Lisa Cugnetto is a freelance writer, editor & content producer with over 15 years of experience. She works with a range of businesses, agencies, publications, not-for-profits and more.
This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week. Save 40% off your first HelloFresh box with Balance The Grind.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I currently work as a freelance writer, editor and content producer. While I have always written on the side alongside permanent roles, I decided to make the jump to working for myself full-time at the start of 2016.
I’ve worked in a variety of roles over my 15-year career, including in marketing, publishing, content, and communications. This has included stints at newspapers, not-for-profits, a press clipping agency, a content marketing agency, and publishing companies in Melbourne, London and Sydney.
The industry has changed dramatically in recent years. When I was studying my Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing and Editing) I imagined I’d end up working for a magazine. But the shift from print to digital has been huge, as has the place of traditional media and the rise of brands as publishers.
Today, while I do contribute to magazines, newspapers and websites, my clients also include small businesses, brands, community organisations and content agencies.
2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I try to keep my work hours between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm. However the nature of my workload tends to ebb and flow, moving quickly from a quiet week to a busy one with a moment’s notice, so it tends to change based on that.
My day usually starts with reading and responding to emails, then tucking into whatever tasks I have allocated for that day.
This may include writing web copy, blogs, articles, proofing or editing content, researching and pitching stories, undertaking or transcribing interviews, putting together content calendars, style guides or strategies, meeting with clients or general business-related admin.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
As I’m self-employed, I’m lucky enough to choose how I shape my workdays. However, that also comes with the challenge of ensuring that I always have enough work incoming!
As I work from home, I try to take a break from my screen every few hours. Usually, after I complete a big task or finalise a project. I might take my dog, Asterix, for a walk, pop on a load of washing, run an errand or wander down the road to the local cafe or bakery. I find even small breaks can be great for processing an idea or just refreshing your headspace.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
I’m a sucker for a to-do list and love the feeling of crossing a completed item off a list. I tend to end my day taking note of what I need to get done the next day or over that working week. Trello is a handy tool for this, but a good old-fashioned hand-written list also does the trick.
Slack is great for collaborative projects. I’ve found it much more effective than email chains or group messages. It also allows you to set a status so others can see when you are offline.
I switched from doing all my invoices and expenses manually to accounting software a few years back. It’s such a timesaver and automates so many mundane accounting-related jobs. I use Rounded, which is very user-friendly and great for freelancers, like myself.
5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Working for myself and working from home means it can be sometimes hard to separate the two. But I think it’s about putting boundaries in place to ensure you can make room for, prioritise and enjoy the other facets of your life, like time with your partner, friends and family, hobbies, socialising and downtime.
Small things can make a big difference. Don’t answer client emails on weekends. Don’t be the type of person who keeps their phone on the table, and checks it often, when they are out at dinner.
Don’t overcommit to work to the point it overwhelms you in a debilitating way. Don’t feel bad about taking time for yourself, sometimes saying no, and occasionally treating yourself.
6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
I think recognising the value of time is central to making the most of your workday. I’ve found switching off distractions for a set period of time can ensure you focus on the task at hand.
For example, I turned off social media notifications on my phone and don’t check every email as it comes in. This means I get what I need to done without losing my train of thought or juggling a multitude of other tasks alongside it.
I also think finding a community is an important one, especially for people who work for themselves or remotely. Having people – whether they are peers, industry groups, fellow freelancers or friends – to run questions by, seek advice from and bounce ideas off is invaluable and makes you feel less isolated.
7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
I’ve read an endless amount of wonderfully insightful articles and essays in magazines, newspapers and journals in print and online but in the way of books, these have been helpful for different reasons:
- Reframing the way I looked at the world: Ways of Seeing by John Berger
- To helping apply a filter to what I consume: The News: A User’s Manual by Alain De Botton
- Handy for finding perspective: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson
- For introducing me to finance fundamentals: The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I have a plan for the day. That way I know what I need to achieve by the end of it and am always on track to meet deadlines.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
The ‘cult of busy’, the notion that ‘hustling’ and working 24/7 equates to success, has been a celebrated notion for too long. I think it’s a fallacy.
A rich and meaningful life is defined by so much more than what you do for a living. That’s not to say you shouldn’t work hard – it just shouldn’t be at the expense of your health, wellbeing, happiness or that of those you love.
If you’d like to support Balance the Grind’s mission to promote health work-life balance to a global audience, you can join our Patreon membership for as little as $1 a month.