Spill It: Are You Working Through the Long Weekend?

Michael and I were supposed to travel up to Vermont this weekend for an incredible Labor Day Food, Wine, & Rejuvenation retreat. There were going to be daily fitness classes. Kayaking. A field trip to the Green Mountain Sugar Shack. Hot tubbing. A fire pit. A folk and blues festival. Food and wine pairings. Lots of other things. OH MY GOD IT WAS GOING TO BE INCREDIBLE.

Then, Hurricane Irene happened, and Vermont was hit pretty damn hard. The retreat, understandably, was canceled.

My yoga instructor told me I have to find a fun replacement for those canceled plans.

But here’s the thing.

Most of the time, I’d rather be working than doing anything else. [Read more…]

Need New Material? Try Living Your Life

About two and a half years ago, I blogged about feeling limited by the sex writing niche I’d found myself in. Since then, I’ve been an editor at a web magazine featuring content on love and sex, I’ve had my own sex column, I’ve co-written an ebook with Ian Kerner on spicing up your sex life, I’ve been interviewed as an expert on vibrators, and more. When all is said and done, I suppose the sex writing thing has been good to me.

Still, it’s tough to continue getting mileage out of that first sex party I attended five years ago, or that one time I posed nude for a portraitist. Plus, even sex gets boring!

Which is why, in this month’s edition of Word Nerd News, I urged readers to get the hell out of the house and live a little.

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Why It Took Me Four Years To Become A Freelance Hard-Ass

My new dress code. ... Okay. Not really. I'm wearing a sundress sans bra right now.

It can be tough to be tough with clients when you’re first starting out as a freelancer.

After all, you’re new to all of this: the self-promotion… the self-discipline… the hustle… the rates-setting. You’re unsure of yourself: unsure of what you’re worth… whether or not you’ll fail or succeed… whether or not you have what it takes.

Because of all this, you end up saying yes to every damn project, out of both desperation and fear. You end up lowballing yourself when setting rates. You end up working nights and weekends, with nothing to show for it.

After three years, I still had nothing to show for it.

Don’t get me wrong. After three years, the work was coming to me. My professional network was vast. My portfolio and resume looked a thousand times better than they once did.

But I was still struggling to pay the bills, and my work/life balance was seriously out of whack.

It took me four years to finally become a freelance hard-ass. What finally clicked?

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Spill It: Do You Work When On Vacation?

I am at this very moment squeezed into a Prius with my husband, my brother, and my parents, hurtling toward my cousin’s wedding in South Carolina. Wheee!

We left early yesterday morning, spent the night in a cheap hotel, and will finally reach our destination later today. I’ll be returning either late Sunday or midday Monday. Obviously, I am freaking the eff out about my to-do list.

I would typically lug my laptop along with me. I even got work done on my honeymoon, for god’s sakes! But I’m trying something new this time. It’s called: not working when you’re not at work. It is hard.

Of course, I’ll be able to check my email on my phone but, beyond that, I’m trying to control myself. We’ll see if I have a nervous breakdown.

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5 Ways To Harness Your Introvert Power as an Entrepreneur

I don’t want to presume too much about you, dear readers, but I’ve noticed a pattern among the fellow freelancers/entrepreneurs I’ve had the pleasure of engaging with over the past few years:

Much like me, the majority of them are introverts.

It makes perfect sense.

Instead of feeling the pressure to perform at business meetings, freelancers can allow themselves the time to absorb communications from clients, mull things over, and then respond. Instead of feeling guilty for turning down lunch invites — worried that others will think them a weirdo or a snob — freelancers can spend lunch hours with their cats, scheduling social outings only when they feel up to them. And instead of working the typical 9 to 5, feeling obligated to stick to corporate work hours despite feeling burnt out, freelancers have the ability to work at their own pace, scheduling in book breaks, walks, or yoga as a means of recharging. It’s no wonder that introverts everywhere are flocking to freelancedom and entrepreneurship.

What’s sad is that many introverts still feel the need to apologize for their introversion. In Introvert Power, Laurie Helgoe writes that many introverts “… see extroversion as a bar that he or she can never quite reach.” I know the feeling. I’ve long cursed my tendencies toward introversion and social anxiety, and I admire those who can work a room like nobody’s business… and have a blast doing so. The thing is, being an introvert has its own benefits.

Introvert Power wasn’t written for freelancers or entrepreneurs, and it wasn’t written for writers. I recommend it anyway, because I found to be very affirming. That and I found that its lessons can easily be applied to the freelance life. How?

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Permalancing: The Good, The Bad, And The Mildly Horrific

The other month, fellow freelancer Stacy Lipson interviewed me for a story on permalancing in The Fiscal Times.* An interesting piece, to be sure, but I felt a bit put off by the fact that the Times portrayed permalancers as disposable victim-types.

Because, in my opinion, it goes both ways.

I’ve had several permalance-style gigs in the past four years. All of them were pursued as a means to an end. Most of them were taken on because I wanted some sort of financial safety net while still having the time to pursue the projects that mattered most to me. None of them were meant to be permanent.

I suppose you could say that I was taking advantage of them.

Still, Stacy’s right. A permalance situation is far from perfect. Which is why I think it’s about time I touch upon the good, the bad, and the mildly horrific when it comes to permalancing.

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Do You Love Your Work More Than You Love… Love?

A typical evening in the Auteri household.

Shortly after getting married, I started seeing my husband a lot less.

No, he wasn’t having an affair.

I was.

With my work.

First, I started working nights at the New York Sun. I headed over there after finishing my day at Routledge, an academic book publisher where I was working full-time. Then, after securing additional hours at the New York Sun and getting onto my husband’s health insurance, I left Routledge, only to start an editorial internship at Nerve. I was exhausted, but I was also excited: I was finally pursuing the full-time freelance lifestyle I had wanted for so long, and I was hoping that the time I put in at Nerve would open even more doors for me.

My husband? Well… we barely saw each other. He was already gone by the time I woke up in the morning, and already asleep when I finally arrived home from NYC.

I was unhappy with the state of our relationship, but what could I do? It was my own damn fault. And within six months, I was able to match the salary I had previously been making in book publishing, and had also broken into a number of dream publications, including Nerve and Time Out New York.

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Clients Not Respecting Your Time? Sorry. That’s Your Fault

couple arguing over overtime

A dramatic reenactment of my marriage, by a woman way cuter than me, and a man not nearly as cute as my husband.

My husband and I are incredibly different people. I’m an antisocial introvert; he’s a social butterfly. I love fresh eggplant and tomatoes; he loves Slim Jims and energy drinks. I love cheesy dance music; he loves slacker rock. One thing we do have in common? We’re both ambitious workaholics.

What this means is that we often put our work before our relationship, and that’s a dangerous thing. I’m always working through the weekend, loath to do dinner with his family or go on day-long outings. I have a neverending to-do list, and leaving work behind for an exercise class or friendly happy hour makes me anxious. I also hate low-key, “relaxing” vacations. If I’m not doing something action-packed or hands-on, I’d rather be spending my time being productive.

Michael, meanwhile, is one of those insufferably rude smartphone addicts. He checks his e-mail and answers texts and phone calls when we’re out to dinner together… when we’re watching TV together… when we have company over. He lets both his employer and his clients walk all over him, responding to messages immediately, and working in his off hours (without additional pay). One time, while on a weekend trip in celebration of our three-year anniversary, he popped open his laptop and started doing some work for his full-time employer. Despite the fact that he had taken a vacation day. Despite the fact that he was supposed to be celebrating with me. I was livid.

Because — while I do find it difficult to step away — I force myself to do it way more than he does, for the sake of our relationship, and for the sake of my sanity. I don’t want to be perpetually connected. I don’t want to be held captive by my clients’ every whim (though I do all that I can to take care of them during my working hours). I want a healthy work/life balance, and I want my family to come first.

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Career Stalled? What You’re Doing Wrong

Ever feel… stuck? Wheels spinning? Frustrated because you were desperate to move forward in your career, but were too busy trying to bring in the bucks?

Yeah. That does sound familiar.

Last week, I was feeling overwhelmed by everything on my plate, so I drew up a to-do list on GQueues. Later on, my pal Nicole came over to talk shop. She wanted to pick my brain about products blogging, online shopping, and what different brands are doing right. (Obviously, she came to me because I used to be a products blogger… and because I’m also the poster child for shopping problems.) After plying me with a massive bottle of Chianti, and taking notes, she took a look at my to-do list and determined that it was all wrong.

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Why Write? It Could Save Your Marriage

About a year ago, in the midst of the FLX query challenge and looking to branch out into new markets, I pitched Inside Jersey with an idea for a north Jersey wine tour. Basically, I thought it would be nifty to show how you could still enjoy tastings and wine culture in an area without wineries, via wine bars, shop tastings, etc.

The EIC thought it was a nifty idea, but then was all: how about you include wineries, and do The Ultimate NJ Wine Tour? And because it included the word “ultimate,” I got way excited and proceeded to visit all 33 NJ wineries registered through the NJ Wine Growers’ Association, in addition to wine shops, restaurants, bars, etc. My husband and I even took part in a wine making class (we bottle our Cabernet in September!).

We did it all in three, frenetic months, and I handed in my finished piece at the end of 2009. Finally, a full year after I first pitched it, it’s in print (go to page 66).

[Read more…]