Help! I need somebody…

A group of security guards in Hong Kong lined ...
A group of security guards in Hong Kong lined up (fall-in) before on duty. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you work for yourself, alone, you tend to think you can — and should — do it all. You get used to not having a boss, or colleagues or tech support or a janitor or security guards, any of the other people that normally surround us in an office or work setting.

You’re the CEO, CIO, CFO, R & D….and the janitor!

So hiring and paying others for their skills is something I have to force myself (Ms. Cheap) to do, while knowing it’s going to help me do my work better and faster. We all need a few smart brains to help us think through a problem that just stares us in the face sticking its tongue out…

And there’s a fun, honest piece on outsourcing grooming and fashion help from the current issue of American beauty magazine Allure, (which they offer no online link to):

I wish the tech nerds would get together with the fashion nerds and invent a company that would not only body-map the exact topography and physique of my physique, but also take it a step further and send me the following items in my exact size — hosiery, socks, T-shirts, jeans and bras.

Here’s a lovely post from mashedpotatoes about how much her husband does for her…

And another, from one of my favorite blogs, by singer Jessie Veeder, (which always has spectacular photos of her life on a ranch):

for all the Valentines Days I’ve been able to share with with a cute and thoughtful boy who turned out to be a man who makes the coffee nice and strong, searches for his clothes in the early hours of the morning with a headlamp so he doesn’t wake me, knows his way around a kitchen, unclogs the clogs, fixes broken things and promises he will be there tonight when I sing again, no matter the hours and miles he has to put in at work today.

A few of those helping me get it done these days:

The redoubtable C

It seems too unlikely to find and hire a terrific assistant through reading her blog, and vice versa, but that’s what happened. (A well-written blog lets readers know who you are and how you think and what your values are, so I felt no fear asking her to work with me as a researcher and general dogsbody.) She lives very far away from me and always will, although there’s a chance we’ll meet this summer. Her energy, enthusiasm, smarts and humor are a godsend. Here’s a link to her blog, Small Dog Syndrome.


Ricky comes to our apartment every two weeks to clean it. I pay her $55 for about 90 minutes’ work, a fee some of my friends consider a lot of money. Not me. She’s quiet, efficient, meticulous and allows me to focus on high-value work. And she’s nice.


My hairdresser of more than a decade.


A local hairdresser in my suburban town, she’s happy to meet me at 7:30 a.m. to do my hair, necessary when I’m asked to do a TV appearance. No, I can’t begin to approximate the quality of a professional blow-out! (And it’s a business expense.)


He created my main website,, which is due for a major re-do. We spent a good hour on the phone recently — as he now lives in Portland, Oregon — trying to figure it all out. I’m grateful for someone who’s known me so long and watched my career and skills morph since we put the site up in 1995, when very few writers even had one.


My financial planner in Toronto. OK, he’s not mine — he handles 100 accounts, mine among them. I’ve heard his gravel voice for years, but finally met him face to face recently and we chewed around some ideas for my portfolio. Given that mine may easily be the smallest he manages, I’m lucky he’s as gracious and helpful as he is.


My accountant for more than a decade. Even in my scariest, nail-biting, can-I-pay-the-bills years, and there have been a few, Peter has been encouraging, warm and proud of my ability to save 15 to 20 percent of my income — as a percentage, far more, he tells me, than clients earning much, more more. He even makes filing my taxes pleasant!


In May 2010, it was he, a massage therapist who knows me and my pain threshold all too well, who figured out something was seriously wrong with my left hip due to the sort of 24/7 pain I was suffering. After another MRI, at Tony’s urging, the dismissive surgeon who had given me steroids that destroyed my hip bone, said those three fateful words: “We missed that.”

Assorted helpful colleagues

The one serious drawback of working alone at home all day? Loneliness, isolation and brain-freeze. With no one across the desk or in the next cubicle to ask for help or advice or to brainstorm with, you can quickly burn out. My friend K, in Nova Scotia, always makes me at least 32% smarter after every call, no matter what the subject. G, in upstate New York, is high-energy and optimistic, and W., a new friend in Montreal, brims with fantastic ideas and helpful connections.

Roy and Yvonne

Every time I do a local event for my book, the owners of The Village Bookstore, one of only seven bookstores left in our large and affluent county, come out with a box of books and the hope that, after my presentation, we’ll sell some. Sometimes the drive is 45 minutes each way. No matter what the hour or weather or day, they’re there and cheerful and I’m grateful!

My brother

I have two. This one is ten years younger and runs his own software company, a fact that leaves me awestruck. The other day I needed all sorts of advice on creating and protecting IP — intellectual property — for a new project I’m working on. He totally got it and referred me to his patent expert and an IP lawyer. It’s really helpful to have someone I know, like and trust who sees all the issues and had dealt with many of them already.

My husband

I had neglected (!) to include him in this initial list, which proves how ungrateful utterly reliant I’ve become in 13 years on his good will, good humor, generosity and energy. I hate buying anything to do with technology — I’m cheap, hate making major financial commitments and yet appreciate every single thing he’s bought for me/us, including the coolest thing ever, a MiFi, the size of a credit card which turns anywhere, (short of the Grand Canyon), into an instant wi-fi spot. He also does all the laundry, some cooking and, far more safety conscious than I, thinks of things like — “Hmm, we’re driving up to Canada in the winter. Maybe we need new snow tires.” Which we desperately did. I’m lucky that he, too, has been a journalist, (albeit on the photo side), since his freshman year of college as I did, so he’s helped me many times with work dilemmas.

Who is essential to helping you run your life better or more easily these days?

13 thoughts on “Help! I need somebody…

  1. I’m redoubtable! My day is made!

    I rely heavily on J. for morale boosts when I lag, and he too is the tech guy in our family. I’m sure I could learn a lot of the skills he possesses inherently but it’s really nice to just call on him for help sometimes. Other than that, talking to any of The Girls is as good as shot in the arm. Between them they are a treasure trove of random knowledge. If one of us doesn’t know how to do something or where to look for help, the others do. And if I ever am feeling low, self doubting, or overwhelmed, they are there to offer perspective. They are cheerleaders, therapists, and great references all rolled into one.

    I seriously took people for granted until a great deal of my support team moved away. Having people is amazingly important

    (Side note: I’ve only recently acquired a hairdresser and I have been underestimating them for years!)

    1. I think the myth of the rugged individualist is just a myth.

      And a great hairdresser is a Very Important Person! I dreamed last night I’d gone to some random person and gotten the worst color ever…

  2. Love the behind the scenes support you bravely demonstrate. I jumped into part time work after 15 years, continue to work on my book, social justice projects, advocacy. It it weren’t for a collection of body workers (massage therapists, chiropractors), writing partners, drivers for getting kids to school, my cleaning lady, gardeners, I would conceivably be doing a lot less of the the “good” or “bad” work I do (depending on your politics). I am indebted to their loyalty, tip them at the holidays, ask about their families and lives. And, I am very conscious every single day how lucky I am to have them all (and my husband who encourages and supports this) because I have lived through excruciatingly lean times when I lived in my truck and campgrounds and could not get work. (That’s in my book…)

    On that note, Caitlyn, I wanted to ask you specifically your thoughts on a particular topic. I started blogging to prove I could develop an author’s platform. I had planned on starting a second blog with my full name (and blog less or not at all about my snarky teenagers who I am in part trying to protect…and politics). I understand that my authorial platform will be connected to my name and image, but uncertainty lingers for me about 1.) putting my social and other opinions out there as a potential freelancer 2.) concerns remain from having been stalked when I was much younger 3.) creating a potential political trail that may not agree with the university to which I may (or may not) list my affiliation on my professional / platform blog. (There’s a question…)

    I know the social strength of my voice lies in the power of my individual experience and my willingness to risk in story telling. I wouldn’t be considering this if I’ve not seen the change even one person can cause by putting themselves out there.

    I just wondered if you could speak to this balance from experience… but also, since you are talking about what it takes to do what you do… and what I do, I also wonder from a pure administration standpoint how thin can one person stretch themselves… would it be worth it to stretch myself across two blogs, or should I add my full name on unpacked on the page like you do on Broadside, or should I use my name in a separate professional writing dot com?

    My memoir is 80,000 words and three chapters from long rewrite…I’ve had some agents tell me they’d like to see it when it’s done. I’d like to start getting the social media/ my platform straight… as well as keep it simple.

    You’re doing this and doing it well. What advice can you offer?

    1. It all depends on your goals. I’m not sure the three reasons you’re fearful are worth worrying about, but I’m not you. Unless your beliefs are really bizarre and radical, why hide them? If your book gets published and gets any media attention, this will come out anyway.

      Why would someone stalk you as a result of your blogging? (If you are truly fearful, find out your state’s laws on internet harassment. In many states, it is against the law and you can go after someone who does this on-line.) For freelancers, I doubt most editors give a rip about anyone’s politics. They’re all too busy protecting their jobs. And, again, why does this affiliation with your university matter?

      If your memoir is focused on your wilderness years, don’t muddy the waters by blogging endlessly about politics. It will confuse readers. The goal is to create an audience hungry to read more….and if you are not writing a book about political issues yet that’s what you are mostly blogging about, where will your memoir audience come from?

      I’d do one blog and just make it really good. I think all these fears are, in the larger scheme of things, less important than finding an agent, finding a publisher and getting your book into readers’ hands.

  3. A great idea to think about all the people who help us. Sometimes, the small helps push us.
    I’ m living alone with a sweet 15, a creativ synesthetic feeling girl.
    She helps me to see the world in an other way.
    Some really good friends, for years.
    A job where I don’t need only my brain but my heart and soul. Especially the ladt days: I had to manage a strike.
    Music – a really good teacher, my brilliant ” Cello-Queen”.

    And during my burn- out- time the help and friendship of the developer from emoflex® a neuro-psycholgical technic to get over stress illness.
    He works alone, too. The germans are fixed at things they know….earn your money with a new method witout a gradutate of University is really heard. Even if you are a specialist . He is a special thinker …with synesthetic and autistic talent. In the meantime we are good friends and work also together. I bring the view of the user, he is the programmer 😉

  4. C- thank you for your insights. I probably should not worry: but my husband is cautious – a German who’s family and culture suffered for what was ‘on record’ both pre and post war.

    My book is about my wilderness years and it’s connection with my blog today is that it’s memoir, and moments that matter no matter in what landscape still embed themselves onto the landscape of the heart…

    The remaining question then is, should I restart with my name-as-platform-blog or simply add my name to existing blog and let that keep rolling with a page listing my current book projects?

    Many thank you’s for bringing your keen eye to this.

    1. That decision is really up to you. I would suggest (if you aren’t reading it already) Kristen Lamb’s blog (which is under her name which she insists all writers do — which I do not…) Much as her “rahrah you go girl!” tone really annoys me sometimes, she does offer a lot of good advice.

      Your goal is to get a lot of eyeballs, and a LOT of engagement. Visitors and views don’t matter anymore — engagement (i.e. comments and conversation and links) does.

      I typically charge an hourly fee for this sort of thing; feel free to email me privately for any more details.

  5. leah wolfe

    “how ungrateful utterly reliant” Now, that’s a bit of clever, right there. Great list. Great idea. My list is pretty short-just the dog-but he’s lazy and takes up the whole couch, so I’m not sure he’ll even make the top spot just now.

  6. Sorry for the loss of your dog. Thank you for answering my blog questions. My positioning of concern is often more social than political, but it’s all wrapped up. MANY THANKS FOR YOUR TIME. Renee

  7. Thank you for the mention in your blog! I am so appreciative of you, and it was a very nice surprise. 🙂 I forget sometimes how much my husband truly does for me and our family. I always think it’s me, me me…so I have to check myself from time to time. I try to make it a point to thank those in my life. It’s always good to show and say your thankfulness to the ones you hold dear (or even a stranger who showed you a kind act).
    Thank you!

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