One of the most bizarre moments in Downtown Abbey for me was when the baffled Dowager Countess of Grantham—who has never worked a day in her life—asks, ““What is a weekend?” For us working folk, the weekend marks the ending of 40+ hours of toil and the beginning of declaring our time our own. It is a stark demarcation from our working lives, when we squeeze in as much personal time as we can around the chores and details that life entails. For someone who has never worked before, or who works for themselves, it is simply two more days of the same thing.
After one month of self-employment, I can now ask the same question. It may not be for the same reason as the Dowager of Grantham, as I work 7 days per week. But the reason that I can now understand the question is due to the overall fluidity and expansion of my time. It turns out that when one owns their time, the week and the weekend all mesh together. Being self-employed for the last month has not meant that I am working any less than I did when I was working two jobs over the last four years. What it has meant is having the flexibility to work whenever and wherever is convenient for me. There truly is no more “clocking in”, though of course I am still putting in over 50 hours per week in pursuing this line of work. It’s just that I’ve shed that anxiety that I used to have about time because it is so much more fluid now. For example, I am writing this on Saturday morning at 5:43 a.m. in my bed. Most mornings I am at my desk in my home office by 6:30 a.m., delighted to begin the day. But if I would like to begin my day at 10:00 a.m. or 10:00 p.m., I now can. Whereas before, timing was everything, now the timing of things has become almost obsolete. The only thing that matters is getting the results.
Speaking of time, I would like to periodically update everyone on how my decision to write and blog full-time is working out. While I am unsure of the time increments it will make sense to do this in the future, I thought that the one-month mark would be a great opportunity to write down some thoughts to share.
You can project a budget onto a future scenario and fill in all of the blanks of how it is supposed to work, but you won’t actually know how it does work until it happens. Our first month with just one steady income worked out differently than we had planned. Thankfully, it was still a smooth transition. I found out that even though I am now driving my car much less than before (my car gets 27 mpg and so I only had to fill it up once in February!), our car insurance company does not give discounts for people who work from home. I am now on Paul’s health/dental insurance plan, and instead of it costing $130 per month like we had budgeted, it will only cost us $103 per month. I am working on rolling my pension into a traditional IRA at Vanguard where our Roth IRAs are located and a happy surprise there is that I have $1200 more than I thought I did! Also, I signed up for Personal Capital to aggregate all of our financial accounts for free, and ended up having a fantastic free personal consultation about our current investments.
Of course the biggest financial question of all: did I make any money this past month? I can confidently answer “yes”! I made more money than Paul and I thought I would in my first month, so that was an equally pleasant surprise.
The last month has been pretty incredible. There were moments when I teared up with joy and happiness at this opportunity. I’ve unabashedly belted out Annie Lenox, danced around the beautiful confines of my home office, and on most mornings I have gotten to work early enough to hear the first gorgeous chirpings of spring-crazed birds. I am devouring The Godfather, and I’ve eaten several lunches draped in sunshine in our backyard.
Still, working from home is not, and will not always be, this easy. One of the reasons that I hesitated to do this for so long was because of what Chris Ducker has coined “entrepreneurial loneliness”. Keeping myself motivated, inspired, productive, happy, and not feeling isolated is a key part to all of this. My first month has gone well in this respect, at least in part from the natural high of taking on my dream job. But some things that I have intentionally done to help in this way is to read a few pages each morning from very positive and inspiring books, listen to inspirational and uplifting music throughout the day, and get out of the house to be around other people.
I am also finding it extremely useful to take a break every few hours by doing something around the house. It’s been very satisfying, and our doorknobs have never shined so brilliantly!
Over the past four years I have made myself piles everywhere: in my office, on my desk, in filing cabinets, in my internet favorites folder, etc. It turns out that I saved clippings, articles, and websites that would be extremely helpful for me in blogging and writing; I just never had the time to go through them all. I am happy to say that I am now taking the time to sort through everything, implement what is useful, and learn, learn, learn.
Here are some of the things that have come from having time to blog, write, and grow this past month:
- I’ve begun to organize my “favorites” folders on my web browsers into manageable and repeatable tasks, such as a folder for blogs with the CommentLuv plugin so that I can spread a link from my latest posts and attract visitors to my site. I also have a folder for “Superstar” bloggers who have really become successful so that I can learn from what they are doing and incorporate some of it into my own work.
- I was invited to guest post at two different blogs this month, and contributed My Farming Past Taught Me More than Just How to Muck Manure to Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance and I Just Quit My Day Job to Write Full-Time to We Only Do This Once. Thank you to both Barb and Tony!
- I completed a full draft of my first eBook about the Drugstore Game. Details for how to get my eBook will be available hopefully by the end of March (setting deadlines for yourself = a good idea!).
- I picked up a solid freelance writing job for two articles per month.
- I’ve focused on making my home office a place I want to be in, since a lot of the magic happens there. This includes bringing my Sony boombox—gifted to me at the age of 16—and all of my CDs upstairs. Currently I am enjoying Simon and Garfunkel, Alison Krauss + Union Station, and some mixed CDs from my early 20s. I have added an ergonomic foot rest for under my desk, and propped my computer screen up with two large books to ensure it is at the proper height so that I am not straining my neck.
Perhaps the biggest piece of blogging news is that Google has blessed me with a PageRank again (PageRank is what Google uses to determine the importance of a web page). This resulted in several happy dances around my office, as it should increase traffic and opportunities for Frugal Confessions.
Areas for Improvement
Well, I have no more excuses for not consistently exercising. I just explained to you this expansion of time…and yet I have only exercised twice this entire month! Paul is training for the Tough Mudder (way to go sweets!) and we are signing up for a free two-week gym trial together starting Monday. I am hoping this will kick start things for me, as well as provide a great outlet away from home.
Some other areas for improvement include:
- Not allowing myself to stare at the computer screen for too long before realizing that I need to shift onto something else.
- Continuing to carve out lots of computer-free time with Paul. I may be able to work at anytime, but he is only home at certain times and it is important for us to be together without me working. This means I need to manage my time better throughout the day.
All in all, this first month has been incredible both professionally and personally. Because a lot of what I am doing is a natural extension of me—writing, learning new ways to save money, helping people with their finances—many hours throughout the past four weeks have not felt like work at all. I am just so grateful for this incredible gift! I have many projects and ideas in the pipeline, so I hope to maintain this momentum moving into the next month and beyond.