A question of flexibility
You’ve decided you want to work as a freelancer. You ditched the day job to go out on your own, and now you’re a contractor-sole trader-free agent. Your dream of freedom and flexibility has come true. It’s ideal… isn’t it?
Work as a freelancer: enjoy the pluses
Now you can decide how much time you’ll spend working, and choose the hours that suit you. Not only that, you’re free to take your laptop, your phone and your notebooks to wherever you want to be. Suddenly, work as a freelancer means you’re location independent. It really can be liberating.
For many years I have worked while on overseas trips, and I love it. I’ve written a series of articles from a hilltop apartment in San Remo, several e-books while travelling around Ireland, Italy and France, and too many pieces to count from my semi-regular haunt in Paris. Truthfully, I can say I’ve had some incredible ‘offices’, and I wouldn’t exchange those experiences for anything.
But you don’t have to be overseas to feel the benefits. When you’re at home base, there’s something special about being able to take an afternoon off to go to the cinema, and it’s good to know you can ‘swap’ a sunny winter afternoon that’s perfect for an outing, for a few hours after dark, when you really don’t mind being at your desk. And when you are free to choose your hours, flexible working times can be even more of a plus, especially if you work with clients in other countries.
But … can you always take advantage of that kind of freedom? I’m guessing no-one would refuse the chance to work flexibly while spending time overseas, but what about the rest of the time?
Work as a freelancer: recognise the pitfalls
When you work as a freelancer, the opportunity to spend hours working in a café, in the park, or on a sunny balcony at home is attractive, and definitely possible. Sometimes, though, it’s not entirely practical.
I love the idea of working outside the office, having a coffee and watching the world go by, but there are drawbacks.
It can be distracting, and less productive – especially when being away from your office tricks you into thinking it’s a ‘slacking off day’.
It’s self-limiting. You can’t realistically spend the same number of hours in parks, cafes and courtyards, as you would in your home office, so there’s the inevitable loss of momentum when you change locations.
It’s easy to take ‘early minutes’. You’re more likely to finish your working session before you planned to. And there’s always the temptation to make a detour and do other errands. More lost time.
Things happen. You will almost certainly pack up and go home when:
- The battery on your laptop runs low, or you run into tech problems
- The weather changes
- You’ve spent your daily budget on, or drank your daily quota of, coffee
- Cafe owners start giving you funny looks because you haven’t bought a meal
- Clients call you and it sounds like you’re… well, exactly where you are (cups clattering, music playing, seagulls screaming…)
Besides, there are some definite benefits in having a well equipped home office.
- I particularly enjoy the visual benefits of plugging my laptop into a large monitor – and it’s definitely not a portable accessory
- It’s also good to be able to reach for a scribble pad, or do a mockup of a graphic layout with coloured pens
- You might want to walk around and talk yourself through a complex concept (aloud). That just looks weird in the park.
- And when your fingers are sick of typing, it’s great to switch on dictation mode and talk like a robot so your voice recognition software captures your words as accurately as possible. Try doing that in a café!
The reality is this: on most ordinary days, the best option is to stay put. Different desk, different room, but the same drill as when you had an office-bound job. What really is important, and valuable, though, is knowing you have a choice.
It’s a balancing act
Make no mistake: if you want to work as a freelancer, there are plenty of advantages. It’s just that you need to be aware of the other side of the coin. For every major plus, there are potential pitfalls, too – as you can see from the image below.
Here I’ve only touched on one aspect: the F words – for ‘Flexibility’ and ‘Failing to take advantage’.
If you’re interested in the whole list – and a lot more – you might like to read my book:
50 Ways To Love (and Leave) Your Laptop: Freelancing Without Flipping Out
It will be out fairly soon, so if you’d like an advance copy, please contact me and I’ll send you the details.
Read more about how to Write Effective Web Content (whether you’re thinking about freelancing or not)