When freelancers go off on their own they’re usually so excited about the new adventure that they forget the loss of perks and benefits. Health insurance, vacation, breaks—for all their faults 9-to-5 jobs do have perks. It’s important for freelancers to take care of themselves.
So we’re exploring self care for freelancers by talking with some experts.
Today we talk with Jesse Petersen. He started using WordPress in 2005 and founded Petersen Media Group in 2009. You may have seen Jesse around as a frequent WordCamp speaker. Jesse also has cystic fibrosis and is currently awaiting a lung transplant, which makes self-care especially important.
“I have a mini-fridge next to me that we keep stocked with snacks, Throwback Mountain Dew and an occasional craft beer to crack open any time of day I want. Because it’s five o’clock somewhere.” -Jesse Petersen
We talk about the impact of cystic fibrosis, the flexibility to make needed changes and avoiding freak-out situations after vacation.
When did you learn it was important to take care of yourself? What convinced you to take it seriously?
My last 9-5 job was actually an 8-5 because lunch was clocked out, so I had to leave the house by 7 a.m. and fight traffic there and back with my hour commute. Since I have cystic fibrosis, this meant getting up by 5 a.m. to do breathing treatments before work and the commute was no friend of mine.
As soon as I started working from home, it was a huge bump in free time and my ability to take better care of myself. I could not work any day I needed to so I could take care of myself better.
With the sedentary nature of coding/office work, how do you stay healthy?
Sedentary is fine for me. It’s not like I’m a runner or weightlifter with my lung function in the 20-percents at the moment. A few years ago, I’d take a nice hour-long photowalk every morning to rest my brain and keep the blood flowing. I’ll start those up again after I receive my double-lung transplant soon.
A benefits package is something most freelancers leave behind with the 9-to-5. What kind of perks—whether daily treats or once-in-a-while benefits—do you give yourself?
I “watch” movies while I code or I take a break and really watch one while I monitor my inbox for a fire. A couple of times per year, I’ll go to the theater for a mental health day. Some days, I’d go to Busch Gardens with my wife.
Daily, I have a mini-fridge next to me that we keep stocked with snacks, Throwback Mountain Dew and an occasional craft beer to crack open any time of day I want. Because it’s five o’clock somewhere.
How do you make time for vacations and then ensure they’re actually restful?
We do our best to bust it out before a vacation and have extra reserves. I spend a month or longer telling clients I’m going to be away. Since I still have to do treatments on vacation, I pare down my inbox daily so it’s not a freak-out situation when we get home… something I couldn’t do with my office job.
Now that I’m on a self-imposed and doctor-recommended medical leave, I don’t put pressure on myself to get anything done. If I get something done, it’s great, but not necessary.
I’m coding until lunch today and if it’s successful, I’ll prep a launch for tomorrow. If it’s not, I’ll go see a movie with a voucher we have. This feels incredibly lazy to me as an overachiever, but it’s what has become necessary.
Read more about Jesse Petersen’s favorite practical tools.