Expectations versus Reality

There’s a great scene in the movie “(500) Days of Summer” where they show two versions of the same scene side-by-side. On the left is what the male lead thinks will happen (“Expectations”), and on the right is what actually happens (“Reality”). And of course, reality doesn’t come close to matching his expectations.

When I started this blog, I too had expectations (or more accurately, “delusions”) of how it would all pan out. After a successful day’s freelancing (even if only during my lunch break at the regular job) I’d come home and spend some quality time with my wife and son. After dinner, we’d bath our son (more quality time together), give him his final bottle and put him to bed. We might watch some television together, or just have a quiet chat.

And then I’d come here to write another blog post.

It could be about anything—a report on how the day went, or maybe just something on my mind that I want to talk about. But whatever the topic, it would be my chance to relax and unwind. It would be my dessert, or maybe that final drink before bed.

Unfortunately the reality hasn’t come anywhere near my expectations.

Thanks to various pressing deadlines (not to mention lunchtime meetings), I’ve been lucky if I get to eat lunch, let alone work on my freelancing. By the time we’ve had dinner, bathed our son and put him to bed, it’s close to nine o’clock. By the time I finish the blog it’s well after ten, and then I go to bed and crash until the alarm goes off at five-thirty the following morning.

(On weekends we switch off the alarm, and get woken up by our son instead. But it’s still around the same time.)

And so, despite promising myself this would be the year I’d become a freelancer (if only part-time to begin with), the whole thing has pretty much stalled.

And now I’m trying to find the time to get it going again.

So what are my options? Well, one option would be to stop blogging, or at least slow down the posting a bit (I’d still like dessert every once in a while). That would give me an extra few hours a week. How productive I’d be is another story, because by the time I sit in front of the keyboard I’m already falling asleep (as some of you have probably worked out by now).

Another option is to try and find more time during my day. I spend 40 minutes on trains each day, and providing I can get a seat I could at least draft some notes, or even do a bit of research. (If I tried doing either of these while standing up I’d end up hurting someone.)

Daylight Savings finishes soon, which should put an end to the lunchtime meetings. (It only happens because we’re an hour behind our head office.) If I ignore my email, switch my phone to voicemail, ignore my instant messages and wear my noise-cancelling headphones, I can probably get another hour a day.

I have some long service leave up my sleeve, and so if I really wanted to (and my bosses gave me the go-ahead) I could take a fortnight or so off to work on the freelancing stuff. But I don’t think now is a good time to do something like that. I’m still very green, and so I’d waste a lot of the time fumbling my way around. I’d much rather wait until I know what I’m going so I can make the most of the time I have.

I could take another day off each fortnight, making it a four-day week. It sounds fantastic, but I’d have to take a serious look at our finances (and try not to laugh too hard) before I could do something like that.

Of course, the ideal solution would be to give up the regular job and just write all day instead. But while poverty might be worth considering when you’re young and single, it isn’t really option when you’ve got a family and a mortgage.

Sorry if it seems like you’ve just caught me thinking out loud. But this is what’s been on my mind lately, especially with the regular job heading in a direction I don’t particularly want to go. This is my escape plan, and by the looks of things I’ll need it sooner rather than later.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Matt Pattinson (copywriter) March 25, 2010, 4:32 am

    That post was probably more enjoyable to read than it was to write! I feel as though I’ve returned from a two week holiday in your head; a sightseeing trip through the cerebral landscapes of Planet Bill.

    Reality is often a bitter-pill to swallow, but on a personal note, it is expectation that keeps me going.

    Cleary you cherish your home/family life, but it sounds as though the work balance is tipping in favour of your full-time job (reality) and desire to freelance (expectation).

    As a full-time copywriter myself, I’d say keep following the white rabbit; life’s too short.

    Keep writing the posts when you can. They’re a great way to market yourself, showcase your obvious writing talent, as well as providing a cathartic outlet.

    Fail that, you could write a book called ‘Reality versus Expectations’ – based on your blog content, I’d read!

    Anyways, you’ve made a convert out of me and I’ll be sure to direct people your way.


    Matt Pattinson (creativepen)

  • altait March 25, 2010, 10:00 pm

    I’m with Matt. Fit it in. Start small with the freelancing and fit it in. You could scale back the blog to three posts a week – you’re pretty much every day right now, aren’t you? Post three times and continue to market them every day to maximise readership. Works very well for lots of other established bloggers. Focus on that lunchtime meeting hour to begin with. Eye it off and salivate. That’s your best bet at the moment. Use it well. Once you’re getting as much as you can out of those five hours a week, decide whether or not you can afford to do the four-day a week thing. Then go to three etc etc. Maybe. Worth dreaming about, anyway, right?
    Good luck Bill – you’ll be great!

  • Mary Hiers March 25, 2010, 10:10 pm

    I’ve been freelancing for just over a year full time. It’s low pay, but both my children are old enough to work if they find the standard of living too low. My son works, and my daughter hasn’t found the financial straits too bad yet, so she’s still a full-time student.

    That said, I am happier than I have ever been. But I understand with a wife and young child to support cutting ties to your day job may not be an option yet.

    As for time-saving tips, one thing I have used is hearwho.com, where you can take blocks of text and have them converted to mp3 files. They sound a little robotic, but you can listen to your notes on the train rather than read, if that’s more convenient.

    If you have one steady client who is happy with your work, then it should be easy to scale up gradually. If you can get jobs writing press releases, they generally pay better than other writing jobs.

    If you have more than one client who likes your work, then you can leverage that to get better pay, as in, “I’d like to write those blog posts for you, but Mr. X is paying me $100 for a press release and I can’t pass that up.” Often they’ll cough up more to get your services.

    Good luck!

  • Cindy Bidar March 25, 2010, 10:13 pm

    My own freelancing escapade has looked a bit like this. Actively seeking work, rejoicing when I get it, then vowing never to take on freelance assignments again because between them and the day job it’s just too draining. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. There must be a balance somewhere. If you find it, will you let us know?

  • Paul Cunningham March 25, 2010, 10:31 pm

    Personally I gave up TV except for a few hours on weekends where I’ll have it on in the background while I play with the kids.

    A netbook also meant 40 extra minutes of writing each day on the train, and is easy to pop out of the office with and write while at a coffee shop or in a park at lunch.

    About once a week I pull a midnight run too, working with my eyes nearly falling out to get some sort of thing done.

    Its not easy, thats for sure. But if you wait and wait until you’re all planned and set up before you take the first job. At some point you need to dive in, take on a bit of work, and iron out any business processes as you go along for a while.

  • Ben March 25, 2010, 10:37 pm

    Hey Bill,
    You probably already know most of this, but what the hell…

    I’ve just gone through a similar phase. Thankfully, after a few years of strained relations, expectations and reality are now quite chummy .

    I was lucky enough to get a job doing what I want that pays more, so financial risk wasn’t a real issue. But, I couldn’t seriously make the move until Ange was back at work: worst case scenario I lose my job, she goes back to full time and I look after the kids.

    Actually, that sounds pretty good 🙂

    I’m not sure I can express how much better things are now that I’m doing what I want, in a completely different environment. Everything in my life is better.

    It didn’t come for free though. What does? I had to go back full time and add 2hrs commuting each day. That’s, boy… 16hrs less a week I get to spend with the kids. But the time I do have with them is so much better. I have no doubt at all that I’m a better father.

    I think it’s devastating for creative types to be constrained at work. The pressure spills out into the rest of your life: I had a heap of side projects, so many that I never felt like I could relax. And I couldn’t *not* do them, because I needed to get that creative energy out. Of course, all the projects were half-arsed frantic messes and pretty unsatisfying.

    My only real advice is to work out exactly what you want to be doing, in as much detail as possible. That was really hard for me – I’m naturally more conceptual (read: airy fairy) but it helped me set a specific target.

    Making the leap is hard. But honestly, so long as you manage it properly, the risk is absolutely worth it.

    Good luck.


  • Glenn Murray March 26, 2010, 10:04 am

    Hey Bill. A familiar story to me, as I’m sure it is to most of your readers. I’ve been freelance copywriting for 7 years now. (Fortunately, when I started, my wife (then girlfriend) and I didn’t have kids, and she was working. So when I dropped from a good salary to a very poor income (a drop of some 65%), she was able to support me. Within a year, though, I was back up to about 70% of my previous F/T salary.) My advice for finding/making more time:

    1) Don’t blog as much. Sure I love reading your stuff, but it doesn’t earn you any money. Not directly anyway.

    2) Be prepared to be even MORE tired. Work late into the night. I’m going through a similar thing to you now. I’ve just launched a second company (http://www.silverpistol.com), and finding time to manage it, as well as Divine Write, is very demanding. Most weeks, I work 60-ish hours. That may not sound a lot to some people, but like you, I’m a very hands-on dad, so I’m working with the kids from, say, 6.45am – 9am, then from 5.30pm – 7pm. Then I’m cooking and eating, and spending time with my wife. So a good 20 hours of my work time is spent after 8.30pm. I have no alternatives. You just learn to live and work tired. That’s your investment when you don’t have capital to invest.

    3) GET some freelancing work and just do it. You’ll fit it in somehow. Then the next one will come along. And so on. Soon you’ll have enough work coming in that you can afford to make some decisions about your F/T job. Either drop your hours, or find another job, closer to home and with fewer hours.

    Good luck mate. As you know, I’ll be throwing you some freelance work when I can.



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