The Work-at-Home Writer’s Troubles: Are You Asking For It?
I said no, politely reminding her that I'd be working.
I’ve worked as a freelancer for years, and I’ve spent many hours fuming about friends, family and neighbors thinking that what I do is not a job. But honestly, I’ve played a role in that sort of thinking. I want people to take me seriously in my stay-at-home job as a working writer, but there were times when I was just asking for trouble. Maybe you'll see yourself (and a solution), too.
The Accommodating Writer
I have lots of friends who work jobs outside the home. I wouldn’t think of calling them at work unless it was an emergency. But friends call me at home—where I work—just to chat, or to ask a favor since I’m “at home, anyway.” For too long, I’d answer my phone, all the while resenting the person encroaching on my time and me.
So I stopped answering the phone during my workday. I call back, after quitting time (At 5:00, in case you want to call me). And folks got the message.
Sometimes, I’m perfectly happy to accommodate my friends, but only when my work can accommodate the interruption.
The There-In-A-Crisis Writer
Because I set my own hours, I have a certain flexibility in my schedule. So when there’s a crisis, it’s expected that I’m the one who has the freedom to immediately lend a helping hand.
And the truth is that often, I can let my work go, and go where I’m needed. But flexibility is not another word for freedom. I still have job responsibilities and deadlines to meet. There have been many times that my work suffered while I jumped in to help in a crisis—and watched everyone else go about his or her business. Of course, resentment eventually reared its ugly head.
Until I realized that I was allowing the situation. I can jump in, but I don’t have to do everything, all the time. I figured out that it’s okay to bend with my schedule, but it’s not okay to let others take advantage of my work schedule.
The Subtly Undermined Writer
What about all those people hanging around, sharing our work space? Sure, they support us and love us—and annoy the stuffing out of us. They always seem to want something (it might even be stuffing if it happens to be Thanksgiving).
It’s hard to work at home with constant distractions—and it doesn’t matter if it’s young kids, grown-up kids, roommates or spouses. But I was subtly undermining my position as a self-employed writer when I’d stop my work to give a listen to them, and then put my work aside for their needs.
It didn’t take long for me to see that subtlety wouldn’t work. Now I shout, “Working!” whenever anyone walks into my office. They walk out because they know I’m not going to stop (until 5:00). I set work boundaries—and stick to them.
And guess what? Those people who live with me still love me. (My stuffing? Not so much.)
~Cathy C. Hall