Red Pen Diaries: Part Two

It’s Part Two of our secret-life-of-freelancers exposé! (Catch up on last week’s instalment here.) Today, we talk about freelancing with young kids and out ourselves as raging misanthropes.

INDIA: So, obvious question for you: when you went freelance in 2009 you had zero kids; now you have three. How has your work accommodated motherhood?

DAISY: Freelancing and motherhood go together like, um . . . gin and tonic! (hic). Seriously though, freelancing has been the ideal job for me next to the kids . . . with the proviso that I’ve always had the supreme support of our respective extended families childcare-wise. Most of my clients know I’m a parent and, thankfully, understand that about my schedule. I’ve turned down jobs because of it, but I’m proud of the fact I’ve never missed a deadline because of it. The one thing I’ve struggled with in terms of mixing work and family life is my absolute, non-negotiable need for a quiet space to work . . . it took a while for everyone in my family to truly realise how necessary that was for the arrangement to work and for my sanity to remain intact. Now, we all make sure to prioritise that space.

You’re the same, right? Absolute quiet is a must? (Except for that one time Coles & Lopez were indulging in weekly work-together sessions in Wellington, when for a two-and-a-half-month stretch we both happened to live there, and kept delightedly interrupting each other’s work to loudly declaim about certain authors’ certain grammatical tics, etc etc.)

India's alone time . . .

India's alone time . . .

INDIA: Ha, yes, but there aren’t any challenges to quiet in my life. Tim leaves for work at 6-something, while I’m still asleep, so unless I’ve made plans to socialise or I need to go out for some reason, I often don’t see another human until he gets home in the evening. Apart from some frantic meowing, I don’t have any disruptions.

And yeah, that face-to-face work time was so fantastic! People always ask me whether I miss having workmates. I’m still working on an answer that doesn’t make me sound like a complete misanthrope . . . I definitely miss having you around, both for company and for work feedback, but I don’t miss people for the sake of people, if you know what I mean.

Do you get that question a lot? Or do people assume that since you’re a mum, you treasure alone time?

. . . and Daisy's "alone time".

. . . and Daisy's "alone time".

DAISY: If they do, they would be right! Actually it’s a double whammy for me since, because I’m an expat in a non-English-speaking country (Hungary), I’m a bit lacking in the friends-to-chat-with department anyway. But I like that turn of phrase of yours – your comment that you don’t miss people for the sake of people. I feel the same, especially in the work context. Because as a freelancer the amount I earn directly correlates to the time I spend in my office getting work done (and also because I’m a mum and my alone time is extra hard won), I neither need nor want the distraction of water-cooler banter. Urgh, I sound nasty. Misanthropes unite!

INDIA: There’s a reason we’ve both gravitated towards this type of work, obviously . . .

DAISY: I guess when you freelance – or shall we say, when you freelance effectively – you need to maintain a really clear distinction between your work and social life? Clearer than the distinction those in an office might maintain?

INDIA: Yeah, good point. In my current work, I would never dream of leaving the clock running while I went out for coffee with someone, but that seemed justifiable in previous jobs. All too justifiable.

DAISY: Haha! Yes that’s a familiar memory.

INDIA: A big question: what’s the best and worst thing about your job?

DAISY: Hmm. Thinking about it, we’ve probably already covered both here. Best thing (no doubt I’m not doing myself any favours by bringing this up again, but): probably the misanthropic part – all that glorious alone time. Worst thing: the other side of that coin; the lack of colleagues immediately present to suddenly share an interesting turn of phrase with, or to check in about some finer point of invoicing, or to remind me what the antecedent of a pronoun actually IS, so I can help an author understand the same concept . . . ie what the two of us had for that brief period last year (nostalgic sigh).

INDIA: I’m sighing along with you. And unfortunately the time difference means we usually can’t message each other about those things and get an instant response. Our emails are better than nothing, though.

DAISY: Yep, the 21st century makes it pretty convenient to have a colleague on the other side of the world . . . I feel very grateful for that.

INDIA: I would say the best thing about my job is flexibility, in every sense: hours, locations . . . work wardrobe . . . I love that I can work for two hours and then go for a long walk if that’s what I need, and that I can spend 7 weeks overseas (like I did in late 2015) and be working the whole time. The worst thing would be the stress that comes with feeling wholly responsible for every aspect of the job. Not just the work itself, but also seeking out new clients, invoicing, time management, etc, etc.

DAISY: Yeah – also, the financial flexibility, right? I’ve often felt great relief at the thought that, if there’s something I really wanna buy, I know I can make it happen by putting in a bit of extra effort work-wise.

INDIA: Yeah, it’s definitely gratifying knowing that every hour you put in directly relates to more money.

DAISY: I remember the days of getting the same amount once a month, like clockwork, injected into your bank account – sure, that stability was a nice thing, but in another respect if your wants and needs ever went beyond that number, you were absolutely outta luck.

INDIA: Definitely. I don’t know if I could go back to 9-to-5 . . . unless Penguin Random House comes knocking, of course.

Come back next week for the final part of our conversation, in which we share our tips for switching off at the end of the day (hint: it isn’t easy when your work–home commute is five seconds long).