For as long as I can remember since I’ve first started freelancing, I’ve been told countless times by others how lucky I am. This gets brought up quite often in many conversations with others when I get asked what it is I do for a living. Some of these conversations usually end up with me being told how easy my life was and how fortunate I am to be able to work from home and living the dream all at the same time. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a blog post about me complaining to others about how wrong this might be but instead is a post explaining to others at least, what is it like for me when it comes to freelancing and working from home. So, what does working from home mean to me?
Working from home can be a part of freelancing, but freelancing does not always mean working from home.
A common myth that a lot of people like to believe is that freelancing means working from home. Let me go ahead and point this out now, this is not true. Freelancing, according to Google is:
“Working for different companies at different times rather than being permanently employed by a company.”
At the end of the day, this is what freelancing is and Google does a fine job defining it. Not all freelancing jobs give you the benefit of working from home. Some jobs require you to go into an office. Many only require you to show up once or twice a week or sometimes not at all. There are many factors that come into play. The biggest one, however, depends on who you work for and what their policies are.
Fortunately for me, a lot of my clientele work comes from independent businesses. This means that I get all of the benefits of working from home including some of the bad ones. Now, why would working from home be such a bad thing?
Your home is your workspace.
At first thought, this doesn’t seem to be so bad, especially if you are a college student. Being able to switch back and forth between school and professional work all in one go made things simpler. This is especially true if you have a dedicated room acting as your office. Sometimes your bedroom is all you got, however, which has its downsides.
As I said, your home is your workspace. When it comes to working outside in the professional world we usually have places we would clock in at. This essentially allows us to leave at the end of the day. Being home all the time kind of takes away this benefit. Not everyone will understand why I call this a benefit.
When you are working from home, you never truly do stop working. The moment you get an email or phone call it’s easy to just begin working again. Working at an office, however, prevents this from happening. Being able to come home actually gives you the chance to relax. You could even work on some of your own projects. This is especially true if you can’t take any of the work home with you.
For me personally, this became sort of a bad habit and at times a major problem depending on the season. Freelancing sometimes isn’t stable so you have to predict and take whatever it is you can. Even if it means piling up work. There are often times when I recall waking up to boot up my computer to work all day.
You wake up, get out of bed and all of a sudden you are in your office ready to work.
Since my office is my bedroom it becomes very hard to escape work. Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing. There are some perks that come with it and many things which I will point out in a future post. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either. Think of it as a love/hate kind of relationship depending on the day you are having.
There would be some days where I’m absolutely burnt out as it is normal for many jobs. Some days I’d feel like I’m on top of the world. Being home all the time makes it hard to distinguish between being comfortable enough to relax and enough to work. I never have the emotional separation between the two which leads me to my next issue:
Just 5 more minutes.
Ever had that moment where you are working on something or playing a game and you zone in so much? So much that you become so focus and you keep telling yourself 5 more minutes? It’s sort of the same concept when it comes to working on a project, at least for me anyways. Quite a few times I would be working on something that’s going to be due in a distant future. I get too motivated and focused to stop. I eventually end up burning myself out. This prevented me from working smartly on more important projects that are due much sooner. There are many factors that come into play with this including time management.
The fact that I am home most of the time makes it really hard to manage time. Taking into account how my personal life is constantly clashing with my professional career. There would be times where I would feel like going out to unwind a little bit to get some sort of energy back into place to continue working again, but there are also times where I would be invited to go out and I would have to refuse because a project is due the next day and I have to finish no matter how burnt out I am. Sometimes there really isn’t much of a choice at all between how I would balance my free time and work time.
Not much time to relax when you keep assuming.
The most stressful part of picking up freelance work all the time is you have to keep predicting. Would you pick up enough clients to help you pay the bills for a while or would you come short? These are questions I ask myself each time I go out for a meeting with new potential clients.
Sometimes I have the chance to say no and point them towards someone else who needs the work and who may even do it better than I would and sometimes I have to say yes no matter how much I want to say no and relax. Keeping on my feet all the time becomes stressful and it can also be very depressing.
Then there’s crunch time.
Another common myth about freelancing and working from home is that you can work whenever you feel like it. This is also not very true but it also depends on the circumstances. If you are freelancing for a company that requires you to be online working at a specific time then you have no choice. Just because you are working from home, does not give you the excuse to act like you are home.
There are those occasions when you don’t have to work a set of specific hours but crunch time is a thing. If you are balancing too many projects at the same time prioritizing takes effect. You’d have to squeeze in every available time you have to meet deadlines after deadlines. This is especially true if you pick up work that is due sooner rather than later. This happens to me a lot more than I’d like to admit. Not a lot of people seem to understand this because I should have all of the time in the world working from home.
You don’t get to interact with a lot of people.
The biggest downside for me with freelancing and working from home is that I don’t get to interact with people much. Humans are social creatures. From time to time I’d get a Skype call or go to a client meeting somewhere downtown. This however just isn’t the same as working in an office environment. Those small little distractions are good for you, and being able to talk with other people around you who share the same creative profession as I help decrease the burnout rate and gives me more juice to finish what I am trying to accomplish.
But because I am not in such a position I try to go out as often as I can to maybe grab a beer or two with my friends to keep myself sane. This line of work can be very depressing if you don’t look out for yourself and it can be unhealthy too if done wrong.
Then there’s being told to go get a real job.
Very rarely would I come across someone who’d listen to what you’ve just read only to tell me to get a real job. If you know someone who freelances, try to understand where they are coming from first before you tell them to get a real job. It’s almost just the same as being told to get a better job regardless of the circumstances or situation you may be in. It is as rude as it sounds. To us anyway, this is as real as it can get. It may not be as stable but like all jobs, there will be ups and downs and pros and cons to everything.
If you’ve read this far then I just want to say thank you for taking the time to hear me out. Well, reading in this case. It isn’t easy to speak about a topic like this most of the times especially when there are others who feel strongly about it or even the complete opposite. Now don’t get me wrong, everyone has their own experiences. This just so happens to be mine and I continue to try and improve myself each day to make working from home a better place.
Being a freelancer has its difficulties but also its perks and I do not discourage you or anyone else reading this from working from home. Try it out yourself and see how it is. Experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t but most importantly learn from other’s mistakes. There will be many times when you are deadlocked into working particular hours because of unforeseen circumstance or sometimes it’s just bad luck but you have if not as many good days, more than the bad.
Please feel free to share some of your downsides to working from home in the comments below and spread some awareness! Until next time.