May 11, 2015

What I Learned While Freelancing & Working Full Time

A year ago, I was wrapping up a time and energy-intensive freelance commitment. As a full-time "side" job, the project ended up taking up most of my evenings and weekends over the course of five months. I loved the experience and the opportunities it created for me (both professionally and financially), but working throughout each weekday and continuing into the night left me feeling like I was stuck in an unending cycle of production.

Even with all the pressure, I was buzzing with ideas. I have never felt more creative than when I was stressed out of my mind working two full-time jobs. I remember constantly jotting down new thoughts for projects and challenging myself to pick up new skills. I loved the character-building demands balancing two jobs created, but was ready for the commitment to come to an end (and for summer to begin).

Establishing an end date for the freelance work helped me to continue to produce quality work when I was struggling to stay motivated. That deadline and the following guidelines helped me to successfully freelance while working full-time:

Develop a schedule.
When I sat down to work on freelance projects, I knew what I wanted to accomplish before getting started. If I couldn't work one evening because of a prior commitment, I tried to not worry about not being available to the client or being able to produce content that day.

Know your limits. (because sleep is important!) 
I'm not a robot, so expecting myself to work during every free moment was not logical (let alone healthy). Some days I just had to accept that I could not check off my entire task list before bed.

Manage expectations - both yours and the clients.
I got better at this throughout my experience. Referencing my contract helped me to determine if a task was my responsibility and explain to the staff when it wasn't. I received a fixed rate each month, so managing expectations was key to making sure I was working the amount of hours that made sense financially.

Have a clear motive.
Do you care about earning extra money? Challenging yourself? Adding more freelance clients to your portfolio? Before accepting a freelancing gig, make sure you know your motivation for taking on extra work. My motive got me through the late nights and early mornings, so establishing a rationale for your efforts can make all the difference if you find yourself struggling during your commitment.

My list is short, but as I continue to take on new projects and learn balance I know it will grow. I've found that I prefer time-intensive projects during the winter, when I'm less likely to feel like I've lost an evening to a glowing computer screen.

Have you ever freelanced while working full-time? What helped you manage the workload?

April 8, 2015

10 Things to Prioritize in Your 20s

For roughly the past week or so, M and I were busy celebrating birthdays. I started off the celebration by turning 26 and he concluded the birthday week when he turned 31.

Our shuffle toward middle age got me thinking about everything I'm experiencing in my 20s. I love figuring out adulthood, even if I'm not perfect at it. I still struggle with breaking promises to people, choosing sleeping in over working out and wearing TOMs instead of heels to work. But, by combining the things I'm trying to prioritize with M's sage 30-something insights, this manifesto for my 20s came together.

In no particular order, here's what we considered our top ten priorities:

1. Build your integrity.
Understanding your level of integrity starts with honestly answering this question: how do people view you? If your actions don't reflect how you want to be viewed, figure out what you need to change. Work on being proactive and responsive. Show up for the commitments you make. Or, if you're forced to break a commitment, make sure you let someone know beforehand or follow up immediately afterward.

2. Take your finances seriously.
Because the earlier you start funding your 401(k) or understanding investments, the better off you'll be in the long run. A good book that helped me better understand the basics of finances is The Elements of Investing. I recommend it to anyone interested in going beyond simply a checking and savings account.

3. Enjoy your job/career.
Easier said than done, right? I'm grateful for the job I have, but I didn't always feel happy with where I was or what I was doing. Most people transition so quickly from high school to college to "real life" that I think it's easy to forget to take the time to really think about why we're doing what we're doing. Determine for yourself what inspires you to feel significant and find a way to incorporate it into your work.

4. Take yourself seriously.
I love finding the humor in all situations, so I never imagined that I would prioritize being taken seriously. But, I really believe it's so integral to growing personally and professionally because when you take yourself seriously, others notice and will do the same. Think about the way you dress, the way you act, and the impact and influence you have on others and take the steps to make your actions (and your voice) matter.

5. Be kind to your body.
Cut back on late nights. Drink more water. Find a workout that fits your interests. Reading this article really made me aware of the day-to-day health decisions I make and their long-term impact on my life.

6. Find someone who believes in you.
This can be hard because it goes beyond friendship or romance. Someone who believes in you will see you make big mistakes; but, they'll know that you are more than a summation of your failures. This person will recognize your potential and supports you as you work at embracing it.

7. Take action on what you care about. 
This might mean putting your money towards a cause or finding some other way to make a meaningful impact on your community, city or world. Change doesn't happen when individuals choose to sit back and let others call the shots.

8. Prioritize travel.
Take advantage of this period of your life. Michael and I love exploring new places together and our ability to get up and go is made easier by our lack of kids or big commitments. I don't think travel needs to be limited to expensive trips to far off places  we're always trying to find ways to take more time for short trips around the Midwest. Map out a few destinations within five hours of your location and start there.

9. Be OK with your past mistakes.
If you're not quite to this point, at least try and make amends with them and understand how they shape who you are. Your past mistakes are a part of who you are, and helped to shape your ambitions and mindset.

10. Start learning.
Better yet, never stop learning. Subscribe to The Economist, New Yorker, Atlantic or any kind of publication (or podcast) that will expand your worldview and explore topics you don't yet understand.

March 16, 2015

Smart & Funny: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


This weekend I finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

I started watching it the first weekend it came out then begged Michael to catch up and join me so I could continue to spout the show's inside jokes at him and he would actually understand them. I rewatched a few of the episodes with him and it was worth it; the second time around, I noticed twice as many jokes. Jokes upon jokes upon jokes!

Everyone in Unbreakable is trying to define normal in their own way; from Kimmy recovering from 15 years as a "mole woman" to Titus exploring life as a werewolf, each character is busy looking for the acceptance of their stories and pasts. I think that this theme of "we're all different and all our stories matter" is partially why the show resonated so strongly with me. That and every reference to the 90s.

What to look out for: under-the-surface humor (think rapid-fire cultural references that cover anything from Friends to O.J. Simpson's infamous murder trial) and laugh-out-loud scenes.

My least favorite character: Randy. Bumbling, painfully dumb characters are hard for me to watch.

One of my favorite jokes from the season: Daddy's boy. I hope the writers find a way to bring this back in a future episode.

What are your current favorite shows on Netflix? I'm open to adding suggestions to our queue.

November 20, 2014

Ways to Give Back in St. Louis

This year is flying by  it's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a week away! I'm looking forward to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because those weeks feel particularly special, since they usually involve spending time with family and celebrating with friends.

I'm also working on being more mindful of my consumption habits this year. It's easy to overindulge (on food, spending, or both!) during the holidays, and I hope to be more intentional about the decisions I make by avoiding unnecessary purchases and instead finding ways to support families who are in need. 

Want to join me and give back with your family, book club, or roommates? Here's a few suggestions for gathering loved ones together and making a difference in the St. Louis community:

Sort and box food at the St. Louis Area Food Bank
The St. Louis Area Food Bank always needs help with donations and November through December is a busy time for them. Spend a few hours during the weekend sorting new items or shopping for food they need (you can call to ask about certain items). Children are welcome, too, so bring along a niece or nephew!

Become a birthday buddy for a child in foster care
I've learned a lot about foster care through my work at United Way and I think it is so important to serve the people and children who are a part of this system. The Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis is a great organization that runs a birthday buddy program year-round to help the children they serve receive birthday gifts. It's an impactful program, and any individual or group can participate by choosing a child to sponsor.

Package donated toys and gifts at The Salvation Army
A partner with the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program, The Salvation Army serves as the distribution agency for the St. Louis region. Throughout November and December you can help the organization by donating new toys or sorting donations for distribution. Children under 16 are also welcome but must have adult supervision.

Donate clothes and household items to St. Vincent de Paul
If you don't have the time to volunteer, assessing what you have and what you can donate is another way you can contribute to the community. St. Vincent de Paul accepts gently used furniture, household items and clothing for their thrift stores, which raise money to address unmet needs in the region. Best of all, they offer home pick-up.

Serve the homeless population through St. Patrick’s Center
Winter weather is particularly hard on people who are currently homeless or facing homelessness. St. Patrick's Center provides housing, employment and health opportunities for those in need and creates opportunities for individuals to achieve sustainable independence. If you’re interested in serving our city's homeless population, St. Patrick's Center has many ways you can give back as an individual or with a group.

Adopt a family through 100 Neediest Cases
100 Neediest Cases began in the early 1900s and continues today as a way to give local families a brighter holiday. Through 100 Neediest Cases, thousands of needy families in St. Louis are identified and helped through donations of money and household goods. It's easy to adopt a family, and you can contribute as an individual or with friends.

picture via thinkstock

August 29, 2014

A Much Needed Update

The short version: I'm alive. So is Michael. Our house is livable (unlike what you saw in this post), and I'm listening to Murder in the City by The Avett Brothers on repeat.

The long version: It's been more than four months since I showed up to this space. It's harder for me to show up online during the summerfriends are visiting, the sun is shining and the last thing I want to do with my free time is spend it staring at a glowing screen. I also had so many changes happening in my life and I never thought to record them here. Here's a quick rundown of what's gone down in the last four months:

  • A freelancing job I had for five months ended in May. It was a blessing to have this job on the side, because the income from it played a huge role in offsetting house costs. Believe it when people tell you that spending money on a house doesn't stop once you buy it. The freelancing gig took up a lot of my time, and forced me to work every weeknight evening and on weekends. I loved working with the organization and was grateful for the opportunity, but I definitely do not miss it.
  • I've been busy working on other house projects. Once my freelance gig ended, I was able to fully embrace being a homeowner. Up until this point, I hadn't had any time to work on house projects, let alone clean the place (this didn't bode well with my clutter-hating husband). Met with summer's warm weather and excited about having my evenings and weekends back, I threw myself into cleaning our house and tackling the mess of weeds that is our yard.
  • I quit my job to start a new one! This happened in June, and was a turning point for me. Although I grew professionally while working at the creative agency, it was time for me to make a change for my career. I was contacted by United Way of Greater St. Louis to interview for a newly-created position in their marketing department and was offered the position a few weeks later. The job change was exciting for Michael and I in many ways, and I'm happy to be involved in the nonprofit community in St. Louis once again.

I put a lot of ideas for this space on the backburner during my break, but I can't wait to jump in with posts on freelancing, house updates, living conscientiously and AirBnB. I hope you'll join me!