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 run a typing, editing and writing business. 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 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 for my clients, I do a really good job. I am fast and efficient at writing reports and correct my mistakes during the editing process. When I delegate editing or typing jobs to my typists or editors, I ‘quality control’ everything before I submit it to the client. I consider any work that either my team or I have produced or worked on to be just about perfect.

So when I occasionally make a mistake in a job, I’m always shocked that I am actually human, which means I’m not 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 or your writer has 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. This plan must include fixing the problem and resubmitting the document asap. If your mistake has caused the client any inconvenience at all, you can also offer them recompense (such as a discount) so their experience of you and your business is positive. Note: getting on the phone and having a chat about this sort of issue with the client is a far better method than sending an email.

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), but you can fix it and still meet the deadline, there is no need to worry the client about it. Just 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.

How important is work-life balance?

Ever since I started managing my writing and editing business I’ve been trying to achieve ‘perfect’ work-life balance. This is quite hard to do when you love your job and set your own work hours, and don’t exactly know what the Utopian idea of 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 to keep your personal life quite separate from your work life. One part of doing this is use whatever method you need to, to ‘switch off’ from work when you finish work, so that you can then ‘switch on’ to your personal life after work.

Another important part of achieving work-life balance is to learn to view your personal/family life as if it is as important as your work life (even if that concept seems strange to you).

I used to find this difficult to do, because it’s my work that brings in the income without which I cannot live, and the reason my business is successful is because I give all my clients value for money, and bend over backwards to meet deadlines if I need to. So I have always  prioritise work commitments above personal or family commitments.

I also get immense job satisfaction from the fact that my skills and the skills of my team have monetary value. The society I live in tells me every day that making money is more important than hanging out with my family or spending time relaxing. It’s easy to mindlessly follow that money mantra: but now I am older and wiser than I used to be, I know it’s not healthy.

So take my advice: remember, your health and family are actually more important than your work, and you need to look after them.

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

I’m very organised in my work but the opposite in my personal life. I’m very good at remembering things at work but forgetful when it comes to making sure there’s milk in the fridge and clean undies in everyone’s drawers. Every time I forget or stuff something up in my personal life it makes life more difficult for me or a family member, and sometimes I feel guilty or even shame. So to make myself feel better, I remind myself:

  1. Managing your own business (no matter how small or large) is hard work. Managing a business while also trying to be a good mum or partner or carer  is really, really hard.
  2. There is no such thing as perfect work-life balance or a perfect life. They are works in progress, for all of us.
  3. Everyone makes mistakes. Some people make more than others. That’s okay. The important thing is to forgive yourself, and learn from them.

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 is 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?

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This article is based on my own experiences since starting On Time Typing as a small (sole trader) online/onsite scribing business in Darwin in 2002 which has evolved into On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading – my team of typists, editors, typesetters and writers providing services around Australia. 

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