On Working “Alone”

I’ve been freelancing and working from home for just about two years now, and the number one thing that people ask me about is whether or not I miss the standard, daily dose of human interaction that comes with an office job and co-workers.

The truth is that I don’t.

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Yes, I’m an introvert. And I mostly write for a living, which is a solitary profession by nature. But, I also really do enjoy teamwork, collaboration and a lively exchange of ideas. It sounds funny and maybe unbelievable, but I actually feel like I connect with people on a more meaningful level now that I work for myself.

In the simplest of terms, it’s a quality vs. quantity issue. I’m not discounting the quality of all my professional interactions prior to going independent – I’ve learned tons from my past gigs, found mentors, and created life-long friendships. But for every truly memorable and important conversation I had working a 9-to-5, I probably had a hundred that were a complete waste of time. My days were stuffed with unnecessary check-ins, endless “due diligence” phone calls, and meetings that no one cared about. And don’t forget about the hours spent trying to just schedule all these pointless interactions.

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And worse was the way meetings and phone calls were often exploited in unhealthy, politically charged work environments. Ever been on a call and realize its true purpose is to antagonize, expose, or enact revenge on a colleague? Unfortunately, most of us have.

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No one wastes my time like this anymore. (I’m not saying I don’t waste time. I certainly do, but it’s always on my terms.) Maybe it’s because I’m on the periphery and not on the payroll, so clients are more mindful of my time. But I think it’s mostly because I’m doing something that I truly love, and I’m getting to seek out who I want to work with.

These days, I probably average one or two phone calls or meetings a week, and I’m (almost) always excited to have them. They (almost) all feel like opportunities. Opportunities to work on something new, make a current project better, or learn from an expert. A ringing phone used to fill me with a sense of dread, but I’ve grown to really enjoy interviewing people, especially people who are just as excited about what they’re doing as I am.

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This is where I find that sense of community and partnership. Sure, every once in a while it would be nice to spontaneously walk to Starbucks with a coworker or vent about my frustrations (still got those) with a colleague in the office next door. But I’ll forgo all these perks if I can keep the vast majority of my interactions positive and purposeful.

What’s your ideal work environment?

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Geek for Print

Please humor me while I geek out just a little over seeing my name in the October print edition of Men’s Journal.

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I’ve been contributing to MensJournal.com for well over a year, and it’s been great. I’ve written about everything from training plateaus and Olympic weightlifting to hand care and tattoo cover-ups. I’ve interviewed experts in experts in exercise science and nutrition, as well as the fittest man on earth. I’m excited every time one of my articles goes live, but I was particularly giddy to see a condensed version of a story I wrote on resistance training make it to print.

I’ve been hearing that the print magazine industry is dead for at least 15 years, and I’m sure there were rumblings way before that. When I worked in PR and marketing, I saw both new publications with tons of promise and old books with extensive histories fold. In less than two years of freelance writing, I’ve witnessed the same thing firsthand.

But, I refuse to think the industry is “dead.” I think it’s a hard industry, and maybe one that’s been too resistant to change and evolution. But I can tell you that there are some really smart, creative people in charge (at least on the editorial side) and tons of writers who are stoked to claim just a tiny corner of print real estate. Print is special for that reason – unlike the internet, which is limitless and dynamic, print is a carefully planned experience. And one that can’t be changed after the fact. I think that kind of curation and permanence is unique and appealing at a time when so much content feels instantly disposable.

I suppose I’m one of those hardcover-reading Luddites with piles of magazines on the kitchen table who can’t get used to a Kindle and still values a more tactile reading experience. Maybe we’re slowly dying off and taking the industry with us, but I really hope not. I hope I keep seeing my name in print. In the meantime, I”ll keep buying magazines.

ICYMI – Week of January 18, 2016

I like ALL of my clients and editors. (Getting to choose who I work with is one of my favorite things about working for myself.) But, OfficeNinjas is among my favorites. When I went freelance, they were one of the first companies to hire me, and they certainly set the bar with their entrepreneurial energy (it’s contagious!), attention to detail and passion for quality. Plus, they’re just nice. In my book, niceness counts. A LOT.

One of the first big projects we worked on together was Admin Week, a week-long celebration for executive assistants, receptionists, operations managers, and other admin pros  (a.k.a. “Office Ninjas”). We worked together to shape and brand the campaign elements, and I generated oodles of online content. Setting the groundwork for Admin Week was tons of work, but we cranked and pulled it off.

It’s always a thrill to see your words and ideas come to life, but it’s truly validating to see a campaign return for a second year.

OfficeNinjas.com
Credit: OfficeNinjas.com

Also cool? Reading the comments on the blog post announcing Admin Week’s return. Admins’ work often goes unnoticed and unappreciated, which makes a campaign just for them that much more meaningful.

If you’re an administrative professional, I strongly encourage you to subscribe to the OfficeNinjas’ newsletter and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!