For Freelancers: What Happens When You Set Boundaries

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For all who have wondered what cave I’ve been hiding in all this time, 2022 started off with a bang for me and I’m dealing with an avalanche of projects, not to mention sick kids and all the ensuing schedule disruptions. And, of course, whatever else happens, laundry hampers overflow, trash cans need emptying, and grocery shopping needs doing.

As I was doing my taxes for 2021, I passingly reflected on the importance of having boundaries as a freelancer/mom/household manager and all the many hats we wear.

I know many self-employed individuals struggle with self-discipline in a very straightforward way – it starts with “I’ll just check my email”, and three hours later you’re deep in a Twitter debate about animal conservation because there’s nobody to drag you to your desk and make you start working.

I battle a different affliction, commonly known as biting off more than you can chew. I apply to lots of different gigs and find it hard to scroll by when an interesting offer appears in one of my freelancer Facebook groups. However, I am pleased to say that I made progress in 2021.

In the early half of 2021, my income ledger showed entries from many different clients. I squinted at the chart a couple of weeks ago, barely recalling some names. Then I remembered. “Oh, that didn’t work out.” “This person wanted faster turnarounds than I could commit to.” “This one had unreasonable demands.”

In the second half of the year, I consolidated my efforts to a couple of steady clients – without losing income. Yet now I have more sanity, less frenzy, fewer emails to answer, and less juggling in my schedule. I also became far more confident in my communication: “I can do this and this by date X”; “I cannot commit to any day earlier than Thursday”; “I can promise X, but not Y.”

I used to be a huge people pleaser, which didn’t give me many opportunities to see how people react when you don’t give them what they want. In the past year, I saw how it goes: some walk away, leaving the ones you get along with. I believe it’s true in the personal as well as professional sense.

Today, I sleep better, read more paperbacks, take more walks, and have more time for my kids, all while being more productive.

I hope everyone has a nice, cozy January with a mug of hot cocoa and a stack of good books (except you in the Southern hemisphere – enjoy your summer!).

A little victory: new Regency novel release

What do you do when the world turns unrecognizable, work takes over your life, and the future seems uncertain? That’s right – you keep writing.

The Farmer’s Fancy, my new Regency era/Jane Austen-verse novel, is a step aside from intricate fantasy, dark dystopian fiction, and gritty historical tales. Quite simply, it is a sweet and comforting read for people who love to immerse themselves in Jane Austen’s world.

Harriet Smith rejects Robert Martin’s proposal because her grand friend, Emma Woodhouse, convinces her that a mere humble farmer is not good enough for her. Disappointed and mortified, Robert resolves to forget about Harriet forever. Little does he know that destiny will soon bring them together again.

Now available at a special release price of only $0.99 on Kindle.

Is working for free ever justified, even for your spouse?

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I came across this NY times column, which gave rise to all sorts of thoughts.

My husband is beginning to fund-raise for his new start-up. I’m a professional brand strategist. He and his co-founder want my help naming their company, crafting messaging and creating their website and pitch materials. When I asked how formal the arrangement would be and whether there would be any compensation involved, he was incredibly hurt and now believes I don’t support his business. Am I completely wrong here? Should I work for him for free on the principle of being his wife?

So let’s try to break this one down.

Many people would have a knee-jerk reaction and say, “OF COURSE spouses should share skills. Marriage is all about mutual contribution, and everyone’s the gainer. It’s called supporting each other.”

True enough. But there’s also this: if the wife is a professional and if she does any work of serious extent for her husband’s business, she almost inevitably passes over other (paid) opportunities.

Her contribution could range from a short-term consultancy to actually laying aside her own business entirely and supporting her husband’s startup. And here, if she gets no official recognition, position, or salary, is the fly in the ointment.

If the marriage stays stable, equitable and loving for the rest of these two people’s lives, that’s fine. No problem may ever arise and it may not matter in whose name the income is. But what if it’s not?

What if things go south, and 20 years down the road, the wife needs to strike out on her own after being a prop for her husband’s business for two decades? Yes, as many will point out, in case of a divorce, she gets a share of the business. He may buy out her part during property division, or he may sell the business and split the profit with her.

This, however, leads to two issues:

  1. In a family court, depending on the state in question, the wife may need to prove the extent of her contribution to the business, and this may be difficult if she never had an official role.
  2. If the husband is in sole control of company finances, he may prepare for divorce and siphon off funds to offshore funds and trusts (I’m aware of these strategies because I write a lot of web content for divorce lawyers).

Furthermore, if her role in the business was completely behind the scenes, the wife may have a 20-year blank on her resume. She may include her experience in the family business, of course, but then what happens if she applies for another position? Who will give her recommendations, the ex-husband/boss?

This gets even more problematic if she ever needs a mortgage or a car loan. Not (officially) working for 20 years doesn’t present a good picture for potential lenders.

If the split-up happens closer to retirement age, the wife may find herself in even deeper financial trenches.

But this isn’t even the worse scenario. In the worst case, the wife may actually stay stuck in an unhealthy, possibly abusive, marriage because she is so deeply mired financially. I’m not saying this will definitely happen. But it might.

So, my bottom line: if a person expects their spouse to play any long-term significant part in their business, at minimum, the contributing spouse should get an official recognition of their role and company stocks. Anything else may put their partner in a very, very precarious position down the road.

Rainbow Lace Crochet Top

My new crochet top

Isn’t it nice that when the world is going crazy and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we still have crochet? There are still a few stray ends to weave in, but by and large, this rainbow top is done and I look forward to wearing it.

I worked with Camilla Cotton Magic by Ice Yarns and simply loved this yarn. It’s mercerized cotton that’s a bit on the thick side for thread, and it comes in a whole array of dazzling color-changing varieties. Like most cotton yarns, it’s a bit stiff if done in a tight stitch, but a lacy pattern like this one gives it some nice drape.

The yoke in close-up

This item involved quite a bit of improvising and I’m not sure I could recreate it if I tried. I used this diagram for the yoke and this one for the bottom.

I wish all my Jewish readers an easy Yom Kippur fast and a blessed new year.

The dictionary of an overworked freelancer mom, part 1

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One of these days, I’m going to write a more serious post. Like what it’s like to live in a country that was so proud of being a vaccine pioneer and now appears to be in total shambles. Or how to save on electricity during a massive killer heat wave.

But today, it’s time for something just for laughs.

A: Advancing. Something you’re supposed to do on projects instead of browsing the biography of Elvis Presley.

B: Break. Something you should never feel guilty for taking. In fact, I guarantee that you need it.

C: Client. Someone who bombards you with emails while they need you and disappears for a month when it’s time to pay.

D: Deadline. Wait, how can it be tomorrow?! I thought I had a week.

E: Entertainment. Watching your kids chase chickens around the yard.

F: Food. Something you’re somehow supposed to come up with three times a day. You try to convince your kids leftover soup does too count.

G: Getaway. Something you daydream about nonstop.

H: Hunger. Something you feel around noon when your stomach rumbles and you recall you’ve gotten breakfast for everyone except yourself.

I: Internet. Something you rely on for your work, which tends to flop just when you’re having an important discussion over Skype.

J: Jig. Something you do when you finish a big project.

K: Kill. Something you want to do when your computer crashes.

L: Lucky. The way you feel when you open the refrigerator and see there’s still some milk left for your morning cuppa.

To be continued…

When your home overwhelms you

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A pile of dishes in the sink. Papers strewn all over the sofa. A messy pile of laundry from last week in the hall. Unrecognizable sticky spots trailing the length of your living room.

Homes can get messy astonishingly fast, especially if you have kids. And sometimes, when you’re not tired, more like exhausted, or even more like totally and utterly depleted and sleep-deprived, it can get overwhelming.

Still, you must start tackling the mess somewhere. Here are my suggestions.

Something easy. There’s nothing like a quick, easy task to give you a sense of accomplishment. Empty the overflowing trash can, shove some paper clutter into the garbage, or water the plants.

Something hard. You’ll feel SO much better after you fold all the laundry from the last two weeks, give the bathtub a good scrub, or do whatever it is you’ve been postponing for a while.

Something inspiring. Homes aren’t just functional places where we eat and sleep. Something new and pretty, like hanging up a piece of art or planting some flowers, will give you motivation to keep working on your surroundings – even if the kitchen sink is still messy.

Something for someone else. Somehow, fluffing up my children’s pillows or sorting out their closet is easier for me to start with than my own room.

Something to eat. As you go into a whirlwind of trying to restore your home to a livable condition, it’s easy to forget you need to eat until lunchtime is long past, you’re faint with hunger, and your kids are complaining. Take the time to fix something simple to eat, even some pancakes or egg sandwiches and salad.

Need more encouragement? Check out these tips on cleaning a super messy house, super fast.

We’re safe

Following a deluge of messages from concerned friends, I’m just popping in to let everyone know we’re safe and haven’t been near the rocket attack areas in Israel.

We did, however, experience first-hand some of the violent disruptions by Israeli Arab “citizens” who are showing for the umpteenth time where their loyalties lie (hint: not with the country that feeds, protects, and ensures equal rights for them).

Our hearts are with the Israelis who have suffered from the unprovoked, vicious bombings.

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