Working from home is awesome. You know, you get to spend the day in PJ’s, you can eat over your keyboard and come and go as you please. But there are also some challenges no one tells you. Like having a 10-cups-a-day filter coffee budget. And a fancy gin budget for celebrating the small wins and coping with the big fails. If you are thinking about going freelance, you should probably read this first. If you are already enjoying the freelance lifestyle, I am sure you can relate to these. Let me know if I missed something!
Working from home alone does not mean you have me-time.
Sure, you get to spend time all by yourself every single day, but the quality me-time (paint your toenails, de-weed the mint garden, draw silly pictures type of time) does not exist. You spend the time on your work, not on your self.
It is not an 8-5 job.
Working either early mornings or late at night, depending on your owl-persona, is a reality. Sometimes really nice weather weekends (thankfully horrible weather ones too) are wasted because of a tight deadline. You often have to attend to emails, answer calls and respond to messages after hours. Working with people from different time-zones especially asks for reading (and answering) emails before bedtime.
You can’t afford to get sick.
You don’t have paid sick leave. If you’re down for two days, you don’t work for two days, and you don’t get paid for two days. Simple – yet devastating – concept.
You arrange your life around deadlines.
I have set project deadlines certain times of the month or year. I arrange my holidays and weekend aways around that. There is nothing worse than having to work while away on a sanity break. I had a very tight deadline for the day before my granny’s funeral. I spent three days working day and night. By the time we reached the funeral (which was in Pretoria, so I had an additional not-able-to-work day due to travelling) my eyes had (graphic)designer bags under them, and I felt like passing out. I even had to finish the memorial letters’ bows in the car on the way to the funeral.
Some months are better than others.
Sure, it sounds obvious, but it really is a tough aspect of being a freelancer. Some projects overlap a month or two, which means you don’t have an income for the time in between. Then there is the winter depression. Things quiet down from June to August. Nobody knows why. And then, January. I have been lucky the past two years to have had projects lined up for January, but this is not the norm.
Your family won’t always get it.
Hubbles supports me like no other person, but he does not always understand why I need to get shit done *right now*. If it is done right now, it means I don’t have to do it after supper or tomorrow morning, saving me 12 hours of time. The tiny human is still tiny enough not to mind too much, but he often walks into my office just looking for a hug. At times it makes you feel like the worst mom on earth. I make time for these hugs and hate when I have to cut them short.
Returning to personal life is difficult.
My office is in our house. I often find myself pacing around after everyone is asleep trying to remember if I remember everything I need to remember. It takes a tremendous lot of effort to switch between work life and personal life. In my post about small achievements, I mention that it does help to create a priority list before switching off your computer at the end of your working day. It gives you a good indication of what your next day will look like and makes it easier to “just step away from the computer.” When I revamped my office a year or so ago, I got rid of the door because it had, well, too much character? So yes, as soon as I get a new door I suppose drawing the line will be a little less difficult.
You feel guilty when you take a break.
Maybe it is just me, but when I am quiet for a week or so, I feel so incredibly guilty for taking things slow. Even if I just spent a week working 12-hour days. I perfected the art of looking busy behind a blank computer screen. It is so silly because it is the perfect time for me time, right? Right.
Career-change becomes a popular topic.
I love my job. I really do. But sometimes you get a client or a project, or merely an existential crisis on some random Tuesday, that breaks you. Then you do a quick internet search for a permanent position as anything else but a graphic designer. And then you think about all the cons of working from home, having a mobile office and working with interesting people from everywhere, and the permanent position idea makes itself temporary.
It gets lonely sometimes.
There is no quick chat about the weather with anyone. No “can I make you coffee” offers and no what-did-you-have-for-suppers and see-you-tomorrows. Thankfully some of my closest friends are also freelancers, so we get to do quick coffee breaks together.
People don’t take you seriously.
No, seriously. You don’t have an admin person. Well, you do, but it is you. You don’t have (that many) overheads and all that other important stuff, so your labour must be cheap. Hence the featured image by Alex Noriega from www.snotm.com who is one of my ultimate heroes! We are serious people. We seriously put in a lot of effort to meet the not-always-realistic demands of clients we consider equally important. And that is some serious, serious business skills.
Yours in freedom and loneliness and happiness and stuff,