Shifting Freelancer Mindset and Habits in COVID-19
In the pandemic, we're all running low on time, energy, and mental resources. What can we do about it?
In this issue of the Fancy Comma, LLC newsletter, Sheeva talks about ways to save time as a freelancer.
Reader, congratulations on making it through over 19 months of a pandemic!
By now, you are likely frustrated with the world, short on patience, and feeling like you’re running on empty. It can be tough to balance everything when your mental game is off-kilter.
Just dealing with the pandemic has eaten away at my time, mental energy, and sanity. I’ve had days where I haven’t been able to get work done because I had to plan out the logistics of normally simple things like getting groceries. Running errands takes way more time than I want to admit in our pandemic times. Other days, I was left grieving the losses of people in the pandemic, or helping my friends and loved ones deal with their own issues.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been a small business owner, and the pandemic has affected that, too, of course. As freelancers, our earnings are directly tied to how much we work — so if we can’t work, for whatever reason, that directly affects our bottom line.
And let’s face it, a pandemic is not the ideal condition to work 12-hour days or go ‘full speed ahead.’ That’s where working smarter, not harder comes in. Here are 5 ways I work more strategically in this ongoing fourth wave of the pandemic. These strategies help me save my mental energy to tackle other important priorities.
Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Every day in the pandemic, it seems that life gets more and more complex and confusing. There’s new scientific information, laws and policies change, and I have to adapt to make it all work. The good news is that the pandemic, in its current state, is not going to last forever. The less great news is that I have to figure out a way to make it all work in the meantime. I’m not unique in this — we all have some pandemic balancing act, whether it’s juggling work and family life, balancing starting a business with taking time away, or taking time away from work to focus on self-care.
As the world gets more perplexing, I try to make my work (and work processes) more simple. I do this by streamlining processes, taking on less projects, and providing as much value I can to my existing clients. I also do this by saying “no” to clients that aren’t a good fit — so I can say “yes” to better opportunities that align with my priorities and interests.
Simplifying your work processes can look different to different people. For Angela Tague of Web Writing Advice, preparing to write saves her time and energy.
What does simplifying your work mean to you? Feel free to chime in on Twitter or in the comments below!
Automate everything you can.
As the pandemic drags on, the last thing I want to do is be at my computer 24/7, doomscrolling. So, I rely on automation to help me get things done. I work when I feel like it, then schedule social media posts, my newsletter writing, and blog posts to go out later. This way, I can work when I feel like it, and take time away when needed.
If you find yourself slogging through your daily to-do list, dreading the future and wondering how you will be able to make it, you might even consider taking stuff of your plate, so to speak. There’s no shame in quitting things that do not serve you — I wrote a whole blog post on the topic. Deciding to quit things that are taking up too much time, money, or mental energy that don’t help you achieve your goals or make you happy is an important life skill.
Delegating tasks can be a toughie for small business owners, because it requires spending money. As a small business owner, I don’t always have the funds to hire a large staff to help me manage different parts of the business. Yet, in a recent chat with a Digital Women Leaders mentor, she suggested that I hire a social media manager. “I don’t have the money,” I replied. So, she suggested reaching out to a marketing student who might be interested in interning. In the end, I hired a talented social media manager, Aimen, skilled in science communication (make sure to give Aimen a follow on Twitter!).
If you’d like to delegate tasks but don’t have the money, you might be interested in bartering your services — check out our post on the topic!
Remember that we are in continuingly, and increasingly, bizarre times. So, don’t be too critical of yourself if you can’t get everything you wanted done in one day, or if it takes five times as long to do work because you can’t concentrate. I get by by doing the bare minimum some days, and I don’t feel bad about it, because that’s all I can do right now. Perhaps if we did not live in a pandemic, I would magically get way more done, but maybe not. That’s OK. There’s so much going on in the world that it doesn’t make sense to me to work way too much and risk developing burnout.
Reach out to your network.
When you’re going through tough times, it’s important to have a community of people that can support you. Sure, it’s great to rely on friends and family, but they may not understand the challenges of freelancing — which is why it’s great to network with a community of like-minded freelancers.
There’s no shortage of ways to connect with your fellow freelancers. Chat with fellow small business peeps on social media, or join a Slack group for writers (or start your own). Participate in #FreelanceChat or #SciCommChat. And remember that, no matter how weird or terrible your life gets, you are never alone, especially in a pandemic when the world is weird and terrible on the daily.
What we’ve been reading:
We’ve been blogging about science and science research ethics over at the Fancy Comma blog. Check out this post on drawing the nervous system or this one about the Belmont Report, a document that guides human research today.
Fellow communications nerds, do you agree that effective science and health communications is central to the COVID-19 ground game? Read Sheeva’s case for grassroots pandemic comms strategy in the Georgetown Voice.
Scientists and doctors have been at the forefront of pandemic communications. Yet they have also faced backlash and threats. Read more about the hazards of being a high-profile COVID-19 science and health communicator over at Nature.
We liked Leah Pierson’s article for Harvard’s Petrie-Flom Center about improving justice and equity in the federal biomedical science grant funding process at the National Institutes of Health.
If writing is your way of processing the world’s happenings, you might be interested in reading 12 ideas for writing through the pandemic, published by the New York Times last year. (If you do end up writing something, feel free to share it with us - we’d love to feature it in our next newsletter!)
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