“Do You Guys Not Work or Something?”

Hi, I’m Renée, and I’m self employed.

We get a lot of questions about what we do for work, since we travel often, I hear a lot of “oh, so you don’t work or something?”. Not even close! We just subscribe to the work hard/play hard mentality and happen to both be self employed.

Trying to explain what I do is always a challenge.
I’ve had people use air quotes around “work” (it hurts).
Or think because I work from home, I wear my pajamas.
Or have unlimited free time.

So since most people I know struggle to understand what it is exactly that Matt and I do, I thought I’d break it down here. And tomorrow, I’m going to share some of the tools I used to keep organized and get my work done!

“So… what do you *actually* do?”
I do a lot of stuff. Let me start by saying, when you work for yourself, sometimes the bills need to get paid. It’s taken me a lot of fine tuning over the years to realize what work I do and don’t want to do – so here’s what keeps me busy these days – the 4 P’s.

The word production is elusive – but here’s what I typically do. I get hired by a company, brand, or director. I could be the Producer, which means I’m in charge of making sure everything and everyone is organized for the photo or video shoot ahead of time – big things like talent, crew and locations, and small things like making sure there are scissors, a bathroom, and tons of bottled water. More recently, I’ve been focusing mostly on Location Management. This means I find a location, negotiate a rate, and make sure all the ducks are in a row for the Producer. I do this for corporate ad shoots, music videos, docu films, and more.

Public Relations/Marketing
With my roots in PR, I don’t think I’ll ever get away from it. I really do love PR. PR also tends to cover a lot of topics – press releases, blog posts, content creation, developing brand parterships, event planning, social media, newsletters, etc. Anything that relates to the public. One thing I’ve realized is that I don’t like running social media accounts unless I’m doing all of the marketing & PR for the brand.

Project Management
This is somewhere in between Production & PR – I help the client stay on task, make sure projects are moving smoothly, and act as a buffer sometimes with their clients. I help manage the day to day.

My company is called ReneeCO. This is a play off my maiden name/married name (I know – I’m so clever). You can check out my super cool website here…. As long as you promise not to make fun of me. 🙂

This is my least glamerous and my least favorite job. I do the payroll for Matt’s business. He has himself and 2 others who are contract workers under his agency (more on that in a minute), and we are paid and then are responsible for paying them. Since his industry is stuck in the stone age (they use AS 400 and still send PAPER CHECKS IN THE MAIL EACH WEEK), I’m stuck doing data entry to make sure each person gets paid the correct amount. I takes me at least 2 hours each week, and it kind of sucks. BUT – since we work for ourselves, there are no accounting departments, so it’s another hat I get to wear.

“It must be so nice to work from home and make your own schedule”
It is – but don’t be fooled. Working from home can be really lonely! Some days I don’t see or talk to anyone. Matt works from home as well, but his office is above the garage, and I typically only see him during lunch…. If we end up eating at the same time.

I still get up at a regular time, put on real clothes and sit at a desk. Remember that even though I am in control of my schedule, most of my clients work a 8-5, so I try my best to keep to an 8-5 day, too. This is also really nice for work/life balance. There are plenty of times I work past 5, but I try not to do it too much. Once I walk away from my desk, I try not to check my email unless there’s something I’m specifically waiting for. I have deadlines, and meetings and scheduled calls, just like you do.

That being said – if I don’t do the work, nobody else will. There are no co workers to help on projects while I’m on vacation. There are no paid vacation days. On our most recent trip to London I had a 4 day photo shoot scheduled to begin one day after I got back. I had planned on taking most of this trip as actual vacation until this shoot was scheduled. The 10 days before the trip I worked until 9 or 10pm each night, was working almost the entire weekend, canceling all my plans so I could get everything done in time. Once we were in London, I ended up working for about 2 hours every morning and 3-4hrs every night in the hotel, answering emails, making FaceTime phone calls, and pulling my hair out because there were certain things I couldn’t do from across the pond. Every time we got wifi, I refreshed my work email, making sure there were no fires to be put out. Don’t get me wrong – if the choice is working from London or working from home, I’ll choose London! Let me be clear – I am very grateful for the flexibility, and not complaining! But sometimes I do miss the ability to switch an “out of office” and deal with it when I got back. Being self employed is not as glam as everyone seems to think.

Also, there are no sick days. The last few times I’ve been sick, I have still had to take calls and be on set, because it’s just my job to do so.

Now, it definitely has its perks. We worked from our home swap in Brooklyn for a month, and it was business as usual.

“What does Matt do?”
Matt works in shipping & logistics. He coordinates large, heavy industrial shipments to be on open bed semi trucks. Nothing in a big box truck, he’s shipping everything you hate being behind on the road 🙂 He negotiates the price, finds the driver, generates the contract and files for anything else like oversized load permits. He has to make sure the truck he contracts can take on the load, including weight, length, and permissions for each state (for example, California has high regulations and not all trucks can go there). He’s an independent agent with two different trucking companies – sort of like a real estate agent. He works under their umbrella, they take a cut of his commission, and they cover any insurance he might need… but he is 100% commission. 100%. Which means if he isn’t answering phone calls and emails every day, he will make no money. It’s a feast or famine business, especially as industries change, but we’re very lucky that he’s good at it. My work is more contract based and slightly more flexible.

The main down side to this is his phone can ring at any time. He’s pretty good at deciding when he needs to take the calls, but we’ve been woken up plenty of times at 1am or 5am with a driver who just wants to ask a question.

“How do you make money?”
I charge each client completely differently. Some are per project, some are per hour, and some are on retainer (meaning I do work for them each month – sometimes less, sometimes more – but I’m on call to get it done regardless). Some months I make enough to hit 2-3 months of my goal, some months I make next to nothing.

When I first started working for myself, I got a part time job at a coffee shop to help with the transition. I only worked 2 days  a week, but it was just enough to help myself get acclimated to my new lack of schedule. I knew I worked at the coffee shop on Mondays and Thursday mornings, so I had Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday to get my freelance work done. It also helped me have a small amount of steady income to help balance things out until I got more clients. Now I’m busy enough without the side gig, but I’m not above doing that again if work slowed way down!

“What’s your average day like?”
It really depends. I do a lot of emails and phone calls. Sometimes I do a lot of writing. Sometimes, I’m on set all day or doing a location scout. Like I said, I try my best to start work at 8am unless I work out at 7am, then I start around 8:30. Yesterday I worked through Lunch because I needed to leave at 4:15. Most days I try to take at least a 30 minute break to eat lunch, listen to a podcast, and stop looking at emails.

“Where do you work from?”
I’m very lucky in the WFH (work from home) department, in that I have an actual office/desk. My office doubles as a guest room, but 98% of the time, nobody is in here 🙂 Our house had a little built in desk and shelves in this upstairs bedroom, but it was a little congested. I had Matt cut the shelves out, left the desk, painted it white, and hung up some pretty stuff, and VOILA! I’ve got myself an office.

Every so often, I’ll meet up with a fellow WFH warrior, and we will work together (basically just sitting next to eachother). I also will go to a coffee shop and work once in a blue moon, but honestly I don’t even do this once a month. I find it easier to get stuff done at my desk.

Up until last year, Matt’s office was in the room across from mine (we have a 3 bedroom house and no kids), so his office occupied that space. We built a detached garage w/ office above last year and he now works from there. I miss him being closer by, but honestly, he and Nathan (who is another agent who works with him) are both on the phone ALL DAY LONG and I was always closing both doors so I could hear myself think. They have more space out in the new office, and Matt likes his “commute” 🙂

Working from home and being self employed isn’t as glam as it sounds. It definitely has its perks! But it definitely has it’s pits sometimes. I’m going to start sharing some of the tools I use to work from home & continue to travel!

Do you work from home? Love it/hate it?

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