Supplemental and Alternative Disciplines
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Multitasking and Lower-Concentration Disciplines
Skilled work usually requires full, intense concentration. Unfortunately, many freelancers find that they only have a few hours per day that they can devote exclusively to their work. In these cases, having a backup discipline that can be undertaken even when there are distractions can be very helpful.
A good example would be a writer who has decided to freelance part-time while taking care of her baby. Writing is creative work that usually requires complete focus and concentration, and thus would only be possible to do while the baby is asleep. A new mom would probably not want to work at all while the baby was awake and alert: that would be time to give the infant her full attention. But there would be times in between, such as when the baby was occupied with a toy, settling down to sleep, or perhaps feeding, when it might be possible to do work that is less demanding than writing, such as editing or proofreading.
A related issue has to do with mental limits on how much very intense work one can do in a day. As a writer myself, I find that a few hours is all I can devote to writing new material: regardless of how much I get done, or how interesting the topic is, there’s a limit on how many words I can pump out when I’m spent. Having other things I can work on is a much better use of my time than trying to force myself to write more when my brain has truly had it for the day. The same applies when I am feeling ill or run-down, or just have a bad case of “writer’s block”.
Bearing in mind my caveat about work being work, some freelancers do find that there are certain types of work that they enjoy doing so much that they consider them the equivalent of a leisure time activity. If you’re lucky enough to fall into this category, and you have the expertise and background to let you win such projects, then you can supplement your income and grow your freelancing presence while doing something you very much enjoy. It’s the best of both worlds.
Once again, a good example is yours truly. Most of my freelance earning comes from projects related to writing, editing, programming and data conversion. I enjoy this technical work, but I don’t really consider “fun” in its own right. In contrast, I greatly enjoy photo editing even for its own sake. It takes mental energy to do, so it is work, but it uses a completely different part of my brain than working with words. I can do it even while watching television or having my kids hanging around in my office.
Sure, it doesn’t pay very well. In fact, I often have a hard time winning photo editing jobs because rates have gotten so low. But again, these aren’t projects intended to replace my primary work: they are supplemental. If I enjoy the work, and I’m watching a TV show I enjoy while doing it, then I don’t see it as a “waste” if I make only a few dollars an hour: I see it as a few dollars more than most people get paid to watch TV. Remember, it’s all in how you look at things. :)
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