And Then Ashton Kutcher Sent Me A Present.
“Katie, you’re not going to like this, but I’m just going to say it.” I looked at him wearily, the way anyone would look at someone who is about to ruin your day. Especially when that person is technically your employer, and even more especially when you’re living in a foreign country. Aaron was gruff in the most amicable of circumstances, and I knew his words were about to sting.
“What?” I asked, eyebrows raised, bracing for the blow.
He sighed. “You are just not good at working for other people.”
He was right. I didn’t like it. As the stereotypical former straight A student with a solid work ethic, hunger for praise, and overachieving drive for perfection, I didn’t understand. I was pretty sure I was a great employee. I had been meticulously writing copy for his product website and using his top secret recipes to cook his hot sauce for the last six weeks in Bagaces, Costa Rica. As the first outsider he’d entrusted with the hand-scribbled ingredient lists, I’d spent many-an-hour facing the threat of second-degree facial burns while pureeing piping hot habañero mash in a kitchen blender and coughing on capsaicin fumes.
As far as I was concerned, I’d earned top employee status, and I had the esophageal nerve damage to prove it.
“Before you get all defensive,” he said when I was about to get all defensive, “hear me out. What I mean is that you’re like me. You’re vocal and have a lot of ideas. You’re the type of person who’s meant to be working for yourself.”
In retrospect, I think maybe it’s Aaron who was vocal and had a lot of ideas, and therefore he didn’t particularly love hearing mine. But in the years since, I’ve taken his words to heart. And, after several years of trial-and-error working for myself and for others, I’ve done some serious mental list making.
What I Don’t Like About Working For Myself:
- The pressure and responsibility of running a business;
- The constant drive to find ways to be more efficient/make more money;
- The inability to stop thinking about it. Ever.
What I Do Like About Working For Myself:
- The freedom of setting my own hours and taking as much time off as I want;
- The ability to work from anywhere;
- Wearing yoga pants on my morning commute across the hallway from my bedroom to my office.
So. Clearly, my ambitions (or lack thereof) do not CEO material make. But my skills and interests are primo for working for driven, interesting, non-corporate type people who are open to ideas, have their own businesses, and could use my particular widespread set of skills and expertise. But where could I find all of that and keep my yoga pants?
All it took was a dollop of corporate rejection and a pinch of sheer luck, and my career as a virtual freelancer was born.
Now I work for a couple of exciting companies right from my home office.
The great thing about this business is, if done right, I don’t need much in the way of overhead to keep it going. My computer, planner, and access to the internet are necessities; my printer is a plus; and everything else is just bonus.
I still use an old-fashioned planner to stay organized. There’s something about color coding my tasks and x-ing the boxes — it’s my one graspable vice in an otherwise virtual existence.
I occasionally have to travel to D.C. for this gig (it’s a hardship, I know), and I’ve found myself wanting something a bit more portable than my bulky laptop to carry on the train — and, for that matter, around my house. When I’m away from my desktop computer, I’m often attempting to send emails or read recipes or fiddle around on social media by squinting at my tiny smart phone screen and wishing I had smaller thumbs. I’m ashamed to admit it, but as a bit of a minimalist when it comes to gadgets and do-dads, I’ve never owned a tablet.
What kind of millennial am I? (The Generation X kind, I guess.)
But when Ashton Kutcher recently called me up and was all, “Katie, I’m so proud of you for accomplishing your dreams of earning an income while establishing location independence that I just have to send you a gift of my own design to help you on your way,” I was like, “Seriously, Ashton. It’s not necessary. You and Mila just had a baby. You have enough on your plate.”
But he was all, “Nono — I insist. You deserve it.” And, you know, when Ashton says he’s sending you a present, you take it.
So now I have this beautiful Lenovo YOGA Tablet 2 Pro that does all of these fantastic things — for work and entertainment — that I didn’t even know I wanted.
Wait. Is that a laptop, or a tablet?
It’s definitely a tablet. But it has this really fantastic kickstand that lets me stand it up to watch funny videos hands-free.
And what’s that odd tube-shape along the bottom?
IT’S A PROJECTOR, YOU GUYS. (I’ve since discovered that you actually tip the tablet the other way on the kickstand so it’s lying flat to project in a non-sideways manner. Some people care about these things.)
Justin and I tried it one blustery night in February, and we were able to get a clear image covering the huge part of the wall. We’ve been addicted to projectioning and popcorning ever since.
(Now listen. We don’t have a high-def television, so our idea of clear might be different than your idea of clear, but I don’t love seeing Eric Northman’s foundation line when I watch Trueblood, and this is still more than clear enough to properly appreciate all of the gore.)
I haven’t had it very long, but here are some other ways I plan on using this puppy:
- Hang it in the kitchen for recipe access. (Yes, hang. The kickstand opens all the way so you can hang it on the wall. I plan on installing a hook so we can hang this up and out of the way to refer to recipes online while I cook. No more garlic-scented smart phone!)
- Listen to music while I work around the house. (My Lenovo really is like a puppy — following me around the house during the day while I work, make lunch, use the bathroom, and work some more.)
- Use it to stay portably organized with access to dropbox, Evernote, email, etc. (I have much exploring of the apps yet to do, but so far it’s looking like I’ll be able to access everything I need while I’m not physically sitting at my desktop.)
- On-the-fly professionalism. (With the quick press of a button, I can turn on the projector for presentations, brainstorming, sketching, etc. during meetings with my clients/employers.)
- Entertainment. (I have dreams of hosting an outdoor movie screening on our deck this summer, and Justin’s already commandeered it for an online game he likes to play. Plus, he’s figured out how to use this as a remote for an app we use on our television.)
Listen. After experiencing the gamut of standard employment options and spending five-ish years of blindly bumping my way through a variety of unsustainable part-time gigs, I’ve finally managed to find a niche where I fit. I was able to create my own way of working — independently, flexibly, virtually. My independent contractor status affords me the opportunity to assist and learn from various entrepreneurs in their endeavors around the world, as well as serving my interests as a traveler and a writer. I can’t be confined to an office all day.
Which works, because I don’t need much to do what I do.
And with the help of this tablet, I can do it anywhere.
(Something tells me they won’t be stealing that tag line anytime soon.)
*Ashton Kutcher did not really call me. But he totally can if he wants to.
**I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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