Working from Home: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I have the ideal situation. According to many people, myself probably included, I am living the dream. I work from home as a freelance content developer and writer. I exist as a creative type in the marketing realm, which is to say that I am among friends. I find and manage my own client base and work solely on a remote basis. I love it. But, it's not all sunshine and rainbows...
Working from home means a couple of things:
I don’t have to get out of my PJs if I don’t want to
There is no overseer, monitoring what I do
I can have a glass of wine at lunch (or breakfast if the urge were to strike)
I determine my own schedule and can take time off when I choose
There is no denying it. These are definite perks and I don't want to seem ungrateful. However, there are also some downsides:
I don’t have to get out of my PJs if I don’t want to (Like so many things in life, this is a blessing and a curse)
I have to be VERY self-motivated
It can be very easy to get distracted
There is no paid time off
It can be very unpredictable
I can never stop selling myself
The decision to work from home was not even a plan. It was not part of some grand scheme that I laid the groundwork for. For me, it happened completely by accident.
Formerly, I was a high school teacher instructing reluctant adolescents on the finer points of literature and writing. It was a job I loved — down to the random surprises I would find when cleaning out my classroom and the incessant duty of waking sleeping teenagers. But, over time and despite my love for my job, the bureaucratic nonsense began to wear me down. Perform a quick internet search for "why teachers leave," and you will be bombarded with open letters describing exactly the same frustrations I was facing. But, I digress.
I had given birth to my daughter and was preparing to return to the classroom after my maternity leave. I was dreading it with my heart and soul. Not only did I not want to turn my three-month old over to a daycare, I also found myself resenting the return to what I used to love.
A month before I was due back in the classroom, I was asked to do some editing work for a website to help bring in money during my nonpaid maternity leave (don't even get me started on this topic). I took to it immediately. I enjoyed the work, found I had a natural inclination for it, and enjoyed being able to do it all from home. So, when the offer came to keep doing the work, I said goodbye to my classroom and the students I adored. It sounds simple, but it was not an easy decision. Still, I embraced the change and charged in head first.
Now, four years later, here I am, still chugging away. And, I love it. I have never felt more in control and more out of control of my life than I do now. Let me explain the discordance.
It is extremely liberating to be in control of when I work, how I work, and who I work for. But, that does not come without its drawbacks. Controlling when, how, and where I work means that I still have to work. This means that I am not always able to play a game with my daughter or chase my son around the living room. It means that I sometimes don't brush my teeth until after noon. It means that, on occasion (or let's be fair, nearly everyday), I have to stare at my piles and piles of laundry and keep pecking away at my keyboard regardless of the stench emanating from the laundry basket. It sometimes means weekends and working well into the evening just to meet deadlines.
Also, working freelance can be unpredictable. I learned this the hard way. After about the first year, my work (and income) was unexpectedly cut by about 75%. I was not prepared and I panicked. It wasn't pretty.
After a little internal reflection, I threw myself into gathering new clients,which I had no idea how to do. And to my surprise, I did bring on new clients who liked my work and wanted to see more. This was very encouraging and lifted the tension somewhat. However, I had learned this from my experience — I could never stop selling myself. Doesn't sound terribly problematic, but trust me...it can be exhausting.
Even when I was maxed out, I still had to keep putting myself out there and prospecting possible opportunities. Because, any day, I could lose one or more clients and be without a large part of
my very much needed income. Needless to say, there is a fair amount of anxiety that comes with the territory.
But....I would do it again.
Working for myself has given me a sense of confidence in my own abilities that I didn't have before. And even though I am writing this as I sit in my PJs, my teeth and hair unbrushed, I recognize how lucky I am to be in control of my children, my work, and my life.
Here is some advice if you are planning to join the freelance ranks: You'll need a tough spirit and some money put away for tough times. But, if you're successful, you may find yourself in the best place you have ever been.