Though pretty much every freelance writer’s career will look different from the next person’s, there is likely one consistent point: working remotely.
Many of us work from home (or from Starbucks, the library, the train, or any number of locations).
Freelance writing is appealing to me because I can work mostly from home. Though I’m a social person and love working with others, as a mom of young kids, this location independence is ideal.
Two recent times I’ve been thankful that I work remotely:
- Several weeks ago, I visited New York City on vacation. Even though I was technically on vacation, I still maintained my usual deadlines by planning ahead and also by carving out time on my trip to write. I completed my assignments at one of my favorite places, Starbucks. That visit actually inspired me to write this post.
- On the day I scheduled myself to write this post, my son woke up with a fever that led us to a doctor’s visit and a suspected case of strep throat. This meant he’d be home with me for two days instead of attending school. Because I work from home and work ahead to meet deadlines, I didn’t have to call anyone to say that “I’m not able to come into the office today.” I also didn’t have to find anyone to cover my work.
The Joys of Working Remotely
- You can work from anywhere! This is called working remotely and it is something many employees would jump at, given the chance
- The reduction in travel/commute time
- The flexibility you often have for the time of day you complete your work; Early riser or night owl? If you hit deadlines, it doesn’t really matter when you do your writing
- The potential for variety in the work you do
- You are your own boss (sort of- we’ll get to this in a bit!)
- Your work can travel with you
Being able to create your own schedule, work from your home (or location of your choice), often in the outfit of your choice, feels like a dream for many employees.
I have to admit- it’s pretty awesome. BUT- there are also some potential challenges to this “Freelancer Lifestyle.” You need to consider these possible issues when becoming a remote employee, as well as know how to deal with them.
The Challenges of Working Remotely as a Freelance Writer
Distractions. They are all around. I work from home, often with my kids here too. If you know children, you know they’re distracting. But even if you aren’t a parent, working from home can be full of distractions.
You have to contend with the television, your bed, the couch, and the Internet (this one is tough for freelancers when we spend so much time on our computers!). There is laundry you could do or dishes you could wash.
Think these chores won’t be distractions?
If you’re struggling on a story idea, you may decide to “take a break” to get something done. While it’s appealing to be able to toss in a load of laundry while you work, even chores can become barriers to accomplishing your tasks.
I find that leaving the house, when I can, helps to minimize distractions, but you may find this opposite.
For me, coffee shops create white noise that allow me to zone in on what I’m doing, but you may find these types of locations too stimulating. Freelance writers need to find locations that minimize distractions and have strategies to help stay focused, such as setting a timer on your phone to remind you to reengage with the task.
There is no one “keeping an eye on you.” Now, this is appealing for many of us; not many of us like to feel like we’re being watched, but what freelancers may lack is having someone to keep us accountable.
Yes, we have deadlines, but if you’re the type of person who easily gets off track, then you’ll need to find ways to hold yourself accountable on the way to meeting a deadline.
If you continue to wait until the last minute, the work you submit may not be your strongest, and this may also leave you feeling stressed. How can you deal? Maybe you find another writer to have accountability meetings with or you organize your schedule in a way that keeps you on track.
Working when you travel. Yes, this is on the benefits list of being a freelance writer, but working while you’re on vacation or away from home can be harder than you think.
When you’re away from home, not only are you out of your normal routine, but you might be in “vacation mode” where sleeping in or having a drink at noon sound like good ideas. And, they are good ideas- it is vacation after all, but these sorts of choices might not allow you to follow through with your commitments.
Being self-aware is important. If you have travel planned, ask yourself if you will be able to work while you’re there. If you feel you can, then plan for how to make that happen, and consider what might get in the way; plan for those road blocks as well. If you feel you’ll have a hard time working while away, plan ahead and complete your work before you go.
For example, on my NYC trip, I turned in several writing pieces a week early so that I didn’t have deadlines for the week I was away. My goal had been to meet the following week’s deadlines as well so I didn’t feel rushed when I returned. I wasn’t able to work that far ahead, but it did leave me feeling no pressure to meet deadlines. Instead, when I ended up with some free time, I grabbed my computer and a chai tea, wrote my article that was due after vacation, and became inspired for another article.
Find what works for you, but understand that the ability to travel when you work remotely doesn’t always mean that you can do this successfully.
Are you the boss? You might feel compelled to exit traditional work for the freelance world so that you can be your own boss. It does sound nice: setting your own hours, answering to yourself…but this isn’t the reality.
As a freelancer, you actually have many bosses! Essentially anyone who hires you becomes your boss. That means you’re answering to, communicating with, and delivering work to, any number of people.
I personally don’t mind this aspect of the work, and though it’s not a challenge on its own, it’s important to bring the right mentality to this. If you look at freelance writing as something you’re completely in charge of, you may hold yourself back.
Yes, there is more flexibility than many traditional jobs, and our freelance writing business is our own. However, an important part of this is being respectful in each working relationship we have and remembering that the person who hired us, and is paying us, is essentially in charge of that project.
Freelancers don’t really have sick days. When you’re a contractor, consultant, or freelancer, you don’t have official (read: paid) sick days.
If you, or a family member have an illness or emergency, as a freelancer, this may be hard to deal with. If you ask for a deadline to be shifted, this puts pressure on others and may not be received positively by the person who hired you.
Freelancers don’t usually have co-workers who can cover in the same way traditional jobs do.
This is why I try to always be ahead on my assignments so that if a last-minute issue or illness comes up (like my son ending up with strep throat and staying home from school for two days), I can work this delay in with little issue.
Excelling with the Freelance Lifestyle
While there certainly are challenges to being a freelance writer, there are also many opportunities and benefits that come with this arrangement.
If you’re new to freelancing, or considering leaving your current employment to focus more on freelancing, be sure to consider the possible roadblocks you may face, and then decide how you’ll work through them.
Specifically, plan for how you can successfully work remotely, as this is a commonality for most freelance writers. You may not know everything that will come with being a freelancer, but working from home, a shared workspace, or on-the-go will likely become your new normal.
Decide now how you can make the most of this and avoid the pitfalls.