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The Lie-In, the Watch & the Half-Empty Wardrobe
If you’re thinking about becoming a self-employed freelance writer, you need to weigh up the pros and cons.
Certain authorities on the subject will describe and exaggerate the positives – working the hours you choose, working from home, working in your pyjamas, working on assignments you prefer – without filling you in on the negatives. And make no mistake about it: there are plenty of them.
It takes a particular type of individual to spend the whole day working in isolation. Many have tried and failed, simply because they require the company of others. They need to be in the presence of other people, to have someone else to talk to, to debate ideas with, to give them encouragement or just to tell them what to do.
Freelancers can work at a pace that suits them, can take breaks whenever they want to, can enjoy walks or drives in the country when time and weather permit. But most freelancers have to work hard to earn enough to get by, and they can’t do that if they’re out swanning around all day. They need to be disciplined and organized or their careers are doomed.
They can enjoy a lie-in every so often if they’re so inclined. Starting work at 8 or 8.30 in the morning probably won’t make a huge difference to the average freelancer, especially if the office is just across the hall. A two-hour session at 3 in the afternoon can be just as productive as at any other time of the day. Other people prefer a solid stint in the early hours of the morning before the rest of the world intrudes. It doesn’t really matter when you work, as long as you do.
It’s a Job
Just like any other “job” the freelancer has to produce the goods. The work might be more pleasant than another person’s but it’s equally as time-consuming and demanding. There’s still the potential for stress, anxiety, and frustration, although a brisk walk along the canal can help to get rid of some of these issues.
According to WebMD sources, job-related stress is caused by a variety of factors, including:
• Lack of control – the biggest cause of stress in the normal workplace
• Too much responsibility – it’s often hard to say “no” to bosses face to face
• Too little job satisfaction – if your work isn’t rewarding it can make you depressed and miserable
• Lack of support –workers are often left to their own devices, only getting feedback when there’s a problem and receiving little or no real support
• Poor working conditions – badly lit rooms, noisy environments, long hours and infrequent breaks can lead to a whole range of health problems
Naturally you’d expect a freelance writer working from home to have a comfortable chair in a well-lit room, a sturdy desk with ample working space, a bookcase or two with a good supply of reference books, and a decent computer. You’d expect him or her to have control over the types of assignments accepted and fulfilled. You’d expect him or her to experience job satisfaction to varying degrees, depending on the subject chosen, the enjoyment writing about it, and the amount of remuneration.
It simply wouldn’t make sense for any freelancer to have to endure poor working conditions or settle for work that’s dissatisfying. After all, you can get that just about anywhere. Despite the fact that you frequently have to tout for business to keep projects and finances flowing smoothly, working for yourself is supposed to be liberating and enjoyable. If it’s not, you’re doing something wrong.
Freelance writers can work just about anywhere. If the office space begins to feel stale or claustrophobic, there’s always the local Internet café. If a particular job is tedious and draining, a walk in the woods with a notebook can help clear the brain and provide much-needed inspiration.
No More Clock-Watching
Working as a freelance writer from home was the best thing I ever did. As soon as I started, I took off my watch. I haven’t worn one in five years. I don’t have as many lie-ins as I’d like, but that’s because I can’t wait to get up and get to work. Weekends are precious, though, and work is rarely allowed to intrude.
As for my wardrobe, it consists of little more than the bare essentials (no pun intended). I don’t need “business” clothes for every day of the week, so most of what I wear is casual or semi-casual. If I need to meet clients face to face I wear something smart, always conscious that they’re paying me to write and not to appear in a commercial. Most of my work comes to me online, so I often don’t meet the people I write for.
Working for yourself isn’t a piece of cake. You get to be your own boss, but that means you have to continually motivate yourself. No-one else is going to do it. Either you work hard or you fail.
You need to balance your work life with your social life, or one will take over the other. You need to make sure the work you do is worth doing in the first place, and that the time you put in earns you a decent amount of compensation. You need to be determined to succeed, willing to learn, patient, committed, optimistic and resilient. You need to believe in yourself whole-heartedly and be willing to work to meet deadlines, even when the sun is splitting the rocks just outside your window.
If you can do these things, your career will likely go from strength to strength, and then you can buy as many pairs of pyjamas as you want. Whether you choose to work in them or not is up to you.
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