From office to freelance: transition mode

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After seven years of work at the office (Monday – Friday, 9:30 – 18:30 – classics) I have gone freelancing, which made me endlessly happy on one hand and absolutely freaked out on the other. Why is it like that – read in the post.

Predictable scenario

Earlier everything was clear. Every day from Monday to Friday (sometimes on weekends too, though) I came to work to the office where everything was more or less predictable, planned and worked through. Despite the constant force-majeures that happened every now and then (I worked as a coordinator of crude oil and petroleum products loading inspections) and which I had to fix every time, the general action mechanism was predefined.

I received a nomination (an order for inspection) based on which I knew that an inspector had to be on this day and at this time at the port. Further everything was going by a usual plan: pre-loading inspection, loading process, inspection on loading completion. Later I got a raw inspection report and the shipment documents, checked the data, prepared a sailing telex (report on loading numbers) and sent it to the client. Meanwhile the inspector brought samples to the laboratory where there were being tested. When the analyses results are ready they were sent to me, I forwarded them to the client, added them into the inspection report and sent the finalized documents to the client.

Every part of this procedure I knew from A to Z. There were several inspections for one time period so I always was busy with some stage of the general process. Beside that there were also some side projects where it was also quite clear to me what and when I had to do.

Reasons of panic and chaos

Now I want to grasp my head and run in circles being wide-eyed and screaming  in panic “AAAAAHH!!!””, and why? Because in my current situation I do not have a clear vision of what and when I need to do. At least, not for the time being. There are several reasons for that:

    1. I still can’t get used to the status of a freelancer: one thing is when I have something as a side job in addition to my main work, and a completely different thing is to make it my main job.
    2. Nobody stands behind me with a stick and tells me what to do. This means that all organisation of the processes and decision on what to do is up to me. As a result there is another problem:
    3. Prioritizing. It is easy for me when I get a task together with a clear deadline. Also when I am familiar with those tasks and they are completely clear. For example, to translate a document. Or a website. Or a report. Generally speaking, information processing is understandable to me and it resonates with me. Currently I have one permanent side job, some personal creative projects that don’t give me any income yet (like the blog you are reading right now), and one new project I joined recently. I have never worked by such a scheme and the volume of work is just horrifying. For this reason I am scared as hell and as a result – I do whatever else but things for this new project.

How to deal with the mess

To be at least a bit productive I have decided to act by my usual scheme. At my last job I always wrote a list of things to do for a day. Just a list in a plain notebook. As soon as I had something done, I crossed it out. By the end of the day, usually, the list was completely or almost completely crossed out, and it made me feel efficient.

What is the difference between my old lists and the new one that I make now? The difference is that I include there not only items concerning my work. For example, today my list looks approximately like that:

  • Start working on the database (new project)
      • Add columns with the time zones
      • Add a column with a city
    • Start checking data for the region X
    • Continue working on the blog post about travelling
    • Create a separate document on my Google disk with a text on switching to freelance in a format of a livejournal (which result you see right now)
    • Watch a movie
    • Walk in a park
    • Add my expenses in the last several days in the balance sheet, mark the critical ones; add new planned expenses
  • Go to sleep no later than 23:00

Importance of replenishing personal resources

In my opinion, such things as to watch a movie and to walk in a park should be included in the to-do list because there are no such supreme forces (work, boss, etc) anymore that defines my location and occupation for the biggest part of the day. Before, I had to decide what to do only for my free time (which was not much). Now I need to think about the whole day: how to allocate my time and resources and also how and when to replenish the latter.

Visiting a psychologist has helped me understand that stress is a disbalance of resources. That’s why it is crucial to refill them. It means that I need to do what I like, what brings me joy and satisfaction, to take care of my health, sleep, well-being and (!!!) a good mood. (My last job after I was promoted brought me to a state where I could not handle it on my own. I had to ask for a professional help, which I wish to everyone who feels the same. It helped me a lot).

Since I don’t have a strict schedule yet (for various reasons), there is a possibility to get stuck in procrastination and as a consequence – in a badly allocated workaholism: when I delay the moment of starting my work, do some unproductive stuff and then suddenly make up for lost time sacrificing sleep, having a walk, sports (hahaHA if I do it at all), beauty procedures, reading books, communication with my family and friends, etc. All in all, my time is wasted on some nonsense and chaotic work and I have no time left for myself.

That is exactly why it is so important to include all actions for recovery and replenishment of resources into the schedule and to do my best to follow it. Also as a bonus I get satisfaction from my own efficiency in the matter of number of things done during the day.

Start smoothly

Taken as an example list is not long, but since it’s only Monday, 13:30 there is no point in submerging myself in work too much, there is still a whole week ahead (and panic from the upcoming project has not passed yet). Fortunately, I am not tied to time now, but it won’t last long. Soon I will be building my working days around all the time zones of the huge Russia and I won’t have this freedom of planning anymore. So I need to catch the moment and enjoy it, what I am about to do right now. Carpe diem!

Have a good mood and a productive day!

I am a passionate traveler, musician, and language learner (xD) who is always in search of something new and interesting. I like to discover new places and meet new people, especially those who are fascinated by some creative ideas. I have built a career at an international company in petroleum sector and at some point I have realized it was not for me. I have quit my job and now am building everything from the scratch. They say life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. This is my new philosophy that I am trying to follow. Changing life is crucial if you are unhappy doing what you do or being where you are, regardless of your current state. Changes are not easy, but they are worth it. We live in a wonderful time when everything is possible in this life, you just need to want it bad enough and try. This is what I am doing :)

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