My Working Reality - Guest blog by Joseph P.

I've known this week's guest blogger for more than 15 years when we met on a college exchange program in France. He was our own private comedian and an artist in his own right, even then. It is no surprise that he has pursued and perfected an art and made it his own business. Working at home as your own boss can have even greater pressures than working at home and having a remote boss. As I told him, Joe's depiction of his work-at-home experience is worthy of a publication such as The New Yorker. I won the lottery in guest bloggers! Enjoy!

Entrpreneurial Home Officer/SINK
Years ago, I used to dream of working for myself at home. And I imagined that if I ever had the opportunity, my schedule would be like this:

6:00AM Cartoon bluebirds, singing softly, fly in the bedroom window, pick up edges of duvet with their tiny little beaks and gently pull it back. Stretch dreamily. Sigh and open eyes. Pat dog on head.

6:15AM Enjoy freshly-brewed Turkish coffee and take the dog outside for a short walk, greeting people on the street. Dash over to patisserie across the street and select a steaming hot croissant. Discuss weather with baker.

6:30AM Nice, long, hot shower. Slip on some khaki shorts and a clean golf shirt. Bluebird hands you new cologne you purchased the day before. Mist a little on. Admire yourself in mirror. Realize you've lost about five pounds.

6:45AM Breakfast of two egg whites and one yolk, scrambled. Eat with now-cooled croissant. Finish coffee.

7:00AM Begin work. Monitor social media accounts, send out project previews. Take an hour or so to do some e mail marketing. Finish materials for printer. Check on client printing projects.

11:00AM Lunch break until Noon. Picnic at the park if the weather is good. Grab a shiny apple to take with you as you head out the door. Read book. Eat cold chicken salad on a baguette with a little cheese. Watch dog romp and play.

12:00PM Resume work. Take a moment to tidy the house a little, empty dishwasher, put in a load of laundry.

5:00PM Knock off for the day, take the dog out for a long, leisurely stroll. Return home. Feed dog and quickly slip into new shirt and chinos. Meet friends at new rooftop patio bar down the street. Laugh hysterically. Catch the eye of an attractive someone and smile. Return home with a head full of hopes and dreams.

8:00PM Watch hip, popular movie while eating sushi and trying out the Sake received as a gift last week.

10:00PM Climb into bed with sleepy dog. Read a little more. Fall fast asleep, excited for the next day.

I don't know why I do this to myself. I don't even like sushi.

As it happened, I had an opportunity to work for myself full-time in January of this year and I made the decision to take my freelance business to the next level. Overall, it hasn't been nearly as difficult as what I read. I didn't have a lot of things it was said I should have. I didn't have six months salary saved up, I didn't have fifty grand in the bank and I wasn't debt free. I was presented with the opportunity on fairly short notice (that's another story) and realized if I didn't take it then, I probably never would. It's not really easy, mind you, but I do have 15 years of sales and marketing experience. And I knew in my gut I could make it work. My daily schedule, however, is slightly different than I imagined:

10:30AM Wake up when pigeon slams into window. Roll over in bed and hear a retching noise from the dog that sounds as though moisture may be involved. Carefully navigate legs to side of bed. Open eyes, grab almost-dead phone, look at the hour and experience the brief “Sweet mother superior, I &%$#!! overslept again” moment until remembering that you didn't get home until 1:00AM from work.

10:35AM Stumble out of bed, grab laptop, move aside Chinese take-out containers from last night and check social media sites, e mail and respond to any immediate client needs. Post fortune cookie wisdom to Facebook.

10:45AM Sit in a vegetative, trance-like state and peruse Failblog to keep eyes in focus and not fall back asleep. Laugh and wince at people falling off their bikes and skateboards.

11:00AM Realize that coffee isn't going to make itself. Decide it's not worth the 1.5 minutes it takes to make and put on gym shorts and t-shirt, attach leash to dog and go down to the Starbucks next door. Become distracted by something while dog poops in middle of sidewalk in front of stern-looking business woman who looks like she has a cat preference.

12:00PM Grab leftover Chinese food and eat while you start to work. Realize that you have an appointment at 4:00PM. Update Facebook, Twitter and Website. Momentarily panic that there is only enough work scheduled to pay bills through next month. Make a few calls to people. Take dog outside for a quick stroll.

3:00PM Shower, shave. Notice you are out of toothpaste because shopping didn't happen yesterday. Rifle through travel kit like a drug addict looking for money. Receive telephone call from client wondering when their project (started yesterday) will be delivered.

4:00PM Arrive at appointment. Discuss project until 5:00PM. Convince yourself that bags under the eyes are perceived as “Artistic”.

5:00PM Rush home. Resume work until 9:00PM. Upload 20GB of media for hosting on an internet connection that you would swear has the word “Edison” printed on it somewhere.

9:00PM Realize dog hasn't been outside since two. Dash outside for a good half-hour walk, hoping it will erase the guilt of not taking him out earlier.

9:30PM Resume work until 11:00PM. Order pizza. Drink beer found in back of fridge.

11:00PM Watch bad movie that happens to be in iTunes account.

MIDNIGHT Wake up on sofa with paw in eye. Carry dog and self to bed.

Jealous yet?

Alright, maybe it's not like that every day. I'm also a little dramatic at times. But it represents many days in my life as a professional photographer.

Working from home is, maybe, a little different for me than many home “Officers”. Obviously, if I'm not out shooting, I'm not working. So, an important part of my job is, in fact, not being at home. It's being on-site. It's meeting people to discuss projects. It's also being up waaaaay past my bedtime, or rather, what my bedtime used to be and getting up so early that I run into bachelorette parties occasionally on my way to work. I photograph, primarily, commercial and residential real estate, events and conferences. That means my work schedule usually depends on light, access, availability and scheduled event times. And it involves taking a lot of photographs. A whole lot. I traveled for a three-day event a couple of weeks ago and shot 4500 over three days. I will deliver close to 1500 fully edited photos by the end of this week. And I'm writing this blog post now because, frankly, I need the break.

That means I'm spending this week at home. Editing, cropping, balancing color, skin smoothing (not you...your skin is perfect...but everyone else) and lightening shadows with a lot of different software. For conference photographs, it isn't that involved. I may spend one to five minutes making adjustments on any particular photograph. Multiplied by 1500. I usually spend a little more time on the woman I meet at every event that says “Make me look like a movie star” (and, yes I sometimes wonder if she thinks I'm George Lucas or something) but who I know will feel great if she sees that her photo came out perfectly. Commercial real estate photos are quite a bit more involved. I spend much more time removing pipes, vents and holes where a light is supposed to be. I make pools that sparkle, sunsets that insist you ride off into them and fields worthy of the Von Trapp children. Residential projects are a little less involved as they usually need to be delivered within 24 hours.

I'm normally an early riser, so I'll get quite a bit done before 9:00AM. Then I'll grab a shower and wake my beagle for a walk. Bentley doesn't jump out of bed at 6:00AM every day like other dogs. You have to actually go in and physically get him out of bed. Then I'll come back in and resume working until about noon or one, grab a bite for lunch and work fairly steadily until five or six. Today might be seven. I make a fair effort to stay on task. Anyone who works at home successfully does because it's too easy to become distracted. I do, however, take time during the day to empty the dishwasher, take the trash out, throw in a load of laundry. These are minutes. Not hours. I have to. If I don't get away from the computer for a few minutes each day, I'm pretty sure I'd spend the rest of my life shuffling around in a bathrobe mumbling to myself.

When you work at home, life happens. Sometimes you need to handle things and as long as you are productive, nobody really cares what the particulars are. That's kind of the trade-off. You get your work done, but you have a little more flexibility and can work a little more comfortably. I'm not going to get into what I look like right now, but let’s just say that if you saw me, you'd probably think I was a Picasso sketch.

And I know what you're thinking. “This guy doesn't have kids or a spouse or an impatient boss!” Did I say that? I don't remember writing that. But it's true. I don't. I'm a SINK. Single income, no kids. If you are married, you both have jobs and don't have kids, you're a DINK. And if you're married, both have jobs and have kids, you're..well, you're a DIK. I don't have to deal with cupcakes for preschool graduation or princess dress arguments and I don't have to justify what I do to anyone except the client. I don't even have to shower for three days if I don't feel like it (and you can hold it right there, because even though I might not know you, I know you have done this). So even though the worst thing I'm going to encounter during my day is workmen hanging outside my building windows and the occasional next-door neighbor-fight-through-the-wall-that-I-always-stop-and-listen-to-because-it's-hysterical, I don't have a second income either. I'm entirely responsible for the bills, taxes and unexpected visits to the vet. So what I give is what I get and if I want to support myself, then I have to be focused and diligent.

What I do have is the ability to be mobile. I am not usually tied to a printer, landline or quiet area for conference calls. As long as I have my laptop, smartphone and a decent internet connection, I can work from anywhere. So that means I often take B to a coffee house patio when it’s nice and work from there. The parks around my place have free wi-fi, so I can even work from a bench in the shade for a couple of hours (provided I'm not retouching the movie star) if I want or hunker down at a table in the public library once in a while. I can even have a beer during the day as long as I don't have a shoot or appointment scheduled.

Ok, see. Now you're judging me. Yes, I have mobility and can work in a park with my dog and drink, but I still have to get it done. That is, provided, there is work to do.

Work isn't assigned to me. I have to go out and find it. So that means when I'm not immediately occupied with editing or shooting, I need to be selling. I send out e mail marketing, I make telephone calls, I design advertising and I follow up on leads and referrals. Today at 6:00PM I received an e mail for a potential job in November. They have to be replied to as soon as possible or I risk losing the job. I network. I am constantly challenged to find creative ways of finding new business. If you aren't organized to some degree, these things don't happen. There isn't an office assistant, unless you count Bentley, and the whole 'no thumbs' thing really makes that unworkable.

There is a popular restaurant a couple of blocks down the street from me. I saw on Facebook that they had a patio wine tasting every Thursday at five during the summer months, so I called them up this spring. I asked if I could come and shoot the event each week at no charge to them. In exchange, I would have an opportunity to network with local business people and exchange business cards. It has worked very well. I go every week if I'm available, chat with people, have a glass of wine, shoot great journalistic-style photos, email them to people the next day and publish a gallery for the restaurant. Not only have I received several paid projects, I have been able to bid on several events for the slower months coming this Winter and my photographs are being featured in a presentation that the manager is making to her corporate office. Potentially, my work will show up on their Facebook page with my web address on them. They have nearly 30 restaurants nationwide. I've also made some great friends.

See? That's working for yourself. Big deal if I get to drink and eat all the wine and tasty appetizers I want for free. Last week they switched it up and it was a “Boys Night” scotch tasting.

Cartoon birds woke me up the next day.

Check out Joseph P.'s work at Champa Street Productions.

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