What My Cats Taught Me About More Efficient Freelancing

Sometimes we find inspiration in the strangest places. And today I'm going to turn the floor over to my two kitties, Baby and Tubs.

Cats - Baby and Tubs
Left to Right: Baby and Tubs

Here are a few lessons I've learned from these little beasties that apply to the freelance writing life:

Baby: There's Always Time for a Nap

Sometimes we get so caught up in work and deadlines and finding new projects that we push ourselves just a little bit too far. We approach burnout. And if that happens we can become utterly useless from a productivity standpoint. When that happens it's important to remember that it's okay to take a break. Take a nap. Sleep in one day. Or just do something relaxing. Rejuvenating our bodies can help rejuvenate our mind and get more done in less time when we do get back to work. That's good for us as freelancers and for our clients.

Tubs: Being a Kiss-Ass Only Gets You So Far

Tubs is the sweetest, most cuddly cat I've ever known. That's how he won me over as a little stray that needed a home. But sometimes it goes a little too far. You can only have a cat in your face for so long before you just need a break. And the same goes for freelancing. While some people (from so-called "A-list" bloggers to clients) like having you kiss their ass from time to time, make too much of a habit of it and you'll become a clingy obnoxious bore in no time. On the client front this is especially important. Being a "yes man" might land you some gigs with clients who don't really want any viewpoints other than their own. But eventually they realize they need professionals they can respect because they're bringing something of their own to the table -- kissing ass and agreeing with everything others say doesn't show that you can do that. Have your own voice and don't rely on riding others' coattails to the "top." With my cat, I'll always love him anyway. In business you probably won't be so lucky. Wasting time sucking up distracts from more important aspects of running a freelance business. You can work more productively by focusing on your own strengths instead of clinging to someone else's.

Baby: It's Okay to Get Tough

When Baby decides she's finished with your attention for the moment she sometimes gives what I like to call a little "love bite." She nips your hand but doesn't bite down hard. It's just enough to let you know that she can and that she's serious. It's her way of getting tough with me without having to get downright nasty. And that's something we need to be able to do as freelancers. There will be times when you have to get tough with prospects and with clients. That doesn't mean acting like a jerk. But you have to be able to say "no" when they ask for too much and offer too little. And you have to be able to stay firm about working terms that are important to you. Being a pushover just gets you pushed around. It's okay to be flexible, but sometimes you have to be able to say "enough is enough." If you can't do that, you might find yourself constantly stuck doing discounted work, little favors here and there, etc. rather than making the most of your work time.

Tubs: Give in to the Munchies

Okay, so Tubs is a bit of a treat fiend. And while I don't recommend grabbing junk food just because it's there, it's okay to stop for a snack or a drink or a mini-meal if you prefer. Everyone is different. If you work more productively when you're caffeinated, take your coffee break. If you need to have a snack mid-morning to clear out the brain fog, go for it. Sometimes it's about finding healthy fuel to keep us going productively through the day. At other times we give into comfort food because we need to get past something negative in the day (at least temporarily) so we can get back to the task at hand. I'd say there's a time and a place for both, although hopefully mostly the former. (Tubs on the other hand wholeheartedly recommends the comfort food.)

Do you have pets? What can you learn from them and their behavior that you could adapt to your freelance life? Leave a comment below with any stories or thoughts you'd like to share.

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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12 thoughts on “What My Cats Taught Me About More Efficient Freelancing”

  1. You have some smart cats. 🙂

    I have a fish. I’ve learned from Fishy that swimming in circles gets you dizzy and disoriented. He now has a tank that gives him more North/South real estate. That’s taught me that a change in direction can often be just what’s needed to exercise those dormant muscles.

  2. Those are some pretty insightful cats!

    I have a dog. She chews her bone obsessively. I guess the lesson there is to take every job one small bite at a time and work until it’s finished. Eventually, even the largest bones are reduced to tiny slivers. 🙂

  3. My dog has taught me that, when you’re struggling to make ends meet and figure out the right way to approach something, you should probably take a dump on the carpet and hope no one notices.

    • Always works for me, Matt 😉

      I don’t have any pets, but I do have an insightful daughter. She’s taught me that you have to do the most important things first, you have to be as productive as possible, you eat when you’re hungry (not wait until you get this or that done), sleep if you need it, and when faced with so many non-billable tasks, seek to outsource!

    • My cats have done that to me if I dare to neglect their litter box for just one day. I have scrubbed and disinfected the carpet by the front door many mornings. Lesson learned: do five minutes of work today or you’ll end up doing twenty minutes of work tomorrow.

  4. Great post! I was thinking I could use a nap. My two cats nap when they need it, why can’t I? I’ve been pushing myself because I entered Ezine Articles #6HAHD contest. My hard work paid off because I now have ‘Platinum’ status, but I feel like I’m burned out. Perhaps a ‘cat nap’ wouldn’t hurt.

  5. Love this, Jenn.

    We dog-sat my sister’s miniature white schnauzer, Kali, over Christmas. What Kali taught me is to quit making excuses for what you want-like I want a dog, but what if we travel, what if this, what if that.

    You can what if your writing, too, and never get what you want – or – you can go buy the dog! 🙂

  6. My cat isn’t an efficiency expert, but he is a marketing whiz. Some of the things he’s taught me are:

    Meow! Meow! (if you want something, ask for it)

    Meow, jump on the desk, rub my face (use more than one marketing tactic)

    Be cute (do something that makes you memorable and worth talking about, like tipping over a little pitcher to get at the milk inside).

    I wrote a post about it on my blog.

    Oh, and he agrees with your cats about the importance of naps!


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