A Little Bit of Crazy

I know that I haven’t talked about it a whole lot, especially here, but my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer has done a number on my mental health. Not that I have gone insane, I just happen to be plagued with some crazy thoughts.

Basically it’s like this, I can’t stop thinking about cancer. And not just my mom’s – I keep wondering if I have cancer too. Every little thing: I have a headache, my first thought is I have a brain tumor. Or I find a strange bump and I am asking my husband if he thinks I should go to the doctor. Or the fact that I bruise easily – well that must mean I have bone cancer, but in the rational part of my brain, I know that I have always bruised easily. Worse yet, I keep thinking not only that I have cancer, but I run through different scenarios, I wonder how it would feel to have cancer, how it would feel to have a doctor say those words to me. Ahhh – it’s making me feel crazy (and probably sound crazy too). Poor Jason, he just listens, basically says you’re being a little dramatic and waits until I come up with the next cancer possibility.

But this has gotten me thinking, do all kids of parents that have cancer go through this same thought process? And does it ever end? Will I ever wake up one day and not think about cancer or imagine that this will be the day that I discover I have cancer?

A few days ago I actually found a swollen lymph node in my neck. Literally, I haven’t slept for three nights because I am convinced that this time it really is cancer. So today I went to the doctor. He did help ease my worry by basically saying that somewhere in the last week I was exposed to some sort of virus or bacteria and this was my body’s way of preventing me from getting sick. He assured me that my lymph nodes are doing their job and I have nothing to worry about unless it doesn’t go away in four to six weeks. Then I am to go back and have some tests. But in all reality he said I am 100 percent fine and healthy.

Well, these thoughts have been driving me nuts, so I told him about my mom’s recent diagnosis and about my dad’s history with lymphoma. He chuckled and said that people – anyone that knows someone that has been diagnosed with something traumatic starts thinking about it themselves. He said it is especially bad when it is a family member – especially a parent, because we assume that we will get it just like them. He went over the typical facts, yes I have a higher risk, yes I should start getting mammograms earlier than most people, and he generally went over everything I have already been told. He also told me to relax, try not to jump to all these conclusions and for a piece of mind and to help myself in the long run to try to live as healthy as I can. Meaning a healthy diet, regular exercise, eliminate stress, plenty of sleep, plenty of water, the works. He thinks that if I start focusing on my health now, it may take my mind off of the worst possible scenarios.

I think this is excellent advice. I have already eliminated some stress by leaving my job, I am sleeping better than I have in years (minus the last few nights), so now I need to focus on my diet and exercise. I have always tried to be pretty healthy, I walk the dogs daily, I try to eat well and drink lots of water, but I think I am going to start stepping it up. I am going to try (and it pains me to say it) eliminating some of the caffeine I drink (goodbye by my beloved Red Bull!), red meat, processed foods and start lathering on the sunscreen when I go outside (I’m bad about it because I never burn). I’m going to start focusing on eating organically while hitting the gym on a regular basis versus my monthly visit. I am also going to start researching specific eating habits that can help prevent cancer.

I’ve never had a stellar willpower, but hopefully these crazy thoughts ease up, and hopefully I can make significant changes to my health. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

Pool Time!

Let’s just say that today was not my most productive day! I broke down and went to the pool with one of my friends, and I have to say it was worth every minute of it. If I am to be completely honest, I haven’t been all that productive this week, or meeting my goals at all since I went part time from my job.

Part of me thinks that I am sort of taking it easy on purpose until I am done working part time, plus I have some things going on in my personal life that I have been very busy with. But, the truth is, I only have two more weeks of steady part time income and then I really need to turn things up a notch. Not to mention that one of my very reliable writing projects is over after this week and I have yet to find a client to replace it with. So I need to get myself together and step it up soon!

But back to the pool, when it is 92 degrees outside, well, the pool is hard to say no to. Just floating in the water having girl talk with my friend, well it was pretty close to perfect. The only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been a nice frozen adult beverage! Plus I may have even gotten a little bit of color! Part of the reason I like the freelance writing lifestyle is because, every once in a while I can do things like go to the pool on a random Wednesday. So now that I am all relaxed, I am ready to fit in a few hours of writing before my husband gets home. Later gators!

Oh yeah before I forgot, obviously, I’ve been messing around with a new look for this blog – something that reflects my personality more. It’s not there yet, so don’t be surprised if there are more changes.

Reflections

Yesterday was my birthday and I am feeling reflective about the past year. On the cover this year appears to have been quite ordinary, but on closer inspection, this year has been a type of turning point for me.

For starters, at some point this year, I woke up and realized that well, I hated where my career was going and I needed to start pursuing something I actually cared about. In realizing that, came the realization that I was unhappy in other areas of my life as well. I was turning into an uptight, emotionally vacant, unadventurous, uninspired person.

Then my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer, yep the C word, and everything just suddenly became clear. I had already decided to quit my job and ironically enough was doing just that as my mom was at the doctor getting that awful diagnosis. I was the first person called and I left my meeting to be with her. For the last month I have witnessed Cancer from the diagnosis, to the surgery, to the radiation with the possibility of chemo, to the emotional upheaval. I am happy to report that my mom is doing better, this is not a death sentence and the odds are good that she won’t even need chemo.

But what came out of this year for me is the simple recognition that life is too short. I realized that I am only here on this earth for a limited time – it could end anytime from anything and what have I been most proud of? Well, actually nothing up until now.

The thing is I have always had a plan. I always knew where I was going and how I was going to get there. But maybe that is not the best way for me. I think I may have missed some things by staying on track, and now I want to stop and see things, explore things and really live in the moment.

This blog started out detailing my journey from “rat racer” to freelance writer, but I am learning there is so much more to it than that. This is my journey to find myself. Leaving my full time job to be a freelance writer was just the beginning.

Since quitting my job, and I have actually quit (my last day is July 10th), the whole world has just seemed to open up. There is so much possibility, and so much I want to do, try, and experience. It’s hard sometimes to even know where to start. I know I must continue to make a living, but I also know now that I must make the most out of every moment and really focus on living life.

I have high hopes for this next year of my life, anything and everything is possible. I hope to detail my next year here on this blog, and I hope to inspire others to live their life to the fullest too.

The Freelancing Lifestyle

I am feeling very grateful that I made up my mind to leave my job and pursue freelance writing on a full time basis. I am still working part time to train my replacement, but a few more weeks and I will be done for good. So while the steady money is nice, I much prefer my time at home working on my projects, for my clients. Here are my five favorite things so far:

1) I actually have a weekend now! This weekend was the first weekend in a long time where I didn’t think about work – not once and I have to say it was a very nice weekend. Mostly I spent time with family and friends. My husband and I went to a music/arts festival and then stopped and had dinner with my grandpa. Then we went out with friends for a birthday, and we finished off the weekend with a baseball game.

2) The stress is disappearing. Since leaving my job, (well, mostly) I have felt the stress just melt away. It’s like, all of a sudden, I am moving at a clam pace and I am actually able to live in the moment. I can concentrate on what I am doing and not be thinking about 101 things while trying to do something else. When I feel myself start to rush through something, I  remind myself to slow down, there is no rush. I’ll get done what I get done. I really think life is supposed to be lived at a slower pace. I mean, what was the point of all that rushing around anyway? It’s not like it really got me  that far, I think I can get much further at my own pace on my own terms.

3) I can actually sleep. For most of my adult life, I thought I suffered from insomnia. I literally can’t remember the last time I got a full eight hours of sleep. That too must have been stress related because now I sleep almost eight hours a night – and its good sleep, not restless sleep. It’s just amazing how much better I feel with a full night’s sleep. I really have no idea how I functioned on four or five hours of sleep before.

4) I’m have the opportunity to learn about things that actually interest me. I know that sounds weird, but before I just worked, period, that’s pretty much it. Now I can actually read up on things that interest me, and sometimes if I’m lucky I can get paid to write about them. I feel like daily I am coming across more that interests me that I want to learn more about.

5) Finally, I actually like it to be quiet and to be by myself all day. I’m not non-social, quite the opposite, but I value time alone and I really enjoy the house to myself all day. I know that a lot of freelancers have a hard time with that, but I really don’t mind it.

I feel like the world is just open now and anything is possible. It’s a very liberating feeling, and I love to think of all the possibilities! The bottom line is I think I am designed for the freelancing lifestyle – I just hope I can make it work financially!

Contracts

Up until now, I have done mostly online writing and some clients I have signed a contract with, where others I haven’t. It depends on what they have required, but the other day I met with a potential client in person. The meeting went great and I did end up landing the job, but it left me thinking about contracts. Are they necessary? If I didn’t have a contract, they weren’t going to provide one, so it was up to me if I wanted the details of our agreement in writing.

After much deliberation, I decided to write one up and send it to my client. What I created was very basic, but I think it helped re-iterate the project we discussed, the timeline, the price and the payment schedule.

This process made me realize that I need to get in the habit of using a contract for my services. For one thing, it is more of a guarantee that I will get paid. Not that I was worried about that with this particular client – I knew them personally, but in the future I may not know every client I work with at the beginning and a contract will help set the expectations of the agreement. I also think that it demonstrates to my clients that I am a business and I am to be taken seriously, I think a contract shows a certain level of professionalism.

The most intimidating thing about actually making the contract was writing it. I know that sounds funny coming from a writer, but I wasn’t sure what to include, what terminology to use and so forth. In the end, I decided to keep it simple and stick with the basic details of the verbal agreement we made. I wasn’t too nervous about sending it to my client, because I knew they would appreciate it and possibly give me feedback, so sent it off and you know what, it was signed and sent back to me the same day.

My contract is a work in progress, I’m sure over time I will add to it and change it to be more official, but I am glad I finally created one. I think it is good practice for every freelancer to use a contract.

Do you use a contract for your clients?

Rates – Let’s Talk Money

MoneyApparently the event planning world in Ohio is a very small world indeed. Since making it known that I was leaving my job, I have gotten call after call from fellow event planners, colleagues and my general network. There are rumors flying around that I have been (gasp!) laid off or worse, fired (yeah right – they begged me to stay). Everyone wants to know what I will be doing and why I decided to leave. Once they find out the real story the next question is: What are your rates?

Now I was expecting some rumble about my decision, but I was not expecting this. People actually want to meet with me, give me advice and most importantly they want to hire me. So now I am left with setting my rates, and fast. I already have several meetings set up next week for potential projects. Ah! I thought this would take a while. But work is work and I want to take advantage of this buzz while I can.

So all day, instead of doing actual paid work, I have been researching rates. There is a lot of contradictory information out there on what to charge. Some people charge by the type of work, while others charge a flat rate per hour. I have decided to go with a flat rate per hour. I think it will make it easier for me come tax time and easier for my clients to understand.

So this is what I have decided to base my rates on:

• What I was making as my salary, broken down into an hourly rate for 50 weeks a year (factoring in 2 weeks of vacation).
• My estimated expenses such as, my taxes, my benefits, equipment, location, etc.
• What other people are charging for similar services.
• A price range of pure profit that I would like to make.
• The fact that most freelancers only work 23 billable hours a week – the rest is spent marketing, bookkeeping and the general duties of running a business.

That gave me my base rate. Next, I put it into an equation to see what my estimated yearly income would be. Here is the equation I used to get my estimated yearly income:

(Billable hours a week) (my hourly rate) (50 working weeks a year) = yearly income

Wow! I can only hope to make that much! Which means I must start asking for these rates and pushing my skills and services! What do you do to figure out your rates? Do you charge per hour, or per project?

Time is Money

Today I worked my first official day as a freelance writer, and I have to admit, I felt a little lost. Not that it wasn’t blissful to sleep a little later and not have to get dressed up to go to work, but I still felt a little out of sorts. There are just so many things I want to do, I don’t really know where to start. Plus I feel very torn between writing $15 articles for Demand Studios and actually putting together a website or searching for jobs. Time is money and a website and job searching don’t have the immediate pay off. I do realize the pay off in the long run will be well worth it and I need to make time for those things, it’s just hard. What can I say? I’m an instant gratification type of girl.

My day started out good, I was ready for the day at 9am. But when I actually sat down to work, I remembered that I wanted to start the laundry, then I remembered that I had been meaning to water the plants and so went my list of housework. By the time I actually got back to my computer it was 10:30.

Needless to say, I didn’t get nearly as much done today as I had envisioned. So now I have a plan. Today when I finished writing for the day, I made a task list for the rest of the week. This is nothing new to me. I have always done this in my previously full time job, it makes sense to try it with my freelancing to. Freelance writing is now my full time job, I’m going to have to be more diligent about staying focused.

I think it is going to be an interesting transition for me. I am so use to a strict schedule and perfectly laid out tasks. It will really take some getting used to, being on my own with no one to talk to but the dogs. I’m sure I will find ways to make it work and stay on track, but my first day wasn’t as productive as I had hoped. Tomorrow I am off to work my one of two days at my old job for the week. But watch out Wednesday – time is money and I am ready to buckle down and get to work.