#MyDeskView: Caitlin Galer-Unti, Freelance Writer

 

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Show us a picture of your workspace and tell us about it.

My desk doesn’t have a lot on it because I find it very distracting having lots of things on my desk, so each item I have is carefully chosen. The most important items: my laptop, a TV that came with my flat which I use as an external monitor and my diary, which is on a holder I got from my great aunt (it must be fifty years old but is still in perfect condition!). I’ve also got some pens and pencils in a mug my friends gave me before I moved to Barcelona (so it makes me happy every time I see it) and a coaster for coffee, which I always need.

What kind of freelance work do you do, and what made you decide to do it? 

I write about vegan food and travel (on my blog, in my books, in magazines and for online clients). I had been running my blog for four or five years, and I’d written (but hadn’t yet published) a book on vegan travel when I quit my job, and it sort of evolved from there. I’d always wanted to be a writer and I’d wanted to have a vegan job for years, so it combined together quite nicely.

 

When did you start freelancing, and what were the biggest changes you had to make?

I quit my job and started freelancing in mid-2015, and it was challenging to change how I structured my time, particularly since the first year I freelanced I was a part-time student teacher in Spain. I’d have to do some freelance work, then prepare a lesson plan, teach it and then do more freelance work after class (and our class schedules changed every month, making it hard to arrange my own work schedule).

Another change I had to make was around my free time. They say never to turn your hobby into a job, but that’s exactly what I did, and I’m so glad I did. However, this did present a challenge at first since I wasn’t sure how to spend my free time. When I first started freelancing, I didn’t set good boundaries and ended up working most evenings and weekends, which meant I cleverly avoided the question of what to do with my free time but also meant I burnt out regularly. Now, I try to keep more regular hours.

Is your freelance job a 9-to-5? How do you structure your time? 

Yes, it’s a 9-to-5, or more accurately, a 10-to-7. I try to keep more or less regular office hours, although if I have a project I need to finish up, I’ll work late or over the weekend. On the other hand, it is nice to have flexibility so sometimes I’ll skip out of work early to take care of an errand or meet a friend.

What do you enjoy the most about your new way of life?

My favourite part, above all, is a sense of contributing to the world. I’ve always wanted a career where I felt like I was making a positive impact on the world, and the hardest and most soul-destroying part of my old job was feeling like I was having a net negative (or at best, neutral) impact on the world.

What do you find the hardest about the work you do or freelance life in general? 

Forcing myself to take breaks and/or holidays is the hardest part. With a never-ending to-do list full of things I really want to do, and a desk in my living room, sometimes it’s hard to stop working in the evening. Likewise, I find it hard to take holidays; knowing I can work from anywhere means it’s hard to go offline completely and take an actual break. Plus, since my personal and business social media are one and the same, I can’t check Facebook or Instagram while on holiday without getting sucked into work.

What piece of work are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the first edition of my first book. As a child, I often pretended to write novels, but I never thought I’d actually hold a book I wrote in my own hands one day. Holding a real copy of my book was mind-blowing, and I remember thinking then that I could die happy.

What measures do you take to ensure your physical and mental health don’t suffer? 

I have a dog, so I’m forced to leave the house and take a walk several times a day. I think my puppy has been invaluable for my mental health (in spite of him being completely mental himself).

As I mentioned before, I find it difficult to go on holiday, so I’ve made a spreadsheet with my holidays for the year, just like I used to have when I worked in an office. I try to use that to force myself to take time off. I also remind myself how my old boss used to tell us we should take at least a week off every quarter, so I try to adhere to this (although I don’t always succeed).

If you had another chance at going freelance would you have done anything differently (no matter how small)?

I definitely wouldn’t have done a student teaching course at the same time that I started freelance life. While it helped me get a visa I needed at the time, it was distracting, time-consuming and stressful.

Where can people find you online if they want to hire you? 

You can find me on theveganword.com, or on social media (Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest) as @theveganword.

What’s the most exciting space you’ve ever worked from? 

I have a second workspace (though it’s seasonal only). My building has a shared roof terrace, and in the summer I set up shop up there. It’s spacious, sunny and has an amazing view of the London skyline. This summer, I bought a parasol so I can see my laptop better (in the shade) as well as stay out of the sun when it’s hot. I love working from up there with an iced coffee!

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What surprised you about freelance life? 

As I said before people tell you not to make your hobby a job, but that’s exactly what I did, and I have no regrets. I went into it with the knowledge I’d have to find a new hobby or other things to do in my spare time. What I didn’t consider, though, is that I’ve ended up writing about things that most people do for fun, or to unwind: cooking, eating out and travel. As a result, holidays are never the same and now, even if I take a holiday offline, I end up making notes (actual notes or mental ones), taking pictures and writing about it afterwards.

Do you miss anything about your previous lifestyle? 

I miss the social aspect of having coworkers sometimes (although at other times I’m glad to be able to concentrate on a project and not have to make chitchat or waste my time in endless meetings). I usually work from a coffee shop several times a week, which allows for some social interaction, but you don’t normally have long conversations with other customers in coffee shops the same way you do with coworkers. Perhaps, as a result, I’ve ended up becoming friends with the owners and baristas at some of my local cafes.

What keeps you going when you get discouraged? 

I have a document called ‘Nice Things People Have Said’, in which I copy nice comments from my blog, positive Amazon reviews and kind words from emails. When I feel discouraged, I open up the document and read some of the nice comments people have made on my work.

 

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