I had a dinner with my grandparents a couple of days ago. Besides a lovely meal and lots of wine they also asked me about my plans for the future. They wanted to know where I was working and if I was planning on staying there. They wanted to make sure I was paying all my insurances and saved money for my pension. And they asked me what kind of career I wanted to strive for and what I expected from my life.
Since I became a freelancer three months ago one question kept me busy more than others. I love to work and I love my flexibility, but WHERE is the ideal spot to be productive?
I have tried many different locations and work patterns. This is what I experienced the past couple of months. What worked for me and what did not.
The home office
Being single and living by myself, the “home office” was my first go-to place to get my freelance work done. The first couple of days and weeks were great! I felt independent. Oh yes, one does not even have to get dressed and can stay in his or her pajamas throughout the whole day. Can it get any better? However, soon enough I realized that my whole life is taking place in the exact same spot. I got up from bed, moved to the kitchen for breakfast, then migrated back to my bedroom where my desk is located and then I sat on my desk for the rest of the day with long breaks for lunch and dinner. At night I would do the same migration backwards moving back from my desk into bed. Sometimes I would work from my couch which made me feel a bit too comfortable. And somehow my “research” then tended to end up somewhere on youtube with cute cats playing the piano.
Indeed, there are many distractions at home and one has to be super disciplined to keep up good productive work for a longer period of time.
The home office is really nice every once in a while, but does not serve as a permanent office solution in my opinion. This may be different if you have a separate office room where you do your work. However, in a one-bedroom apartment working from home becomes very isolating and unproductive.
And that´s why my next step was to move to ….
After feeling isolated, unproductive and lonely in my “home office” I decided to move to the café down the street. I thought at least there are people and that might put a bit of pressure on me to actually get work done. And sitting in a café requires getting dressed in the morning, which I thought could make for a nice change.
Working in the cafe was lovely. I was glad to see new people around me. I even had some interesting conversation with other freelancers while fighting over the only power outlet in the place. I met a couple of fiction writers and made friends with the waiters. Working in the café, I was more productive than at home.
Nevertheless, the situation was not ideal. Having to order drinks and food all the time felt like a “must” and was not easy on my wallet. And not ordering stuff, I felt bad for using up the space in the café.
The internet connection constantly broke down which was the case in many different public cafés and spaces where several people are using the same WIFI connection. This can be really disturbing – especially to people like me who have to rely on the internet to get their work done.
Cafés can get pretty noisy and screaming kids, coffee making sounds mixed with the constant smell of food and “lounge music” sometimes don´t do the trick of working more focussed.
And so I had to look for another options, and found…
Berlin offers a big variety of co-working spaces. Co-working spaces are like office buildings for start-ups, freelancers and anyone who wants a desk in a professional setting. One can rent a desk for a fixed amount of money per month and use his/ her desk just like in a regular office. The Co-working space takes care of the facilities and makes sure things like a functional internet connection, plenty of outlets, etc. are given. Many co-working spaces in Berlin also have cute modern common areas where you can meet other entrepreneurs and have interesting conversations.
I worked my first day in a co-working space this week. I did not rent a desk, but smuggled myself into the common area where I used the internet and the more office-like vibe to get my work done. I was sitting in a café like environment with the only difference being that the place was dedicated to these laptop-staring-people.
The setting felt more professional than a regular café and more productive than my “home office”. I talked to some people who work there on a regular basis and they told me they liked working there a lot. Sometimes they say, meeting new people can get out of hand and all you want is to be alone and get your work done. Renting desks can be kind of expensive… depending on what you do for a living. But renting a desk is definitely a commitment and a constant cost in the oh so small freelance budget.
I have not found the perfect place to work yet. But having discovered the different options makes me more flexible to chose the location depending on the day. Some days I just want to be by myself and on other days I think some input from others could be great. Depending on how I feel I then move in between the different locations.
Let me know how you organize your freelance lifestyle. Do you have any questions you would like me to answer? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you know that person? The old grandma sitting on the train.
She looks graceful, peaceful and simply full of love.
And she has that smile on her face – a smile that lets you know SHE knows the truth.
In the personal development workshop I attended during the past 4 days, I wrote some notes. A very short diary so to say. While sitting on the train, I wrote comments about my day into my workbook and I would like to share them with you today.
I feel VERY unsettled, annoyed, unsatisfied and impatient about the goal of this workshop. They ask us to share and to open up. And when we do they just continue with the workshop. I want answers to my questions and reactions to my sharings. Why can´t you just answer? I can definitely feel some inner resistance about all this stuff. Very sceptical.
When did I decide to think my thoughts? Well, good question! I don´t think I actually did. Nobody asked me if I wanted to think about random people´s muffintops or my teacher´s way to pronounce english words. Mh, I wonder which possibilities can open up for me when giving myself the opportunity to make the decision to believe in my mind or not.
Maybe I am being brainwashed? Well, maybe. But actually I prefer being brainwashed into believing my dreams can become reality rather than allowing my “reality” to tell me the opposite. I start believing I can create who I want to be. So yes, a new possibility opened up for me today.
Maybe I can be the smiling grandma on the train.
I´ve always wanted to be her.
Saturday afternoon. It was a long day. The four-days seminar I am currently taking requires my full attention – 12 hours per day. This will be a rather philosophical post.
Today, we did a role-playing excercise that really brought me to my limits. The task was to literally move a person out of a room by the power of your voice. Meaning: screaming and shouting from the bottom of your soul to create such rage and anger that the person has no other choice than to leave.
Well, I nearly pooped my pants just by the trainer explaining what we should do. After all, I consider myself a pretty balanced and peaceful person. I could not imagine myself screaming at someone like a berserk for no valid reason. And by the time we got started with the excercise and I heard other people scream and felt their anger, tears were running down my face.
Eventually it was my turn and I gave it all I had. I screamed louder and louder and at some point I did not recognize my own voice anymore. It was not pretty. My face turned purple, my eyes nearly popped out, BUT I survived. Not sure if I can say the same thing about my vocal chords, though.
What´s more important – it felt good. Not because there was so much anger stuck inside of me. But just because I did something I would, under normal circumstances, never do. I went out of my comfort zone and tapped into what could become possible if I just decide to do it and stick with my decision.
After the screaming part was over, we all sat down in a circle and closed our eyes. The instructor told us to now picture our greatest passion and take a couple of deep breaths.
That was when it really hit me and I had one of these “AHA”-moments. The first thing, the very first image that came to my mind when closing my eyes and thinking of my biggest passion was: *drumroll* … TRAVELLING!
What? How can that be? After clearing up all the clutter from my mind, all the unnecessary thoughts and the “noise” in my head – what´s left is travelling? Up until today I thought my urge to travel was some kind of instinct to get away from “reality”, or not having to deal with finding out what I truly want to do. I thought it was something my mind made up for me not having to see the “truth”. But what IF actually this is my truth?
What if my little dream is not at all as stupid as it seemed?
Tuesday morning! I have been telling you about the interview I´ve conducted about 2 posts ago.
It is published now. Check it out here.
It´s about a very inspiring woman named Anreea Tavitian who started her own fashion brand.
Text and photographs by me.
Friday afternoon. Satisfaction has settled in. Today was the first time I interviewed someone for a big fat blogpost. I have been interviewed a couple of times before and believe I have also interviewed someone back in highschool for something… maybe the school paper?
Today was different. It meant something to me. I really wanted to get this straight. And the task seemed simple. I would meet with this designer girl – a female entrepreneur – and talk with her about her company. Then I would take some portraits of her in her office and give her a high five – or a hug. I ended up doing both. High-five followed by a hug. I am making this a ting. The high-five-hug-combination.
I was perfectly on time and the girl welcomed me with a warm cup of coffee which was much appreciated given the current Berlin nastyness (talking about the weather). She seemed nervous. I think it was the first time for both of us. But we did not talk much about it. We knew what we came there to do. So we prepared everything and jumped right into it.
I prepared her a bit talking about what I was planning on doing: Recording the interview, take portraits, publish it on a blog on http://www.wefound.org, maximal time frame 1 hour. She nodded.
The interview went smooth. The questions (I had some prepared but wanted to have an organic conversation) came quite easily and she talked about her experiences super open. And what had started a bit awkward ended quite elegantly with a short portrait shooting. Nice!
To finally get to the title of my blogpost: I felt REALLY good on my way home. The experience really brought me to a state of excitement and fun. As soon as I was home I transcribed the recording and wrapped the text up. Then I edited the pictures and everything was over way faster than I would have predicted.
Now I am left with the feeling of accomplishment. Awesome! That´s what happens when you do something you love. 🙂
Thursday afternoon. I just came back from the hairdresser where I had the sobering realization that cheap indeed means cheap sometimes.
What do I mean with that? Well, the task looked simple. I needed a haircut. Nothing easier than that! Let´s get a haircut. That´s at least what I thought. But during the process I found out that getting my hair cut was the smallest part of what I expected to get.
Here is the full story:
I went to a cheap place arount the corner from the subway station. Why? Because it´s cheap and it looked OK and seemed rather convenient. What I missed in that equation was the small little fact that I did not really get what I needed.
First off I had to get a number from a machine and wait until it was my turn. A number from a machine! Then I was told to walk over to the sinks to wash my hair. A girl came and washed my hair. She did not introduce herself. So I got up from my chair, shook her hand and asked for her name. She looked surprised. Then she told me to walk over to the cutting station. There another guy came and prepared his equipment. He did not introduce himself nor did he ask me how I wanted my hair cut. So I asked him what he would like to do with my hair. He looked confused and asked me what kind of hair I have. Ehm… isn´t that your job to find out and look at it? Imagine the rest.
It became very clear to me that what I wanted was much more than a simple haircut. I wanted the full experience. The cappucchino, the kiss kiss from the cute little hairdresser, a nice magazine, smalltalk, a head massage, an assistent who takes my jacket and all those “add ons”. And yes – I am willing to pay for it!
Having this very boring experience did not uplift my spirit. The people did not have fun doing their jobs. The hairdresser incident is just one of many situations where I thought: “Wow, you could do so much better.”
I once went into a vegan cupcake store. I saw the sign “vegan cupcakes”, walked into the store and straight up to the guy at the counter. The place looked amazing and I wanted to hear more about the concept of the company and the story behind this cool idea. So I asked the guy: “Beautiful shop you have here. Tell me more about the company. What´s your story?” And the guy replied: “What do you mean? We sell vegan cupcakes.”
Sad story. Sobering experience. That´s not what I came here to buy. A silly cupcake. I want the inspiration, the passion and the “add ons”.
I strongly believe this is true for every business. What is it you really sell?
If you get clear on your vision and your core values and you manage to communicate this to your clients you can give them the whole experience. And your clients will be happy to pay for it.
Thursday. Did you know I love to write? From now on I will get more chances to write professionally. I am collaborating with the twago blog. Twago is a platform where freelancers can find projects and where companies can find freelancers for their projects.
I signed up on twago a couple of weeks ago. And now the twago and freelance community will get to follow my freelance experience once per month on the twago blog.
Here is my first post:
Monday. It´s all about priorities. I am repeating the same task over and over again and hope some day it will stick.
I keep on asking myself the same questions:
Is it what I really want?
Does it serve me and the vision of my life?
By answering these questions I am able to filter out all the distractions from my life. It allows me to let people, situations, fights and many other things go without ever looking back. I am practicing to ask these questions as often as possible. And from my experience there is always a clear answer inside of myself. My inner voice – what most people would call intuition or gut feeling – gets stronger every day. All I have to do is to listen.
I would like to give you two examples of things that don´t serve me.
Sleeping in. I know sleeping into days can be tempting. Pressing the “Snooze” button on my alarm sometimes happens without me even noticing. And suddenly it´s 10 or even 12 at noon! Sure, sleeping in and being lazy is lovely sometimes. But mostly it makes me feel like I wasted half a day. And usually when I slept until noon it gets really hard for me to get going and to have a productive day. I guess I am somewhat of a morning person. Thus, I realized there is no point in it for me. Sleeping in is cancelled – for the most part.
Getting drunk. Yes, everybody who was there at my birthday party last weekend will think “oh yes, now she has one of these *i´ll never drink again* moments”… And yeah, I have to admit. I was very drunk. And it was a lot of fun. However, I generally dislike getting drunk. It´s not only the evening that usually ends strangely. It´s also the next two days that feel unproductive and like hangover hell. The reason for not liking drunky-leska is similar to sleepin in. I feel like I am missing out on a lot of fun stuff I could be doing the following days. AND I can feel the poison in my body. Why would I do this to myself? Getting drunk – cancelled – (for the most part).
Now you might think: OMG, being focused sounds like a lot of work. And not like FUN. I don´t even feel like I am giving up on anything because the gain outweighs the couple of hours of sleep and glasses of wine by the thousand!
Tuesday evening. I am surrounded by spooky gloomyness of the approaching winter. These fall days are treating me with warm temperatures while the trees are loosing their leaves and the ground is moist. In the mornings the city is captured by thick fog that slowly vaporizes over the day.
I live on a cemetery.
From my window I can directly see onto the graves and at night my apartment gets the candle light from our gone beloved ones. I don´t mind living here. It has something special.
We have a school project for photography school where we are supposed to fill a roll of black and white analogue film with self portraits. The task is to make the portaits something special. Well, what could be more special than a girl in gloomy weather on a graveyard? Oh I know – A Germany girl wearing her traditional dress, rubber boots and a knife on a graveyard.
So I went outside with my tripod, digital camera, analogue camera and my “accessories”. I find taking pictures analogue is MUCH harder than digitally. I am checking the light, selecting the right frame, make sure I am actually in focus and in the frame and then finally press the shutter. I can never really know if I´ve done anything right until the film is developed. Oh, good old times! So to be a bit more sure about what I am doing I am always test-shooting the frames beforehand with my digital camera. This allows me to be more sure of my settings and then I “simply” transfer everything to the film camera.
Imagine me, in my German dirndl, and rubber boots constantly running back and forth between my position in the frame and my tripod checking the frames, settings and repeatedly pressing the timer. I am so focused on my task that I don´t even notice the high nettles in the grass that are brushing my bare calves every time I run back and forth between my two positions. My skin itches and burns and reacts with redness.
The light eventually fades and I don´t have another choice but to go back home. Tired from the intense shoot I go back. When I try to open the door I realize I forgot to bring my keys. And here I am. Locked out of my apartment.
Since I am able to write this blog post I probably managed to get back in 😉