Today we feature someone I have not yet met, but exchanged many a tweet with. Michael Sleap (@michaelsleap) is a fellow HR type from Melbourne, Australia, who is loving the modern world of work, being a Dad and the awesomeness of social media. If you are thinking of striking out on your own, read on…
The Good, the Bad and the Awesome – musings from my first year as a HR freelancer
I’ve always loved Christmas.
Christmas rituals and traditions bring me a sense of comfort, familiarity and nostalgia.
It brings a sense of rhythm to the year. As a relative newcomer to HR freelancing, perhaps I need this sense of rhythm and tradition more so this Christmas than ever before.
Christmas is also the one time of the year when most of us take stock of our lives, something I don’t do often enough.
So if you’ll allow me the indulgence, I’m going to take the opportunity to reflect on my first year as a HR freelancer – the Good, the Bad and the Awesome.
One of the best things about being a freelancer has been the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, with a range of clients, across different industries. No two days or weeks have been the same.
Being able to collaborate and team up with other freelancers for client projects has been a highlight. It has provided me with a glimpse into the future of work where project teams will come to life organically as an entity for a specific purpose and fixed duration, and then disband.
Quality over quantity of work
Freelancing has been great in really forcing me to question everything work-related on which I spend time.
It is easy to default to the thinking that just by doing work, any work, you are being productive. But as a freelancer (or as an employee) you are really only fooling yourself with that thinking.
If a task is not going to add any immediate or longer-term value, then I just don’t do it. And the work that is done is really enjoyable because I know that it’s important and adding value.
I had wanted to try freelancing for quite a few years but was always holding back and waiting for “the right time”.
But I finally came to the conclusion that with life’s big decisions, there probably never is a right time.
It’s good to know that I’ll never look back and regret not having had a go at something that I had a burning desire to do.
Blurring of work and personal life
If you’re not careful, as a freelancer, you can completely blur work and your personal life and not get the best of either.
I noticed this a while back when one of my kids didn’t want to interrupt me because I was “working” – which was actually me just reading the sports section of the newspaper on my iPad on a Saturday afternoon.
While commuting and working office hours Monday to Friday may have at times felt like a grind, I do sometimes miss the rhythm that this brought to life.
As a freelancer, it is normal for unhelpful thoughts to creep in from time-to-time, such as “you should be working right now” or “what were you thinking giving up your regular pay packet?”
But being okay with uncertainty, set backs, and peaks and troughs in work without panicking, is critical to sustaining freelancing. So I listen to those voices but I don’t let them become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The lies we tell ourselves
When I was an employee, what with the long hours, commute and family commitments, there just wasn’t enough time *cough* to fit in exercise. Well, twelve months on and with much more flexibility and autonomy I am doing exactly the same amount of exercise as I was back then.
Australia’s former Prime Minister John Howard used to walk for exercise every single morning. If he found the time, then I’m lying to myself about why I don’t exercise.
Who’s your Daddy?
My kids’ teachers, friends and parents of their friends now actually know who I am. Enough said.
Working in the zone
While to some extent my working patterns still mirror traditional office hours, having the flexibility to alter that has been a major plus.
I have found that productivity and enjoyment of work peaks when you’re able to select the best place, time and method of working. Some times it’s face-to-face at client sites and at other times it’s the kitchen table, the study, co-working space, or café.
If I’m in the zone on a Sunday afternoon I’ll work, and if I’m struggling to be productive during normal working times I can break things up as needed.
While there is a stereotypical notion that freelancing involves sitting on the couch in your pyjamas watching baseball while working on your laptop (and this might *occasionally* be true), it’s actually all about people – and that’s what makes it so awesome!
The bulk of mine and I’m sure most freelancers’ work comes from people I know – directly or through referral. So a critical and fun part of my freelance work this year has been being out and about, networking and meeting with people (even if I do have to remind myself that having coffees with people I like is actually work). If you don’t love the people side of your work I wouldn’t recommend freelancing.
Also, having a great support network of fellow freelancers this year (you know who you are) has kept it fun. It has provided a feeling of being part of something, ample water cooler talk, as well as plenty of professional development.
In taking this chance to reflect, through The Twelve Blogs of Christmas, I have really enjoyed my first year as a HR freelancer.
While, as with most aspects of life, freelancing has traversed the good, the bad and the awesome, I feel lucky to have been able to craft a way of working that’s a perfect fit (for now).
And while I have enjoyed the glorious variety and lack of routine of freelancing, I’ll bet that the familiarity and tradition of Christmas this year will be a most welcome feeling.
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