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I have been working contracts (mainly translation and editing, but more and
more technical writing recently) for the past ten years. It took two years
to get enough work just in translation and editing to feel comfortable; I
took on transcription work as well to fill in the holes. Nowadays it's not
uncommon for me to work 18-hour days. My typical work day is 12 hours, and
it often goes into the evening. It's rare I don't work at least a bit on
the weekend. What makes things worse is that my husband also does contract
work, so I don't have a spouse complaining that I'm working all the time,
because he's doing the same thing. I also don't have children (a natural
way to slow yourself down!)
As for flexible, it can be very flexible. As long as you are able to meet
the deadlines and are available for most of the typical working day, it can
be quite flexible if you're good at time management. I used to plan
activities around work, which meant I ended up working all time and not
having much of a life. Now I plan work around activities. Monday,
Wednesday and Friday mornings I am at my community centre for aquafitness,
pilates and aerobics respectively. Tuesday and Friday evening, and Sunday
afternoon, I'm at the gym doing weights and the treadmill. Tuesday mornings
I meet a couple of friends for an early breakfast. Monday and Thursday
evenings I'm in class. Once a month on a Wednesday evening, I'm on a
committee for sponsoring an Afghani family (we're paving the way for them to
come to Canada, finding an apartment, anticipating needs, etc.). Every
second Sunday evening I go to my church to discuss social issues and
politics with others. I take most of Saturday off to spend with my husband
away from work. We also try to see friends on Saturdays. Although I'm still
working long hours, I am far more energized, because my life is rounder than
when I just worked all the time.
Also, when I get frustrated at home (when I don't have to go into a company)
and need a change of setting, I can pack up my laptop and cellular phone and
go sit in a comfortable chair at Chapters (a giant bookstore) and have a
good cup of coffee. The staff are now used to me there, and joke about
Chapters being my second office.
Vacations are another thing altogether. I didn't have a vacation for five
years, because I just couldn't get away. I can never get away for longer
than ten days. At the beginning, since I was just starting to get clients,
I couldn't get away at all, because until they get used to you and decide
they really like your work, they could call while you're away, and then
decide to use someone else instead, instead of waiting a week for you. Last
year I went to Vancouver. I told all my clients two months ahead of time
that I'd be away. I did bring my computer and cellular phone just in case
(as well I had a few jobs come in right before I left that were due for when
I came back). I had a couple of emergency calls and spent one afternoon in
Vancouver,sitting in a Chapters, typing furiously to get a rush translation
done (my client was all apologetic, but it really was an emergency. He paid
me well for my trouble though). After I finished it, my husband read it
over and then we plugged the cellular into the computer and sent it off.
This year will be the first trip I've ever had where I'm not bringing my
computer or any work with me. I have warned all my clients well ahead of
time. Most of them know me quite well now, and were pleased for me, because
they know how hard I work. They also have decided that anything they have
could easily wait a week and I don't have to worry about them going to
someone else anymore, but when you're starting out, it's a different story.
If you want to work less, definitely work in an office. But if you can't
stand office politics, hierarchy, etc., then contract work is great (and
generally better paid -- the trouble is I'm so busy sometimes I rarely have
time to spend the money anyways!). You just have to try to have a life
outside of work and set certain limits, which is not as easy as it sounds
(took me almost nine years to figure this one out without slipping back into
work-work-work mode all the time).
|> Anonymous asks:
|> if those of you who contract find all the flexibility in time and place
|> you are looking for - things like working at home, keeping your own
|> working less than full-time if you want to, taking days off and extended
|> vacation time.
|I've found the opposite to be true. I actually work more hours and more
|days than I expected. I take fewer vacations, too. OTOH, I do work at
|home a lot, and I do keep my own hours most of the time. It's not
|unusual for me to work very strange hours to accommodate the non-work
|part of my life. Sometimes I wake up with an absolutely brilliant idea
|(well, they seem so at the time) and lay in the basics for it right
|there and then - even if it's 3 a.m.
|I spent some time building up my clientele, and now I don't want to let
|them down. If they call and need me to fit something in, I always try to
|accommodate them. Many weekends and would-be vacations are spent doing
|> Is contracting all it's cracked up to be in this regard?
|It can be, depending on your own situation. If I really wanted to work
|less, I could. I still prefer it to staff work.
|Joanne Grey http://www.writeangles.com
|Write Angles mailto:j_grey -at- writeangles -dot- com
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