What the future of work for women really looks like

What is it that women really want?  

Hi! My name is Adrian Landstrom, and this past summer I was one of three interns at CoWomen. I’m a third year public health student at the University of Texas at Austin.

Interning at CoWomen was a big leap for me – flying across the country, not knowing anyone, having my first business-y kind of job – it was a lot to take in. But, when I got to CoWomen, all of those nerves faded away. The space had an instant feeling of support and encouragement from all the kickass (wo)men here who are absolutely changing the world, the team, and the members. 10/10 would recommend it! 

During my internship, I focused on research about diversity and inclusion, planning some future (and very exciting!) projects for CoWomen. Scrolling through endless articles and research journals, I confirmed a few things I already knew in my heart: female representation, especially in leadership positions, is still lacking. Increasing that number would lead to so many benefits, monetary and not, for companies, the economy, and society. In all of my research, I noticed one idea missing. What is it that women actually want in a workplace, and is that really different from what men want?

The future of work survey

As one of my internship projects, I created, sent out, and analyzed a survey, titled the future of work, asking this very question. My objective was to identify what is lacking in the workplace for the retention of women. In the end, I got fifty-five responses across multiple countries, fields, ages, and genders. Unsurprisingly, everyone ranked feeling appreciated and valued as the most important factor in choosing or staying at a job. I think that speaks to our most instinctual human needs, and is common across all people of all backgrounds. Past that, the results got more interesting!

For instance, men valued things such as benefits. Women, however, placed high importance on work-life balance, family accommodations, and a mission that fits with their values and passions. Looking at this, I have to wonder whether this originates from true differences by gender, societal conditioning for women as caretakers and men as the breadwinners, or something entirely different. However, that is a very complicated question for another time! Maybe even for another CoWomen internship? 

I included the rest of the results below for all those other stats geeks like myself. But, please keep in mind that these results are generalizations. Not every man or woman is the same, nor do they value the same things in the workplace. 

The future of work survey results
The future of work survey results.

Bidding adieu!

Throughout this whole internship and in my experience at CoWomen, I saw rising women who are ready to make big moves in their careers and the lives of others. Unfortunately, I also saw a lot of waiting on their workplaces to support them in their goals. But, sometimes that leads them to places like CoWomen! Places where they can seek the extra inspiration, tools, and support to reach their full leadership potential. That’s exactly what the Female Leadership Circle at CoWomen is doing: to change the future of work! I would highly recommend checking it out if any of this described you! 

Entrepreneurial burnout - what it is and how to avoid it

As creative entrepreneurs, it’s super important for us to keep the inspiration alive. We are surrounded by everyone’s highlight reel. We only see the glamorous parts of entrepreneurship. We see those pinterest-worthy home offices with faux fur rugs tossed around the white leather chairs in their never-been-messy homes. We see women who are meal-prepping their keto dinners every Sunday afternoon while recording a podcast and doing a Facebook live.

Hold up a second… we ARE these women. We cross off an item on our to-do list and next thing we know, there’s something else stealing our attention. We go. Go. GO. That’s what we do, right? We get things DONE.

Then it hits you. The not-so-glamorous entrepreneurial burnout.Not a sign of entrepreneurial burnout!

You know that burnout that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning? The kind of burnout that leaves us telling our mom we’ll call her next week because we are just THAT drained. It’s the burnout that leaves us canceling plans that excite us. The burnout that makes us put our mental health on the back-burner. It brings out allll the guilt. The guilt for not doing enough and not being a good enough wife, mom or business women. It sucks, but we have all been there. 

Good news is, taking a proactive approach to life and your business can help keep you on track to avoid this ever-so-treacherous entrepreneurial burnout. And I promise you, that nap you’re thinking about right now will end up working more towards your business than holding out to do more work would. Trust me, girl.

Wanna know my secrets to avoiding entrepreneurial burnout? Well lucky for you, I’m sharing these with you below! *happy dance* Read on & enjoy!

CELEBRATE THE WINS.

I put this one first intentionally - it’s SO important. We are doing incredible things everyday. We’re working full-time jobs, taking care of our homes, keeping up with the bills, making dinner, cleaning our houses, doing ALL the things, all while growing a business.

One of the first things I did when I went into business was hire a business coach. She stressed the importance of celebrating every single win, because as these go-getter, amazing women, we are constantly in GO mode. In “I have to do more” mode. In “I have to get this done right freaking now,” mode. Doing one task and going on to another without focusing on the wins (I’m talking both big AND small) leads to us forgetting our “why.” It makes us ask ourselves if what we’re doing is even worth it all this hustle and bustle.

When you find yourself celebrating the small wins, you find yourself wanting to achieve more! It’s like that feeling you get after you check something off of your to-do list. You know that feeling, don’t you? Let yourself feel that rush for longer than the typical three seconds before you move on to something else. When I get a new client, I literally stand up and dance. Then I go do something for myself. Whether that’s taking a bath, going to dinner or even going to bed. Sometimes it’s booking the weekend trip I’ve been thinking about. Regardless of what it is, I ALWAYS celebrate.

Here are some things that always deserve celebrating:

  • - When someone signs up for your email list (or hell, even starting your email list)
  • - Getting a new client
  • - Getting an amazing review (tip: print these out and hang them around you or keep them in a Google doc, that way, whenever you feel down, you can remember how much your clients love you, and how much the universe NEEDS you!)
  • - Reaching any goal - big or small (and when you take the time to celebrate instead of automatically setting a bigger goal, I promise, you will find yourself reaching more goals than you ever expected!)

You’re doing amazing. You should be so proud of yourself.

DON’T LET PERFECT BE THE ENEMY OF GOOD.

Don't let that entrepreneurial burnout stop you from getting any work done!Two of my favorite quotes ever happen to be by Jenna Kutcher. One is “busy is not a badge of honor,” and the other is “done is better than perfect.” I find myself reminding myself of both of these things on a daily basis.

Most of us struggle with perfectionism. We always have, and we always will. Especially when we are over-coming this insane self-doubt and imposter syndrome we have and trying to figure out how to do all of the things. We’re working hard to make our dreams come true and every little thing has to be absolutely perfect.

Except it doesn’t.

Nothing does.

Ever.

Let go of the idea of perfect and marry the idea of momentum. Perseverance and momentum is what distinguishes those who are successful from those who are not. Don’t waste your precious time and energy trying to perfect something. Accept the idea of “good enough.” Understand that when you wake up every single morning, you have a limited amount of energy, and you have to determine where that energy goes. Figure out what is important, what needs more time, and what you can do to just get by (and fix later!)

Forgiving yourself and accepting things that are not-so-perfect will save you so much time, energy, and let you focus on other things that are really important (like making yourself and your business money, duh) and help you to avoid that entrepreneurial burnout.

FIGURE OUT WHAT RECHARGES YOU.

This is often talked about and associated with the word “disconnect.” And don’t get me wrong, disconnecting can be incredibly beneficial and an amazing way to recharge, but not for everyone. You know how people identify with either being introverted or extroverted? They use those words, not to determine how “shy” they are, or how “anti-social,” they are, but to describe where they get their energy from.

After a long work week, do you feel more energized when you go out with your friends? Or, do you feel more energized after spending an evening alone with minimal contact to others?

“Introverts require some alone space to clear their mind whereas extroverts generate energy by spending time with people. Alone time allows introverts to disconnect from the world and reset their focus and this is absolutely crucial for their survival. Introverts recharge from within because this is how they get their signal that they are in full control of themselves. Spending time with people cons

Find activities and ways to divert that entrepreneurial burnout and recharge

tantly would drain them. Thus, they embrace solitude because it allows them to concentrate better and avoid distractions. Extroverts, on the other hand, feel fully fulfilled and content being surrounded by people. Social environments with larger crowds stimulate extroverts their share of energy.” - Learning Mind

Figure out what you identify with most, and use that for energy. Isolating yourself completely may not help you avoid entrepreneurial burnout if you’re an extrovert, and vice versa if you are an introvert. It is so important to understand this and know the difference!

FOCUS ON HOW FAR YOU’VE COME.

Don’t take yourself for granted.

Look back at yourself six months ago, a year ago, six years ago.

Look at the difference you’ve already made for yourself. Hold that pride close, put it in a little bottle and get it out at times where you start to feel that entrepreneurial burnout and when you begin to question yourself. It’s energizing. It’s an unexplainable feeling to actually focus on the fact that you took your dream, in circumstances that weren’t perfect, and you worked towards it anyway.

A lot of this goes back to gratitude, too. I use the Five Minute Journal daily and it helps me sit down and realize my wins of the day and what I accomplished. And even that, I flip back every few weeks and see the amazing things I’ve done and the progress I’ve made and how far I’ve come in just that short amount of time. When you realize what you’ve already done and how far you’ve already made it, it makes it incredibly hard to not believe that you will go further. And further.

And, when you see where you are now, objectively, from a perspective of pride and not criticism, you will realize: you are way too damn far in this to quit.

At the end of the day, these things all go back to the big picture of self-care. So, above all things you pencil in your schedule, make that number one.

Now, go take that nap. You deserve it. 

xx

The importance of knowing your worth as a freelancer

I started freelance writing in 2017 to supplement my income. I was just about to graduate college and had accumulated a massive amount of student loan debt. To say I was feeling overwhelmed was an understatement! What I didn’t know then was how the decision to start freelancing would change my life. 

My intention at first was to freelance part-time to earn extra money. Truthfully, I never thought I could turn it into anything more. How wrong I was! In just over a year, I was able to quit my job and become a full-time freelance writer.  

I consider myself very lucky to be able to do what I’m passionate about day in and day out, but I’d be lying if I said getting here was easy. I would love to say there’s a proven formula, but the truth is, everyone’s path is different. That being said, there are some important things to know when getting started as a freelancer:

  1. Don’t be afraid to tell people what you do. You never know where your next client might come from!
  2. Know your worth and don’t waste your time on clients who are willing to devalue what you do. 
  3. Protect yourself and your business by always having clients sign a contract. 
  4. The key to being successful as a freelancer is to find what makes you different from everyone else and run with it. 

Like most freelancers and business owners, my path has never been linear. In fact, it’s been more like a roller coaster! However, once I learned these four lessons (the hard way, of course) it became much easier to navigate the highs and lows of freelancing. Here’s how I gained the skills and confidence to turn my side hustle into a full-time gig. 

I Got Off to a Rocky Start 

The first few months of freelancing were filled with rejection, uncertainty, and frustration. Finding clients was hard — much harder than I ever anticipated. Most of the ads I found required 3-5 years of copywriting experience, which as a newbie, I didn’t have. 

Feeling dejected, I started searching for other places and methods to win clients. I found a few blog posts about freelance writers making a lot of money on sites like Upwork and Fiverr, so I figured I’d give Upwork a shot. Unfortunately, my experience was not quite so successful! 

The upside to freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr is that they have a lot more newbie-friendly listings. The downside is they’re so saturated with freelancers it’s nearly impossible to win work. In the 4 or 5 months I used Upwork, I was awarded two jobs. Neither paid well but at that point, I was just so excited to have work I was more than willing to accept. 

The first job was a one-off project while the other was ongoing and consisted of writing a minimum of 4 articles a month. For every 800 words I wrote, I would earn $5. That’s less than $0.01 per word! With the time it took to write, research, edit, and find photos I’d have invested a minimum of 3 hours into each article. 

After about three months, I experienced some serious burnout. I spent most of my free time sending new proposals and writing articles for my first Upwork client. I’d be working until late into the evening, only to feel like I’d barely made any headway. I began to wonder if I was ever going to make it as a freelance writer. How did other writers do it? What made them more successful than me? Looking back, it’s easy to see I was putting too much effort into something that had very little payoff. 

Talking About My Business Helped It Grow...

Up until that point, I had kept my new side hustle under wraps. I was nervous to tell my friends and family I was trying to make extra money as a writer. I figured if it didn’t work out, I could save myself the embarrassment of having to explain I failed — which I think a lot of freelancers can relate to. 

But, after my disheartening Upwork experience, I found myself needing to vent. So, I finally told a friend about my freelance writing business. The decision to share what I had been doing is a very big part of what has gotten me to where I am. Hearing how thrilled she was for me to pursue something I loved gave me the push I needed to keep going. Not only did she fully support my latest endeavor, but she also connected me with several people, including my first real client. 

...And Discover the Value of My Work 

Working with my first client was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. It became pretty clear at our initial meeting that the reason I wasn’t making good money as a freelance writer was that I had consistently undervalued myself. I had convinced myself couldn’t charge more because I was inexperienced. Somehow, I perceived the work I was doing as less than what other freelance writers were doing. The need to charge bargain prices was only compounded by the saturation of freelancers using Upwork and bidding for the same jobs. 

I quickly realized I didn’t have to adhere to this weird standard. That’s the beauty of freelancing, after all; you can set your own rates and charge what you think is fair for your services. Once I figured out I am the only one responsible for my rates, everything changed. Not only did I raise my rates to reflect what my services were worth but my mindset as a freelancer changed dramatically. 

Raising My Rates Helped Attract the Right Clients... 

I quit wasting my time on sites like Upwork and cruising job boards. Rather than trying to be the right fit for everyone, I chose to focus on attracting the right clients. I did that my narrowing my niche, identifying who my target client was, and setting rates to match. My decision to separate myself from the pack gave my business a boost. The clients I began to attract not only had the budget to pay well for my services but also valued the work that I do. 

I also started focusing on marketing my business by cold emailing my target clients and using LinkedIn to form connections. In addition, I made it a point to ensure every client I worked with had a positive experience. Doing so paid off with the very first client referral I received, which also happened to be the first time I pitched my new rates. 

Even though I knew I was in the right range for pricing, the first time I told a potential client my rates was uncomfortable. We were on a call and I remember telling them my prices and just holding my breath; I was so nervous! It turns out that I had no need to be. The prospect didn’t even hesitate. They went on to hire me for several projects and I still work with them today. 

...And Repel the Wrong Clients 

Aside from the obvious benefits of raising my rates, I’ve found doing so has helped me weed out people looking for “budget” content. Prospective clients would email me about writing website copy or creating blog content which was always followed up with, “what are your rates?” When I’d respond with my prices — which were still much lower than they are today — they would do one of two things. 

  1. They would ghost me completely. 
  2. They would insist my rates were too high and ask me to lower them. 

As frustrating as it was, I learned pretty quickly that I needed to stick to my guns with my pricing. The few times I did lower my rates, the client took that as a sign they could continue to make special requests outside of the scope of our original agreement. Luckily, I had contracts in place to protect from project creep. 

Those experiences were definitely frustrating, but I wasn’t blameless. By meeting their demand for a lower rate, I had essentially told them that I agreed I was charging too much or that my work was not worth the price. Needless to say, I stopped discounting my services. I also have a pricing guide on my website, which provides a clear picture of my services and corresponding rates. Those that do reach out know exactly what to expect regarding my pricing. 

The lessons I learned in the first year of freelancing allowed me to turn my side hustle into a full-time job. By October of 2018, just over a year after I started, I was able to quit my 9-5 job. While I always craved the freedom that comes with running a business, I never thought I would get to this point. Each little change, from my mindset to my pricing, had a massive impact on my freelance writing career. It’s not always easy but I’ve become much more equipped to handle the low points or pivot if necessary. 


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