I’ve been officially self-employed for six years and two months. In fact, I’ve worked for myself for so long now I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to have a “proper” job. These days, my boss consists of YouTube viewers, blog readers (you!) and various magazine and website editors. In September I’m also going to be going back to do a bit of freelance radio again, but my status as “self-employed” will remain the same.
A huge part of being self-employed is, for me, about working from home. I film, edit and write from home, around school and pre-school hours and during the evenings and weekends. Most weeks I clock up between 25-30 hours of work although this sometimes changes depending on what projects I have on. Working this way has meant that, this summer, I’ve had the freedom to go away and take my office with me and, next summer when we’re planning a four week trip around France, I’ll do the same. I can work anywhere where there’s internet and this flexibility is something I LOVE.
The downsides to working from home
However, being self-employed has it’s downsides. One of the reasons I’m going back to do a bit of radio again is because, as much as I love the flexibility and ease of working from home around school runs and toddler-wrangling, I do sometimes miss the change of scene. It can feel stifling when your home is your office, especially during the winter when the weather’s awful. Working from home can be incredibly lonely, especially if (like me) you don’t live near London and aren’t able to go to press events or catch up with clients for face-to-face meetings every week.
Hiring an office
This is also one of the reasons I’ve thought about hiring an office space in the past, and something I haven’t ruled out in the future. Having a space to escape the house and work (that’s not a cafe!) and a proper professional space to host meetings is something that’s always appealed to me. This would also get rid of the isolation that can sometimes come with working from home – I do sometimes miss the energy and hubbub of a newsroom and the excitement of bouncing creative ideas around with other people. The company Venue Finder is a great way to find office spaces in various locations around the country, or a route to sourcing a venue for a conference or party. It’s something I’ve seriously considered using in the past and, once my youngest is at school, something I might look into in the future.
Conferences and networking
Working online, as I do, you speak and interact with people all day. But having an interaction behind a screen, through a keyboard, can’t replace the joy of speaking to people in real life, in the flesh. This is why I enjoy going to the occasional conference (my next one is BlogCamp in October – are you going?) and why I love meeting up with other journalists and bloggers – it’s a chance to “work” and discuss worky type stuff with other people who can relate and immediately know what you’re talking about.
Taking time out
I’ve also found that, as a mum, the pressure to work on any time “off” from mum duties can be immense. But this can lead to loneliness in itself because, if you’re not careful, you’re either always working or on parenting duty. There’s no time to catch up with friends or do fun sociable stuff because this is inevitably the time you need to get stuff done. I’ve lost count of the number of play-dates I’ve had to cancel due to work or times I’ve not been able to join friends for an evening drink or meal, because I’ve had too much work to do. Obviously if I worked set office hours this wouldn’t be so much of an issue.
A strong support network
If you’re currently thinking about going self-employed and working from home my biggest piece of advice is to make sure you have a strong support network around you. It’s easy to think that working from home is the dream, because you have the flexibility to work your own hours and be your own boss, but the reality can often mean that (if you’re not careful) you end up dancing to someone else’s tune, whether this is in the form of dealing with quick-turnarounds on last minute projects, chasing unpaid invoices or accepting work for fees below your regular going rate because “you’re having a quiet month”. If you have a strong support network of other freelancers around you, plus supportive friends and family at home, then you’ll avoid hitting peak loneliness after a difficult day, or trying to do everything all the time (full time mum, full time freelancer, full time cleaner, full time life admin sorter etc etc) on your own.
How about you – do you work from home? Tell me how you manage to avoid loneliness working from home. Is hiring an office space something you’d ever consider?
Thanks to Venue Finder for commissioning this post. For more details of how I work with brands check out my Work With Me page.