Anyone who has ever worked a “regular” office job, or a job of any kind that requires leaving their own four walls, has probably at some point wished they could just stay in bed a few more hours, or that they could work a few days of the week from the comfort of their own home. This post is for those readers among you who have started to more seriously contemplate this scenario – “Why work from home?”, you may ask. It’s a good question, and I’m here to give you my (biased) opinion on the benefits of being a freelancer – as well as clearing up some of the downsides to the lifestyle of a remote freelancer.
You make your own hours – and are never forced to waste them
This is the big one for most people. Want to wake up at midday and work a little later? You’re the boss. While you’ll no doubt work with clients who have specific time-sensitive issues that need dealing with, and overall deadlines that need to be kept, for the most part you can approach your day as it best suits you. Personally, I’m more of a night owl and wake up between 11am-1pm, but then often have to work late in to the evening – you might prefer the opposite. I’m of the belief that every freelancer has their own “golden hours” – that time of day when their productivity reaches its absolute peak, and that can take some experimenting to nail down.
Additionally, think about how many hours are often spent wasted in traditional job settings. An employee might wrap up most of their work in the first few hours of being in the office, and subsequently has to “look busy” for the next half of their day for fear of looking bad or being loaded up with more grunt work. As a freelancer, once you’re done for the day, you’re really done, and you can get on with whatever else takes your fancy.
You likely already have all the equipment you need
This is making the assumption that your freelance work is online-based. If yes, all you need is an internet-connected computer, a phone, and a comfortable place to sit and work (preferably a place sectioned off from where you would later come back to relax after work, to keep some semblance of a work/personal life balance).
Once you’ve settled into your routine you’ll likely want to invest in some other bits and pieces to spruce your work environment up and improve your productivity, but to begin with, you can keep things simple while you get into the swing of things.
You earn as much (or little) as the effort you want to put in
Don’t get the wrong impression, being a freelancer is far from easy. Dealing with the 9-5 has benefits that even I still miss after these few years of freelancing, the main one being a stable salary that I always knew would be in my bank account on a specific day every month. On the other hand, if you’re a lazy freelancer, payday might never arrive.
On the flip side, if you do put in the work, build up your group of clients, and excel at what you do, you can make more money than you ever would have at your 9-5. You also have control over how much you want to charge people, either per project or per hour. If they’re not willing to pay what you ask, it either means that you’re charging too much, or that you simply should look for a client who recognises the value in what you do.
You're not limited by geography
The vast majority of jobs where you have to show up on-site are only available to a very specific group of people – those who live nearby. Being an online freelancer solves this problem by allowing you to work in any time zone your heart desires. Do you think there’s more business opportunity in America? Hunt down some American clients. Always loved the French accent? Bonjour, there are clients there, too!
As long as you’re good at what you do and differences in time zones don’t scare you off, the world can truly become your oyster – either stay at home and work with a global audience or travel the world and work on the beach.
You can shape your own work environment
While there absolutely are companies out there dedicated to creating a pleasant work environment for their employees, there are also many who fail to live up to even the lowest of expectations. One of the major advantages when working from home is that you can shape almost every aspect of your environment. The paint on the walls, the chair and desk you use, whether music is playing and what kind, and many others factors are all factors down to your own preference.
You’re bound to learn – a lot
Though an office job can teach you a lot, that learning is also fairly restricted to your role and how much value your employer places on employee education. You might go years without learning anything that’s interesting to you, and the things you do learn may serve no useful purpose outside of your workplace.
As a freelancer, you don’t have much say in the matter. If you want to keep offering your refined skills to your clients, you’ll need to keep up with what’s happening in your field. You will also have the ability to teach yourself new abilities that can contribute to your existing work, allowing you to take on a larger variety of clients and charge more.
Self-motivation is not for everyone
Being your own boss can be incredibly liberating, but not having anyone giving you direction when it comes to your work can also feel daunting at times. While your clients will tell you what they want doing, more or less, they will still rely on your expertise in guiding the job to completion, and it’s up to you to get down to work every day, even with all of the 21st-century distractions we have around us at all times.
You don’t receive the benefits of a salaried job
Freelancers have to learn to live without a bunch of benefits, such as sick pay, healthcare, holiday pay, perks such as gym memberships, and other financial extras such as pension contributions or an employer matching your 401k (or other such investments, depending on where you live). As we’ve mentioned earlier, while your income as a freelancer can outweigh what your traditional salary was, it also comes without these benefits which some may not want to live without.
As your time is flexible, you can often work long/late hours
Another flip side to a benefit I mentioned earlier, is that your flexibility in terms of time can often see you working very long days, especially if you don’t budget your time properly. Allowing the beginning of your day to drag on, by getting distracted, having to deal with personal matters, or any other reason, can lead to your work being pushed back, with it sometimes having to be completed late into the night.
Of course, this can be prevented by getting into a solid routine, but other factors such as working for clients in other time zones, and taking on too much work at once, can sometimes see this becoming a state of affairs that you’ll have to deal with for extended periods. However, any freelancer worth their salt learns pretty quickly that time management is one of the most vital skills to possess when working remotely.
Being a remote freelancer and working from home isn’t always as easy as it’s made out to be, but if you can manage your time well and self-motivate, there’s no reason why you can’t make the leap yourself! The freedom gained from working for yourself and being able to take full control of your days is something that can be hard to give up once you’ve experienced it, and for me the advantages of being a freelancer far outweigh the disadvantages – so why not see what roles you could take on as a remote freelancer, and give it a shot for yourself!