If you are considering freelancing yourself, or you are just curious as to what a freelance web designer / developer gets up to in the course of a day, here are some pearls.
Keeping a Good Work Schedule
The good news is that no one is watching to see if you’re at your desk at 8am sharp. And the real deal news is that in your heart, you have to actually like working and enjoy what you do, because you’ll have to be able to stick to your own production routines and get your work done. If web design or development (or your chosen field) doesn’t really pluck your strings, you won’t find the self discipline to sit at the desk when you could be sitting on the couch or laying in bed. And that doesn’t pay the bills!
The second bit of good news (and one of the biggest pluses to self employment) is that you get to set the hours. You must put in the hours whether you want to or not, but you get to choose. This is huge! If you like to work as long as the mood strikes you and really follow that creative vein, do it. If you get locked “in the zone” and it’s 5pm, just keep going — you don’t have to worry about getting locked into your office overnight or the mass exodus as everyone else tromps out. As a person really prone to getting in the zone and riding that wave until it meets the shore, this is very much my cup of tea. I rarely take on projects that I can’t get excited about, so it’s a joy to be able to shift the hours to when I’m really clear headed and rejuvenated.
Freelancing Out and About
I wrote a post about Scottsdale coffee shops not just on account of my love for the bean (and caffeine), but also because freelancing alone at home will take its toll if you don’t take the steps to work outside regularly. Maybe the most serious introverts can do it, but the rest of us will find ourselves burnt out and sad within a week or two. Why is that? Well, outside of the team spirit of an office environment where a manager is actively working on their team, there are not really that many high fives to go around.
That’s right, there’s very little praise and certainly no water cooler camaraderie for freelancers. You might interact with a few pets or family members over the course of the day, but otherwise it’s just you and the work. Think about that for a moment: how far does a little pleasant chit chat and/or recognition go in raising your sails during the day? You don’t much think about that until it is gone. You will have to start creating those “mini brain reset” moments in your own day. I highly recommend working outside your home office – coffee shops are perfect, as are libraries – once or twice every week. A few $5 lattes will save you from screaming at your spouse and personal panick attacks, I promise.
Think About The Must-Have Infrastructure
There seems to be a romantic notion of the digital nomad freelancer, who can work literally anywhere with a plug. I can see why this idea has grown legs, and yes it is very appealing to think that you could travel the world and somehow at the same time crank out the work that pays for the lifestyle. There is some truth to this, but there is another side which is the logistical pain in the butt or pre-planning required to carry it out.
That stock photo of the girl and her laptop perched somewhere exotic and working is in my opinion, a total ruse. Look, workplace injuries are completely real, and the ideal typing position is more than just a light suggestion! I’ve gone through many desks, chairs, and peripherals to find the things that let me keep going day after day with minimal strain. Repetitive Strain Injuries can bring all your progress to a halt — you can’t type one handed while sitting on the edge of a fountain, somehow processing your work while simultaneously enjoying Spain. I call shenanigans. Work still looks like work, and for me at least I’m still going to need all of my brainpower at once to get things done.
Another technological consideration is internet access. How much work can you do without it? If you can work locally and won’t need to rely on content delivery networks or online documentation for your project, then maybe you can really be off grid for a little while with your laptop. It all works out until you need to google some obscure error message. A smartphone can fill in the gaps, but you really have to be honest with yourself on how essential a dependable and safe internet connection will be to getting through the workday. If you’re going to travel, make arrangements ahead of time for any servers who are set to only accept your home office IP address. That is one critical mistake you will only make once!
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