Don’t Mistake a Passion Project for an Easy Gig

One of the most frustrating attitudes I encounter is that my life must be easier because I’m pursuing projects I love, and because I work from home.  I’ll admit the commute is alright but that doesn’t mean that I live a life of leisure.

The first word is still “Work

Between teaching and the blog, along with some volunteer work on the side I keep busy.  It’s easy to assume I’m free and open all day but in reality, I have a long to-do list and my projects suffer when I don’t get dedicated time to work on them.

I could be making calls, writing, answering emails, researching or alternating between tasks.  I still look forward to an evening of relaxing just like everyone else.

This choice came with sacrifices

I think part of the reason I get frustrated when people make assumptions about my lifestyle is because they tend to overlook the sacrifices.  It’s not easy to make a full “typical” salary working from home, so there are financial sacrifices.  There’s no health benefits or sick days.  A lot of the things we assume come with a 9-5 we forget don’t come with working for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I love working for myself and being creative.  That being said, I don’t want people to imagine I have it easy just because I don’t leave the house.

The things I’m passionate about doing and the things I find easy are not necessarily the same

Working on a passion project is great – take this blog for example. I get to define what it is about, focus on what I’m interested in and develop ideas from start to finish.  However, that hasn’t made it easy.  I’m not a trained web developer, I’m still learning about entrepreneurial work (a dedication to constant learning is a whole new blog post), and self-promotion is a time-consuming process.  The fact that I am proud of this work and enjoy doing it does not mean that it’s a no-brainer for me.

Don’t assume that people who are pursuing their passions are doing so to get out of doing “real work” or because it’s the easy path.  Really building your own dream takes a lot more than what people see and is about the reward of following your heart, not about doing less work, I promise.

 

What are the misconceptions people have about the work you do (whatever work that is!)?

Looking for Advice? Be Picky

Yes, even when considering mine. The thing about wanting to work from home or for yourself in any capacity – actually, the thing about ANY thing you might be searching for advice on… is that there is A LOT of advice out there.
And the big secret: a good chunk of it is good advice. But you still can’t follow all of it.

Take blogging for example. I really am a successful example of how the Western school system molds our brains to value research and hard data so with a new project in mind step one was research.  Before I logged on to wordpress, named my project or even knew what I wanted my scope and subjects to be I was reading other blogs and articles about blogging.  There’s all kinds of advice from what and how to write, to how to promote it, to sample schedules, and the list goes on.

The reality is that while it might mostly be sound advice for starting a blog, it isn’t possible to consume and then follow all of it. Pick advice that makes sense with who you are, what project you’re working on and what you want from it.

The bottom line is this: Don’t be afraid to ignore good advice.

As for deciding what to ignore, don’t overthink it. Actually, you don’t even have to look at a piece of advice and then decide to ignore it. Really, the key is finding a few sources of advice that you trust and are interested in – then, stop looking.

As long as you’re looking for advice you’ll find it. You’ll find new or different strategies, approaches, ideas, etc.  You’ll find new gurus, leaders, and writers who will want to help you on your journey.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed from hopping around between gurus and programs the key that they promote is consistency. Regardless of the platform or product, no matter what strategy you use to promote yourself the gurus agree: you have to be consistent.

So I offer you this: be consistent with the advice you choose to follow. Even if you don’t see immediate results or you see others selling advice that promises everything you’ve ever wanted… choose your advice and follow it consistently.

Focusing on Control

One of the biggest challenges working gig-to-gig is feeling that I don’t control my work or income.  I can’t force students to book a certain number of classes just because that number would equal out to my ideal income.  I can’t always make jobs appear or make my efforts pay off as big as I want them too.

So what’s a girl to do?

Focus on what I can control and how to make those things go as far as possible. I wrote in my post Find Your Hustle about the importance of keeping more than one stream of income.

For example, right now my students are celebrating a national holiday and bookings are way down.  How am I going to make up the income of a couple weeks having lower than average booking rates?

Main gig not paying? Give your side hustles some love

Teaching is really my main gig. Of all the streams of income I have right now, it pays the most, and it pays the most consistently. At times like this when that consistency is a little less reliable than normal, I can focus on transcribing. I don’t transcribe that much in an average month because I’m very picky about the jobs I’ll take (I need high-quality audio to ensure I transcribe accurately and produce good work.). Perhaps this month I’ll be a little less picky and more focused on putting in time at the keyboard.

Add some Extra Hustle

I’ve had a lot more time than usual on my hands with these lowered booking rates.  It’s allowed me to give this blog some much-needed love at the time of launch, for example.  Even though I’m not counting on the blog for major income it’s still something I value having the time to build and work on so the lower bookings can be taken as a blessing.

Stay Fresh on what’s Available

This almost goes with adding some extra hustle.  Just as you might use the unexpected time off from your main gig to put some love into a project that may or may not be income-generating you can also use this time to check out any new companies and opportunities in your field. Maybe you’ll find a few more gig-providing companies to start a relationship with and further diversify your streams of income.

Keep your Lifestyle Flexible

Ultimately a downturn with one gig might just mean lower income for a period of time.  Even if you mitigate the impact by increasing productivity on some of your smaller gigs you need a flexible lifestyle.  For example, if you have subscription boxes or other lifestyle expenses you can “skip” for a month or cancel go ahead and cut costs to lessen the impact of a low-income month.

Or, enjoy the Vacation

When it comes down to it sometimes you have to just go with the flow and enjoy the time off!

Carmen

The Gig Economy & You: How to Start Working for Yourself

So you’ve decided that you’d love to let go of the 9-5 and make it on your own, doing work that you’re connected to. But how? The moment I realized this is what I wanted felt great, and the moment right after I was filled with daunting questions.

If I work for myself, what the heck do I even do exactly?
If you’re not sure what it should be that you set up a business doing start listening to the people in your life.

What do they admire you for? What do they wish they could do like you? What do they pay someone to do that you do for yourself?
For example, I’m really bad with numbers. Not only that, but perhaps more problematically, I have very low confidence in my ability to work with numbers. So even when  I sit down and figure out the math on something I’m still very uncertain that I’ve done it correctly, and I don’t trust my own results. Come tax time this means I pay someone to do my taxes.
Friends who are great with numbers and confident in their abilities save the fees that I gladly pay to know for certain that things are done right, and if they aren’t it isn’t my fault.

My mom is amazingly creative, she has a scary good eye for color and is very crafty.  When I was growing up there were lots of quilts, dolls, and clothing I had that others admired and she made with her own two hands. I remember her having various business projects making things like wedding dresses, dance costumes, and quilts for others. What she was great at, and they couldn’t do themselves, she made a profit from.

That’s the key to this whole gig economy thing. Listen to what others admire about you, become conscious of the skills you have that are so natural to you that you almost forget they’re special.

Those skills are the key to monetizing yourself.

I have always loved writing. It never seemed like a special skill to me. It was just something I loved and others seemed to enjoy so I kept at it. Now here I am making it part of how I control my income – from the blog to transcription.

Even teaching is part of this for me. I love to talk, I like kids, I’m good at English and approaching a concept from different angles until I’ve made it make sense for someone else. It’s all communication and strong communication is what I excel at. I never really practiced those things, I never really realized that they were different for me than others. Yet so many people listen to me describe my teaching job and say “That’s awesome, I couldn’t do that.”

When you have something you love that others say they just couldn’t do, you can usually find a way to take that to the bank. Let them know they don’t have to, for a small fee, you’ll get it done for them!

Comment with a skill or a few skills you have that others pay for (even if they aren’t paying you for it, yet 😉

The Value of Goals

When you work for yourself, chances are there aren’t a lot of opportunities for promotion. Or there are, but they look a lot different than your traditional corporate promotion and they don’t always serve as the most accurate markers of success and development.

For example, there are some limited opportunities for promotion with my teaching company in that some teachers are invited to take on non-teaching rolls with the company.  It’s a great way to add a little extra work and experience when you get these additional roles , however they may not satisfy the ladder climbing itch the way a traditional promotion does.

That’s why I want to take a second to talk about the value of Goals. Goals give us something concrete to work towards, encourage us to plan for accomplishment and to always have a plan we are paying attention to.  Reaching a goal gives us a moment when we can pause and celebrate our success.

Did you want to connect with a certain number of new clients this month – and successfully do so? Share that news with your partners or family and let them congratulate you.

Did you want to grow your social network reach by a certain number of followers and have you met that goal? Take a moment to thank those who follow you with a little #humblebrag post!

These goals help you stay focused and give your work purpose and meaning in the context of your life.

Accomplishing goals also provides the opportunity to set bigger and more ambitious goals. Much like being given a bigger role in a traditional company, feeling that bigger goals are possible for you satisfies a sort of constant growth and promotion desire.  For example, if my first goal is to reach 100 followers on instagram by the end of the month and come the end of the month I have 125 followers, perhaps my next goal will be to reach 250 in a month. Seeing success will allow me to make data-based decisions about my capabilities and see my capabilities grow through my data.

Without goals we are working solely to make money and pay bills. Ultimately this is unavoidably important but it isn’t enough to motivate us. I want to pay my bills comfortably as much as the next person but working from home and not knowing why I’m doing it other than to continue existing becomes lonely, tedious and isolating.

We crave purpose, meaning and accomplishment and we can infuse our gig-to-gig life with these elements when we set and aggressively pursue goals that mean something to us!

What are your goals? How do you measure success?

Carmen

Self Care in the Gig Economy

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If your boss offered you more money, would you be like “nah, I need to stay home and not make money that day…” ?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

But what if you are your own boss? This is the self care challenge I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I decide what times to open for classes, and of course I open as much as I can stand to work in a day because I like getting those pay cheques.   My classes get booked about two weeks in advance, so it’s really reassuring to watch my next 7-14 days fill up and know that I’m going to keep making the income I need to look after my family.

But then there’s those days when the alarm goes off and I don’t want to get up and work. I open my classroom to greet my student and actually have to pause, take a deep breath and remind myself to smile. This isn’t normal for me.

I love teaching. I love my students. I’m genuinely happy in the moment while I’m working.

Until I get run down and start feeling burnt out, tired, and unmotivated.

That’s when I know it’s time to take a break for self care.  Not a long break – I tend to work 7 days a week so when I start feeling run down I know its time for a weekend or two off. But to do that I’m literally saying “I am okay with not making money during a time when I could be. I’m going to take that time to technically do nothing instead.”

When that Friday or Saturday work time comes around and I’m watching a movie instead of making money, it’s a challenging conundrum. In that very moment, and even in the days leading up to my time off, I tell myself “I’m fine, I would benefit more from the financial security so I should just open the times.”

I can easily take time off when there’s an event or plans I want to prioritize. But those things don’t give my mind or spirit any rest. If I take a day off to go to a concert and work the other 6 days, I have fun but I don’t take a break.

It can be challenging to prioritize ourselves, whether you work a 9-5 where it’s probably your job to, in some way or form, make other people’s days easier or if you work for yourself and control your own schedule… it’s really hard to say no to work and financial security to take the bubble bath, get your nails or hair done, sleep a little longer or just breathe easy for 24 hours, assessing your own needs instead of everyone else’s.

There’s no easy answer. There’s no three steps to self care without a second thought. The best I can offer is to follow some accounts on your social media that might post positive, self care oriented content that will remind you to look after yourself. And when you hear that voice in the back of your head saying “You’re fine, just push on and keep working.” You have the right to fight that voice a little bit and put yourself first.

 

Carmen

 

 

Find your Hustle: Living life Gig to Gig

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The gig economy is not your mama’s 9-5 job.  People working in the gig economy are found under any number of names – they are contractors, entrepreneurs, and artists.  They also have traditional job titles – editor, writer, developer, coder – but still operate as freelancers, outside the corporate structure.

The gig economy is about saying “Hey, I have this skill or service that I can offer for a fee.” And then offering it to a range of different clients instead of producing work only for one company.  There’s not a lot of emphasis on consistency in who you work for. In the gig economy, you’re looking for the next client, the next contract, the next “gig”. It is that constant seeking that defines and propels your career.

It can be a lot more interesting and a lot more rewarding than waking up every day to go do the same thing for the same company.  that said, you give up the security and consistency that comes with “a real job”.

Oh, and you start dealing with people referring to your work as something other than “a real job”.

This is how I’m working.  Have I reached massive success? Am I a gig-made millionaire? Nope. But I do make a living that at the end of the day, pays my bills and affords me a good life.

If you’re struggling to make the 9-5 grind work for you, but not really sure where to begin with the gig economy, here’s what you need to know.

1. You need more than one thing you can offer, at least in the beginning.

Down the road, you might have one thing that you are absolutely exceptional at, can charge a substantial fee for and can find, then build a large clientele with. Until you have a reliable and consistent flow of clients willing to pay your bills for that exceptional skill focus on diversity along with quality.

I’m gonna note here, it wouldn’t hurt to know which of the multiple skills you offer isyour end goal.  I have a few different services I offer but if I could turn 1 in to my full time job and stop doing the other things I know which one I’d pick.  It isn’t that I don’t like the other things – I love them. It’s about keeping a note of which thing you love the most.

I work with an online company teaching English as a Second Language.  They provide the virtual classroom and connect me to clients who pay for their service, and they pay me based on the number of classes I teach in a month. This is my most reliable income because I have around 350 clients who subscribe to my schedule and consistently take classes with me.

But I also type very quickly, so I do some transcribing work to pad out my bank account on weeks when holidays or other things lower the number of classes I am booked for.

I even had a small direct sales business.  You can call it a pyramid scheme or “multi level marketing” – either way – it’s where hobby meets the potential for income. I wasn’t climbing to the top of this pyramid but I was able to share the product with friends and see a little bit of income. It was the least reliable of my income streams and so I didn’t depend on it, I just enjoyed it for what it was.
*I decided I really didn’t have time for it after the company made some big changes.

I work with an Etsy business as their social media and customer service guru.

I work with a Toronto based accessory brand as their social media extraordinaire.

And I am still always keeping my eye out for opportunities that match what I like in my work and fit my schedule.

Maybe someday I will be a superstar something (I am slowly building in this direction but the biggest truth of all: nothing happens overnight!) and not need to teach or transcribe but right now, I enjoy the variety of work from day to day. Also, more importantly, having multiple streams of income makes up for the fact that a big issue with most gigs is that there’s no security. If that teaching company or transcription company I work with goes out of business there’s no severance for me. I’m just an independent contractor for them, they don’t owe me anything. Ever. So to protect myself from their potential loss of business becoming my loss of income, I stay diverse.

2. Ask for Opportunity

So you know you’d be great at x, y and z. And you really think people would probably pay you to do that for them. Awesome! What now?

Well depending on what you want to get paid to do a website is a good start.  Most people who hire people like to have websites and social feeds they can browse that will give them more information about what they’re paying for, and instill their confidence in your ability to meet their expectations.

After that, you’ve gotta tell them you’re available for hire.

Fun fact: I once messaged a company on Instagram to say I loved their product but noticed they weren’t posting much. I offered my services as a social media manager and one phone call later we agreed to work together.

It was a risk, it was a random observation and message, and it paid off to tell that company I was available and could do something they needed.

Now, I don’t make a habit of messaging people suggesting they need me. I don’t recommend it as your only strategy for getting clients. But do start talking about your work being available, do be visible in your industry and do advertise your skills as if you’ve never had a moment of self-doubt.

3. You don’t like the 9-5 grind, but you’re gonna have to work sometime.

My teaching clients are in many different time zones so I am often awake well before and long after my partners, working away in my home office. Yes, I can book a day off whenever I want and don’t need approval from a boss. True, I work from the comfort of my home, sometimes in my pjs (shhh), and I do choose when I work – to an extent. I have the power to open or not open a class time, but I am limited by the times my students actually want to take a class. Hint: it’s not always at a convenient afternoon hour for me. So while I don’t work 9-5, sometimes I work 4am-10pm and laugh at all the people who think the gig economy or working from home means sleeping in.

Where’s my tea?

4. You have to believe that you’re worth hiring.

It’s easy with a lot of mainstream jobs. Look at the job descriptions, see the requirements as a check list. Does it match your resume? If so – great. You can submit an application and walk into an interview knowing you deserve this. You’re qualified for this. There’s no good reason not to hire you.

But when you’re under the title independent contractor you have to know what it is you offer, and feel confident that a) people do need your service, and b) you’re damn good at what you do.

Sometimes, like when I messaged that company on instagram, you actually have to sell the client on the need before you can sell them on your service to meet that need.

There’s no checklist most of the time. There’s no roadmap that you can compare to yourself and take confidence from.

So be prepared to market yourself, continually network and make yourself available to new clients, and move on without taking it personally when a client relationship doesn’t blossom the way you would have liked.

5. Competition is INSANE. Ignore it.

I’m sorry if you figured there were really only a small number of people chasing this entrepreneurial dream.  We all have different ways, different services, different methods… but there’s a lot of us in this game. As soon as you start you’ll see, it will find you.

As soon as I started just casually mentioning social media management online I got flooded with paid ads from other social media marketers.  It sort of makes you pause and wonder if you can really do this. I hadn’t even thought about running paid ads yet!

But those moments of doubt or moments when I felt like I was surrounded by competition didn’t stop me from getting hired to start and they won’t stop me from getting hired in the future.

I said earlier you’ve gotta believe in yourself.  So when it comes to the competition, focus on your own hustle and ignore the rest.

These are my top 5 pieces of advice from right here in the comfort of my home office. Subscribe to stay in touch and catch more of my work from home musings and advice.