

I remember the cold, sinking feeling that I had in the middle of my chest as I realised that I had not only made a fool of her, but that she was furious with me. I had stuffed up. Badly. In my over flowing enthusiasm for my sister I had caused her trouble when I was trying to help.

I wish I could say that that was it, lesson learned, and I never put a foot wrong again.

Alas that was only the beginning of a lifetime of stupid things I was to say to people.

If I was less empathetic, if I cared less and wasn’t always so worried about the feelings of those around me – I probably wouldn’t give a crap. I wouldn’t be haunted by my stuff ups. But I do and I am.

Over the years I have unwittingly caused more trouble than I’m worth.

As I said before, the most painful (and I feel it like a physical pain) part, is that It is usually when I try to be good. It’s when I take it into my head to do something out of love or kindness or compassion for someone else that I end up putting my foot in mouth. I suffer from terrible “foot-in-mouth” disease.

Sometimes I am trying to be funny and I say the wrong thing. Sometimes I am trying to be helpful. Sometimes I am just straight up not thinking past the end of my nose.

One thing that is always true is that it’s never intentional. I never mean any harm.

Anyway. I am getting better. I am learning to fight my instincts when it comes to opening my mouth and JUST SHUT UP! Most of the time I am pretty good about it and the world thinks I have nothing going on inside my head at all. Ha! If only they knew.

Unfortunately I do slip up occasionally. I am truly terribly sorry to anyone who I have offended.

I am hoping that there are others of you out there who share my affliction, that I am not alone in this particular stupidity.

We can only hope that the people who truly matter to us will learn that we mean them no harm, and learn to love us for our good intentions rather than loath us for out short comings.

I am not sure what the lesson is to this post – or if there even is one.  Maybe it is simply that we all need to learn not to think with our mouths open – me most of all.

Now I am going to just shut up.

 

 

 

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Preparing my soul for a new Year

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I had to unearth myself from the rubble of 2015

Being on leave has been essential these last two weeks. I was burned out, exhausted and had pretty much lost contact with who I am. I hardly recognized myself as a person at the end of last year.

Now as I look at the last three leave days that are ahead of me and try to decide between using the time to finish editing the damn book, do as much paid-per-hour online work as I can to pay for everything, or write a short story and enter every available competition.

Obviously what I really need is another three weeks off, not another three days. But anyway.

I am starting to slowly feel like myself again. I have remembered how to listen to my kids when they speak. I have remembered how to leave the dishes undone and go for a swim in the river instead. I have remembered what the sea smells like and how to over-eat without even thinking about the consequences.

I remembered how to smile.

I even cut my own fringe and dyed my own eyebrows, a sure sign that I am back to my experimental old self!

The WTF of 2015

That may sound a little melodramatic – but I actually really mean it.

When you are a kind person who is also intelligent, a giver, lets call it, it’s dangerously easy to destroy yourself in the corporate world. The problem is that we see everyone as people. Even the irritating people, even the users. We recognize their humanity and we want to do what ever we can to be kind. We can’t stand the idea of not being helpful.

We convince ourselves that we have what it takes to give everything to everyone – to please everyone all the time – and that we can handle it.

We’re wrong. So  maybe, even though we’re clever – we’re actually stupid. In fact – we definitely are. Or I am, at least.

You see in my attempt to please everyone last year I ended up moving further away from my professional goals than ever. Not only that but to my horror I also started slipping up in the work I was doing – because I was trying to do too much. I found myself entirely incapable of saying “No” to anyone who asked me to do anything.

I stretched myself so thin I had to stop blogging. Being overworked not only left me without a time to write, it robbed me of something far more pertinent to Make My Day: it robbed me of the strength to be positive. I literally lost my defining feature. I lost muchness, as the mad hatter would say.

But in all reality how do I stop this from happening again?

How can we protect our muchness in 2016?

Well. I don’t really know yet – but here is what I have decided on so far, feel free to try it with me:

Take big, fat, in-your-face chances.

Be brave folks. One thing I have discovered without fail is that if you don’t chase something you won’t get it. It’s not enough to mention what you want to the person who has the power to help you get it and then hope they will give it. They wont. SO  be as relentless as a mosquito in mid-summer (in a swamp, in the heat, without spray or a net). PUSH yourself right up in their faces and take the damn chances you want – don’t wait to have them handed over.

Say NO and Prioritize

That’s right. I will not be killing myself to get to everything. I will do the most important things first and if I don’t get to the rest it’s too damn bad.

Be YOU

(and I shall be me)

Because let’s face it, I am never going to succeed at being anyone else. Neither are you. I am actually pretty cool. If you don’t think you are actually pretty cool then try this one thing: be kind.

You have to learn to love yourself and then let yourself be. There is just no time to be anyone else’s version of you.

I embrace my own contradictions

(and my own messed-up-ness) I am a complex and multi dimensional creature and I reserve the right to change my mind – frequently. I also reserve the right to hold conflicting opinions simultaneously. So there.

I don’t think we should have to be so set in stone about everything. We spend so much energy trying to stick to some preordained set of rules. The crazy thing is usually we set those rules up for ourselves! I say screw it – believe in what helps you – because that will make it true.

If Stops working for you: Stop working for it

I am a big old perfectionist at heart. I am also really vain and I want to rise to the top of every situation. Anyone else feeling me in this? You don’t want to quit because that will look like you are a fader, like you don’t have what it takes to stick it out to the end, blah blah blah.

I am loyal, I am hard working and I am committed. However – I’m trying to give it up.

In the immortal words of someone or another “You’re not a tree, if you don’t like where you are: move!”

Don’t be stupid about it  – but at the end of the day isn’t it better to take a risk and maybe be happy than to change nothing and, well, change nothing?

Do Nice things

yup. ground breaking stuff, I know. But I really mean it.

Do things for you. Eat as well as you can afford to. SMILE.

When children speak to you LISTEN. They grow up horribly fast and there is nothing more important, at the end of the day, than creating nice people for the future. After all they will be managing the old age homes we will sit in.

Try to say YES to things that are exciting for you. Say YES to gifts. Say YES to adventures and friendship and love.

Say NO to people who abuse your kindness. Say NO to people who don’t appreciate you. They will milk you for everything they can get. Don’t let them get the best of you.

Do what makes you happy. Pet Fuzzy animals and talk to them in a funny, lovey baby voice. It makes you feel good.

Walk barefoot on the raw ground and get 15 minutes of direct sunlight every day.

Howl at the full moon. You can only do it 12 times a year but it’s ridiculously fun. You have to really feel it though – a full bodied gut howl.

Take time to rest. Take time to be still.

My greatest wish for you all for 2016 is that you will find small ways (and big ways) to remember who you really are, every single day.

(and don’t forget to do your squats and sun salutes)

 

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Christmas Eve

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015  The Inevitable Christmas Post

So the wind up for 2015 has been no less hectic than expected. With the mercurial retrogrades and recessions and pay cuts and epic dramas all round we find ourselves stumbling into the festive season like refugees. Okay bad analogy, We are much more fortunate than the Syrian refugees. Suffice to say it’s been interesting.

And yet, here we are. Christmas eve.

We made it!

The kids are tucked into bed eagerly anticipating the little trinkets under the tree. All tummies are full, all beds warm and there are even new “Christmas eve”  PJ’s on little bodies. How lucky, how fortunate, how insanely blessed am I?

I am taking a moment to down tools and appreciate what I have.

I am really good at worrying. I worry all the time. Worry is my fuel.  Everything I have achieved has been achieved through worry. Like Arthur Christmas says “I did it with  worry!”. Which is why taking a moment to take stock of my blessings (pardon clichéd word choice) is quite a monumental thing – because to do so I have to stop worrying for a moment.

Here we are. Blessed. Grateful. Real.

It all boils down to what you measure yourself against. As a mom I feel a deep, almost physical need to give my children everything they need and everything they want. I want them to be happy. I want them to be provided for. I think as a single mom I feel it even more keenly. I tend to over compensate in any way I can because my children are abandoned little love-refugees whose Dad didn’t give enough of a shit to stick around or pay for anything. Sad. I know. But so it is. Are my feelings healthy? probably not.

The thing is, I want them to feel whole, while I feel wholly inadequate to make them feel so.

Of course  this makes Christmas a tricky little time of year.

But I digress. It all boils down to:

What you Measure Yourself Against

If you measure yourself against the malls, online stores, TV, magazines and even over-inflated lives of your Facebook friends – you are going to come up short. You are going feel like a total under-achiever. Just like beauty magazines make us feel ugly these things will make you feel like crap.

If, however, you look around you at the people in real life and you read the statistics about what most of the world is experiencing, you will realise just how lucky you are.

If you have food in your fridge (and a fridge), gifts under the tree (even a gift), and someone you  love with whom to spend even part of  the day, then you are actually really fortunate. You should be really grateful.

Because you can only eat so much and then you are full. You can only be so comfortable and then you’re asleep. Having loads of money and truck loads of gifts may sound like fun but it can only bring you so much happiness. Then again it might not bring you an at all.

Happiness comes down to just one thing:

Appreciation

Appreciate the people you are with. Appreciate what you have. Even if all you have is your health, a whole body or the ability to read this post. Those things make you more fortunate than a great many people already.Shit could be worse.

And to all the singletons looking forlornly at the couples: fuck ’em.

Being single means more cookies for you. It also means  you get to spend the day anyway you like.

I personally always do the same thing on Christmas eve: Dinner with my mom (everyone, except me, drinks a bit too much), I read a story and tuck the kids into bed and then I watch “Love Actually“. It’s playing  in the background right now as I type this, reminding me that there are lots of different kinds of love. It gives me a bit of a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

The best thing is: There is no-one to tell me what’s wrong with my Christmas chick flick or to demand that I watch something else this year.  Roll on New Years eve! I need to watch Dinner for one!

Merry Christmas all. Have a beautiful day whatever your spiritual and religious inclinations may be.

 

 

 

 

Serendipity

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Life is serendipitous when you roll with it.

Serendipity

n. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

I believe strongly in serendipity. In the harmonious flow of our lives working out for the best, time and again.

I think for the most part if you radiate a good frequency your life will fall effortlessly into place. Okay, no, not effortlessly, but rather naturally.

I find that the problems don’t come in until you start trying to dictate everything. You may say “Okay but I am radiating a good frequency and bad stuff still happens.”

Or you may be thinking “you can’t just let your life happen! You have to have a plan, have goals, make it work!”

My answer to the above is “yes”.

You are right. Sometimes crap happens no matter how hard you try to stay positive. That’s life. Shit happens.

And yes, you do have to plan your success, goals are important. The purpose of life is a life of purpose, after all. Without goals you may as well retire and hang up your punching gloves.

And as for making it work, well! “Make it work” is my manifesto.

But the fact remains that you have to allow for a certain amount of unexpected shit hitting the fan.

And you have to let it!

When your plans get side-lined Try not to see it as a setback. There is no point. You are only going to upset yourself with that kind of thinking. You have to see it as an opportunity to do something  in a different way. If there is one thing I learned through capoeira it’s that the most important thing you can do is keep moving! If you fall on your arse, get up and keep going. If you get kicked in the head, change direction, but keep moving. The moment you stand still the energy stops flowing. The moment the energy stops flowing it dies. Then you have to start all over again. Energy has momentum. It likes to keep flowing.

So when your plans go west it doesn’t mean you have to stop all action! Quite the opposite. It means that you have to look for the unexpected good the universe is trying to share with you.

Today my mom called to let me know she could pick the kids up from school for me. She was doing me a favour but it meant my plans for the hour were shifted. In fact they were sidelined completely. So I decided to take a lunch break (which I never do) I went out to get some slap chips (naughty and yum) and then had an inspiration. I should go to the Hospice shop, I thought, and I did.

There I found a book for my daughter, marked at a whole R5 (I always do my book shopping at Hospice). Yay. Bought it for the Christmas stocking. Then I headed to the shop for food. While standing in the queue I spied the shiny Windmill my son has wanted for months. I decided to buy it, even though I am not particularly flush right now. When I got to the checkout I thought to myself – this is dusty, they should mark it down. I didn’t say anything, I just thought it. They rung it up – it was half the marked price!

Then as I was heading back to the office I eyed out the bench outside. It looked inviting but I felt a bit spare going to sit there alone. So I walked on. but as I was walking I had this feeling that someone of great import to my life was going to join me on that bench. I stopped and turned around. And there behind me was one of my very best friends! She spotted me at the same time and we happily went to sit on the bench and eat our lunch together.

So although my plans for lunch time were derailed I decided to roll with it, let it flow. Then a whole load of really great stuff happened. Stuff I didn’t plan. All because I actually let go for a few minutes.

If I had stuck regimentally to my original plan for the time I would have missed all of that unplanned goodness.

The same thing happens every day, in hundreds of little ways.

I have one idea, but the universe has another. If I fight it I end up frustrated and dissatisfied by the changes. If I go with it and look for the opportunities in everything I find myself actually having little adventures, surprises and a life with moments of unexpected wonder.  (and yet usually I am on the fighting it and getting uptight side of things – go figure)

 

Sometimes it’s nothing more than the universe presenting you with situations that allow other people to help you. When they do it can restore your faith in humanity. It can remind you of the kind of person you want to be.

Please understand that I am not by any means condemning your planning. Planning, working hard, setting goals and achieving them is a big part of who I am.

My message to you today is this: When plans change, you can find un-looked for blessings.

All you need is to keep moving and keep positive, and sometimes just go with the flow of your own whimsical side.

 

 

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a day full of universe juice

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At this moment in time I have three or four half written blog posts rattling around both my brain and my Word docs. All of them thoughts that are mostly developed but in need of finishing.

After the day I had today though, I am realising that they all will have to wait.

Today I have to write a little post about today. What a day it has been.

When I got home this evening and my sister (who is living with me at present) asked me how my day was I had to say “interesting”.

Because how else would you describe a day filled with dramatic happenings both pleasant and unpleasant?

It started out like a pretty normal day. I was manically busy as usual (I have become progressively busier and busier over the last few months as people have left our office and not been replaced and I have been absorbing the extra work, while at the same time getting busier with my free-lance writing work too)

My maniacal business was sweetened in the middle of the morning by one of the directors buying me a caramel centered chocolate bar. Anyone who knows me will know that this in itself is enough to make me happy. I love chocolate and I become very emotional when I am subjected to even small random acts of kindness. Point 1 in favour of the day.

By 3PM I was driving along with tears of frustration stinging my eyes, realising that there was no way on God’s green Earth that I could get through the list of things I needed to do and make my 3:30 meeting. I made back to the office by 3:25 only to discover that the meeting had been at 2:30. point 1 against.

So I am standing in front of my boss-lady trying to explain when someone calls to me from across the office. She says “your daughter  called to say there’s a snake in your house.” Well it was actually in my bedroom… in my wardrobe. a Boomslang. the wondrous, death inducing, South African tree snake. Point 2 against. dealt with that.

A bit later I am dashing over to the stationers (don’t tell the creative director – I promised never to use that particular stationer again after the last time) and was waiting to cross the road. The traffic moved pretty slowly, but just too fast for me to be able to cross.

I notice a white car coming up in front of me with two young guys in the front. The driver leans over to say something to the passenger. As they approach he looks out of his window at me smiles, and says (In a really nice, sweet and respectful way) “You’re really beautiful!”. Point 2 for.

Most mom’s over thirty (not me – I will be 29 forever) can tell you how bloody nice it is to have a random stranger think you’re pretty. You never feel pretty. You feel tired, stressed, worn out, worried, financially broken, crinkled and flabby. Us over-thirties seldom (ha! never) walk around thinking “Damn I feel pretty today”.

So getting a random compliment in a non-lecherous and genuine way is a BIG DEAL.

(FYI guys, leering and being crude is NOT the same as giving a compliment!)

Then I had some more manic day happen. Rush, rush, rush. Stress, stress, stress.

Leave work and it’s off to the shop quickly.

Being my usual self, chatting in friendly fashion to some guy and his kid, I let him go to the counter first as he had less stuff than me.

My turn arrives, they ring up my stuff.  Then that dreaded thing happens that only happens to single mothers – my card bounces. Somehow the debit fairies spirited away the last little drop of mula that was supposed to buy dinner.

Mortified with embarrassment, I stand furiously tapping at my phone to see why I have no money, when the check-out lady taps my elbow and points. The guy with the little girl who I had let go ahead of me has appeared and paid for my groceries! Point 3 (and 4 and 5 and ) for the day being awesome.

I am beyond touched at the kindness and generosity of this man. I couldn’t believe it! Without any expectation of return, without any history or any feeling of debt, this very kind person made a huge impact on my day, my week, my outlook on life.

I said thank you and I said “you made my day – you are going into my blog!”

All three of these events, together with a few remarkable new people who have entered my life in strange ways, have restored my hope.

I have always managed to keep a grip on faith in myself, even when it gives me rope-burn, but it has been a long time since I have experienced hope for humanity.

Look out for my upcoming post on Comfort food, silliness and sisters.

thank you stocksnap for the image