Nobody’s perfect

Are you a freelancer or run your own business? If so, you probably want your work to be perfect – especially if, like me, you are an editor and proofreader. You probably also want to achieve perfect work-life balance. But nobody’s perfect and work-life balance is a work in progress.

Expecting to be always perfect

My focus is producing high quality work. I guarantee clients that my proofread transcripts are highly accurate – that is, whilst there may be an occasional missing comma or dropped capital, they are an accurate representation of the words spoken. When editing and proofreading reports and publications, I do a really good job. I am fast and efficient at writing reports and correct my mistakes during the editing process. I make sure my submissions are of high quality. I consider any work that I’ve produced and proofread to be just about perfect.

So when I occasionally makes a mistake in their work, I’m always shocked that I am actually human: that nobody’s perfect.

If you too are a perfectionist and feel gutted whenever you make a mistake, the trick is to go straight into repair mode by: 1) identifying the problem and why it occurred, 2) coming up with a solution so you can repair the problem, and 3) working out a way to avoid that problem from occurring in future.

What to do if you make a mistake in your work

If you make a mistake in your work, fix it quickly and in a professional manner.

For example, if you’ve discovered a mistake in a report you’ve written for a client, and you’ve already submitted it, immediately get on the phone and tell the client what’s happened and why, and your plan of action which should include fixing the problem and resubmitting the document immediately. If your mistake has caused them any inconvenience at all, you can also offer them recompense (such as a discount) so there are no hard feelings. Note: getting on the phone and having a chat about it with the client is a far better way than sending an email, to fix this sort of problem.

If the mistake you’ve made is ‘in-house’ (for example, example, you’ve accidentally deleted your editing corrections to a report and so have to do it all over again), take a deep breath and fix the problem and make sure you still meet your deadline. You’ll have to wear that wasted time yourself but at least it won’t have affected the client who doesn’t need to know about the mistake.

Setting realistic work-life balance goals

Ever since I started managing my online business I’ve been trying to achieve ‘perfect’ work-life balance which is quite hard to do when you love your work and set your own work hours, and don’t exactly know what ‘perfect’ balance looks like.

The first step towards achieving the kind of work-life balance that allows you to get enough sleep and downtime in your life is keeping your personal life quite separate from your work. The second step is ‘switching off’ from work when you finish work so that you can ‘switch on’ to your personal life every time you attempt to live it. The third step is actually treating your personal/family life as if it is as important as your work life (even if that concept seems strange to you).

find the third step the most difficult because it’s my work life that brings in the income without which I cannot live, and the reason that work is successful is because I really do give all my clients value for money. I bend over backwards to meet deadlines and generally prioritise work commitments above personal or family commitments. I also get immense job satisfaction part of which is the knowledge that my skills are valued in monetary terms. And the type of society I live in tells me every day that making money is more important than hanging out with my family or spending time relaxing and it’s easy to mindlessly follow that money mantra.

It’s okay to not be perfect in your personal life

I’m very organised in my work and disorganised in my personal life. I’m very good at remembering things in my work and very forgetful in my personal life when it comes to keeping milk in the fridge and clean undies in everyone’s drawers. Every time I forget or stuff something up in my personal life it causes a small (but sometimes large) problem and to make myself feel better, remind myself:

  1. Managing your own business (no matter how small or large) is hard work, especially if you are a parent/carer.
  2. Everyone makes mistakes. Some people make more than others. The important thing is to learn from them.
  3. There is no such thing as perfect work-life balance or a perfect life. They are works in progress.

It’s okay to make mistakes

If you have been thinking you will actually achieve perfect work-life balance or any kind of perfection in your life, think again. The only ‘perfect’ thing I have ever found in this world is love. Love is perfect, actually. But the rest of the goings on in the world are not. Unless you plan to live somewhere else, you’ll just have to learn to live with your mistakes and inadequacies.

That’s all part of the ebb and flow of life: learning, growing, making mistakes, learning again and growing again, and making mistakes again, and so on. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

This article is based on my own experiences since starting On Time Typing as a small (sole trader) online/onsite scribing business in 2002 which has evolved into an online transcription, scribing, writing, editing and proofreading business.

Stay posted for future articles about working from home, freelancing, work-life balance and other aspects of managing small businesses.

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