I have had to dress up for work events twice (out of four official working days) this week, and I have to admit it's an odd feeling.
I have been freelancing for more than three years now, and I have noticed that my wardrobe - already pitifully miniature in comparison to many people I know - has severely leaned to the casual side. Yes, most days I am sitting here in my jeans, and I'm quite happy about that. For church on Sundays, I can often wear pants (I have a few favorite pairs of dress pants at the ready), but for events like the ones this week -- an awards program Tuesday and a fund--raising luncheon today - I really needed to step it up a notch and wear (gasp!) a skirt.
I never minded wearing skirts back in the day when I worked in a traditional office setting and was expected to be presentable and semi-professionally dressed. In fact, I enjoyed it. It always made me feel professional, yes, but also somehow more feminine, more girly. And I will say that sitting here in my skirt this morning, I am feeling the same way. I'm sitting up straighter, being slightly more productive and even got started working earlier (giving in to fewer early-morning distractions -- until I decided to do this blog post). I'd still rather be in my jeans, though.
I've had several other random thoughts about working this week, contemplating the change in my career path over the past few years.
- I am missing daily interaction (face-to-face vs by phone) with real-life human beings a little more lately. I get dozens or more e-mails a day from clients and have a few phone conversations, as well, which goes a long way toward keeping me from feeling like I work in a hole. But it's nice to get out, go downtown or somewhere and interact with other adults who have similar professional goals and challenges I do once in a while. It somehow makes me feel a little more validated in my professional life than working at home, where it's just me and my Mac (and my animals).
- I am feeling less secure in my long-term ability (thinking 20 years or more down the road) to keep up with communications technology and public relations trends being out on my own. I simply don't have the cash to pay for the $600 one-day conferences (let alone the airfare, hotel and food expenses that would come along with them) on the four different topics I should be keeping up on each year. But really, what's the worst thing that could happen? I might have to go back to work for a traditional employer someday. I can live with that.
- I am more and more thankful for the free e-mail newsletters related to online/social media, public relations and internal communications I receive each day. I'm starting to make more time to read those, even though that's not "billable" time, so it's essentially costing me money to read those free e-newsletters. That's still less expensive than conferences, however, and I learn quite a bit.
- I am kicking myself for not doing more research on National Association of Professional Women before I joined. Just Google it. Not pretty.
- Every day I am thankful that I have the freedom to work without the stress of having to work for a boss I don't enjoy. I have clients to whom I have to report and meet their needs and desires, but all in all, they are very respectful of me as a professional, and I tend to get along well with each of them. That's such a blessing!
- I am wondering what my work life will look like come August, when both of my kids will be in school. I am officially off on Fridays right now, although I tend to make up those hours during the rest of the week on evenings and weekends. Come August, I won't have any kids at home with me on Fridays, so I'll be able to work during the day. But I am planning to call it a day a little earlier Monday through Friday so my kids don't have to go to aftercare. I'm wondering how realistic that is, and how many more weekday evenings I'll be burning the midnight oil trying to get my work done. We shall see. I'm hopeful. I am really looking forward to a slightly shorter workday and having a couple of extra hours with my kids each day.
- I am so very thankful for the flexibility working from home affords me. Yesterday, I accidentally left my camera in the back of my husband's car and didn't realize it until he got to work. The thing is, I needed it for an assignment that morning. Enter panic. It all worked out, though, because I was able to get my first-priority project done ASAP and then make a beeline to Chad's work to get the camera. I got home just in time to download the photos I needed to send to my client in time to meet their needs. With a traditional office job, I might have taken some heat for that one. I also signed up to chaperon (yes, that's right without an "e" on the end - had to look it up, and it still looks odd) another field trip with my son's class next month. I'll have to make up the hours to get my work done, but I love having that option.
- I love having the chance to drive my own success. I am solely responsible for my successes and failures when it comes to my business. I'm not waiting for a shoe to drop working at a company where my job might not be here tomorrow. I'm not at the mercy of someone else's failures, either. If I succeed, I can pat my own back. If I don't, I have no one else to blame but myself. It's a fantastic and terrifying experience all in one. But it's one I'm so thankful to enjoy.
I have been stressed with work quite a bit lately, and I'm trying to really focus on the positives. Yes, it's stressful to be the only person responsible for my work, no matter how much work comes at me at once. And yes, it's stressful to think about my long-term viability as a professional freelancer. And yes, it's stressful to deal with two days a week with about 10 hours of non-billable time wrapped up in awards programs and fund-raising luncheons. But the bottom line is, I am thankful for this working arrangement and will be focusing on the positives as I move through another chaotic month.
Ah, I feel better already. I find that writing stuff down like this is rather therapeutic. Now back to work! I need to make good use of those few "free" hours remaining today and make sure I make some of them billable!