Working with a Designer

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Freelance lessons I learned from my toddler

My small human turns 2 today, so please indulge my sensitive side while I tell you a little bit about the lessons I’ve learned from him that I can apply to my business as a freelancer.

Congratulate yourself when you do something hard

My kidlet is blessedly pretty excellent at independent play. (I did not expect this, but it makes my days a million times easier so I can work hard for my clients and keep him at home.) He’ll happily work on the same wooden puzzles over and over and every now and then I’ll hear him chirp “well done!” when he puts a piece in just right. It’s totally adorable, but it’s also super smart. When you figure out a tricky piece of code or just the right page layout for a project, give yourself a pat on the back. That little encouragement makes a huge difference in your day. Well done, you!

Practice things until you get good at them

One day my tiny person was suddenly good at building with his Mega Bloks. However before that moment, he spent cumulative, countless hours trying to fit them together. Occasionally he got frustrated by it, the same way I was clumsy with the pen tool in Illustrator when I first tried it out. But blocks seem like they’ll be pretty fun, so he kept trying and got to a point where he could attach them wonkily, and then practiced even more and builds little towers from them. It’s something he genuinely enjoys doing and if he were self-reflective, I bet he’d agree that the practice was totally worth it.

Be a little fearless (but please don’t grab hot things!)

My small human does not attack things with wild abandon the way some toddlers do (I think he gets this part from me, I tend to be a little timid), but I think he’s learning that doing something that seems scary can turn out to be amazing. He was pretty unsure about playground equipment a little bit ago, but he eventually got brave enough to try it out and now there’s a whole world of fun stuff open to him, like slides and those weird bouncy bridge things. Sure, he occasionally needs me to rescue him from chairs he climbs and has no idea how to get back down from, but I couldn’t be prouder of him for testing out what the world has to offer him. When I get anxious about trying a new thing on my website (what if it breaks? what if it’s ugly?), I try to embrace his spirit of cautious exploration. And I back up my entire site first.

Take a break

Naptime is golden around here. When the kidlet is starting to get cranky about things or falling down excessively in that drunk-tired way, it is totally time for a nap. He falls asleep this short-tempered, frustrated little dude and wakes up chipper and eager to play and so READY to tackle life again. Maybe we all don’t have time to zonk out in the middle of the afternoon for a few hours (I know I am spending that time putting in solid, uninterrupted work time with one ear on the monitor), but everyone benefits from a lunch break or quick jaunt around the block in the fresh air. Stop working for 5 minutes and do something just for you. When you sit down again to knock out the next task, you’ll be moving with a lighter step and generally more cheerful.

Give warm hugs and sloppy kisses

Okay, this one is a bit more metaphorical, though I don’t know your life and your relationship with your clients. Anyway, show affection to the people who mean something to you (both personally and professionally). If a client has given you a great compliment, let them know that it touched you. (And then file that away somewhere so you can pull it out on a day when you feel like you are terrible at this, because those come around, too.) Let a fellow freelancer know that you value their companionship and sympathetic ear. Do something awesome for someone else for no reason other than you want them to feel good. Little people have HUGE emotions and they just spill out of them. Embrace the positive side of this and tell the people you respect or enjoy working with that you really dig knowing them.

It’s ridiculously cliche to bring up, how these tiny humans have SO MUCH to teach us, but that’s where I’m at today. Happy birthday to my goofy, funny, clearly-intelligent toddler!

What have the barely-verbal taught you lately? I’d love to hear it!


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