freelancing, working from home without losing your soul
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Working from home: and finally…

self-employed

to work [wɜːk]

 • intr.v.  

1 Toil, knuckle down, roll up one's sleeves.

There’s a whole world of people out there who “get stuff done”, who go out at 7.30 am – even before the sun has risen – and get back home at 6 pm, after an hour and a half of train or motorway commute, queueing at green traffic lights. It may be hard for them to understand the fact that some occupations, which are evidently – at least from their point of view – somewhere in between shit shooting and lethargy, can be called jobs. And that’s a problem.

The same people, at times, find it quite hard to swallow the fact that some stuff requires hours and hours of intense, uninterrupted focus. And that’s an even bigger problem.

In a perfect world, when people don’t know something they abstain from arguing, but in our world you’re going to need patience. Because you’ll hear all sorts of bosh:

  • At the butcher’s: “Aw, you’re a home worker? Such a good thing for a woman.
  • Your neighbour: “You have a job? But you’re always around the neighbourhood with your dog.”
  • The public official who had to ascertain that I was actually living here (in charming Molise they’re not used at being an immigration destination and therefore had to check personally): “What’s your job?” “I’m a translator.” “Where do you work?” “At home.” “… What shall I put, then, unemployed?
Translators' neighbors

© Alejandro Moreno-Ramos

Dangers don’t end with people you don’t know well. I’ve been a guest at D.’s parents’ house for quite some time, two years ago. They live in a fairy-like nineteenth-century hamlet perched on a mountain peak, in a colossal stone house that forced us to huddle up like a bunch of meerkats in the smaller sitting room, in winter, to avoid death from exposure. (Even the Nazis, when they relocated D’s family and used their home as an outpost with a cannon in the porch, felt the need to build an extra fireplace to make it more comfy.) Well, as you all probably know, on the average mountaineers are harsh people. To force words out of them you need a crowbar. But even there, the wonderful, ultra septuagenarian Maria who helps at home and is really old fashioned, would employ some polite conversation each time she passed me by. Probably leaving me in peace must have seemed inhospitable.

When you’re done explaining that, as a matter of fact, translating is actually a job, organize your contacts with the rest of the world in ways which won’t prevent you from earning your bread. To reduce interruptions to a minimum, consider avoiding a landline. I don’t know about your country but in Italy you get a crazy array of daily calls from sales people and survey companies and that’s just incompatible with a job, unless you can hire an assistant. Reserve a part of your home where people won’t risk talking to you, there’s no TV on and choice of music is yours. This also works the other way round: people shouldn’t be bound to listen to Nine Inch Nails if they love Madonna and needn’t be forced to swallow your whole indie rock discography if what they really care about is Verdi. Even your perfect soulmate or your conjoined twin may have different needs sometimes.

An intermediate solution is an isolated headphone.

AFTER WORK

One of the problems of people who can work when they want is working non stop. All the time. That’s why – and I’ll never stress this enough – creating a daily regime is good both for your job and the rest of your life. At some point you need to stop. I mean get up from that chair. Period.

Take care about your social relations, including your online presence. You’re left out of people’s normal lives, which mostly happen at work, like it or not. Keep in touch with your friends using all available channels, but favour a lunch or an after-dinner pint over social networks, if you can. As time goes by, you’ll lose the habit of seeing human faces and you’ll feel the need to hide behind doors because people terrify you, but with a bit of perseverance you’ll avoid the post-office-queue panic attacks.

“How long have you been self-employed?”

I’m not the most suitable person to give out this bit of advice. Right now, as I’ve moved fairly recently and I’m fundamentally withdrawn, I know but few people around and the average age in my neighbourhood is 72 years. Communication with my fellow citizens is therefore next to nil and up to two weeks ago was restricted to the occasional argument with the old bags of the area, persuaded that there must be something wrong with people who have animals and don’t eat them. And also that I was responsible for half of the dog excrements in our province. (The same old bags, though, insisted upon handing me officially the keys of the city and exhibited a perverted delight each time they saw me picking up dog poop.)

As everything here is far away and requires driving from one to two hours, I often end up sucked into my armchair and procrastinating with social outings. That’s why, when poor D. gets back home from work I switch myself on like a radio and blabber on for hours. (He intermittently hates me for it.)

Nevertheless, I’m going to give you this piece of advice – don’t forget to meet other humans. The psychological impact of isolation can generate great perturbations in the Force, if you don’t act swiftly: a month is enough to turn you into a raccoon. Do something for the well-being of your body: swim, play rugby, try yoga, take the dog out, go shopping day by day (bulk shopping with a car trailer once in a month and stuffing it all into your freezer is pretty sad, let me tell you). Take a cooking class, zoom with your motorcycle.

Foster your brain power. If you’re always working with the same customers, try changing subject. Engage in voluntary work. Donate blood. Study something. Meditate. Eat. Drink. Live.

That’s all folks. Good luck!

PS. I know you liked the doggie cartoon. I took it from here.

This post is also available in it_IT.

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