A year and a half ago, I decided to pursue a freelance writing career.
Freelance writing is lots of things. It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s fun. It’s 52 different things on any given day.
Part of being freelance means working from home most days. I thought I’d write about that today.
First, let me state that I am both happy and lucky to work from home. It’s a choice I made — not necessarily an easy one in many respects — and it took about a year for me to really make it work on both a financial and sustainable level.
When I first went freelance, Brian and I were newly engaged and living in a small one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side. Soon, we started accumulating wedding stuff, then registry stuff, then a dog. It was crowded.
I never had a workspace in our old apartment. I worked on the couch. Every. Single. Day. I could’ve (and should’ve) ventured out to work from cafes, coffee shops, wherever, but I liked the idea of being home for some inexplicable reason. So I sat on the couch, with my laptop either on my lap or on our very low coffee table (so I was hunched over it — ugh, posture), and usually with the TV on in the background.
That setup didn’t work. I was constantly restless, I wasn’t productive, and I felt totally claustrophobic.
Now, we’re mostly settled in our New Jersey apartment, which I love because I have an actual office! Well, it’s half-office, half-bike room. But I’ll take it. It’s a major upgrade. And even though it still has some boxes we haven’t unpacked sitting around (and those IKEA puppies which, I swear, I’m giving as gifts to people), having a designated workspace has drastically improved my productivity and quality of life.
So…to break it down a little.
Reasons Working From Home Is Amazing
I live in athletic wear. My winter uniform is sweatpants and a sweatshirt. My summer uniform is a casual skirt and a tank top — often with a built-in bra so I don’t have to go the whole bra route. It’s comfortable and easy.
My kitchen is at my disposal. I get to make my own lunch, and I don’t have to worry about sharing a refrigerator or microwave with coworkers.
My schedule is more flexible than most peoples’ schedules. This is a big one. Since I am freelance, I generally create my own schedule. Yes, it’s based around deadlines, meetings, calls, and whatever else may come up. But for the most part right now, I dictate how my schedule works. I always thought that would mean something like 8–5, but in reality it’s more like 6–sleep. We’ll get to that.
I have the cutest coworker ever. And while she rarely barks, she does seem to always make a point of barking when I’m on an important call. Love that. But most of the time, she just sleeps at my feet like any good coworker should.
I don’t have to worry about other people doing things that annoy me. Like the two people at my old office who used to clip their nails at their desks (I cringe thinking about that) or the passive-aggressive notes on the microwave, refrigerator, and bathroom stall doors.
I don’t have to share a bathroom. I was quickly reminded of how nice this is a few weeks ago while I was working at Dance Spirit and needed the bathroom and all three stalls were occupied. Memories!
So, lots of good stuff here! And on the flip side…
Reasons Working From Home Is Sometimes Less Amazing
I live in athletic wear. When I have to get dressed for actual social situations, I get confused. I forget what it’s like to actually get dressed. I don’t even know where most of my real, non-sporty bras are, and I haven’t worn jeans in years. I love being not-quite-business-casual, but I also sometimes miss actually getting dressed for the day. I know people say to do that even if you work from home because you’ll be more productive, but nah. I’m good.
I move a lot less. Thank goodness for Ellie, otherwise I’d be so super lazy. After going freelance, I very quickly gained (and haven’t quite shed) what I deemed the Freelance 15. Those walks to and from the subway every day add up, and without those little walks to the office or to grab lunch, I’m far more sedentary. And, surprise, it shows! I’ve had to try and be smarter about what I keep in the house (apples!) and what I just can’t have because I’ll demolish it all (ice cream, duh).
I’m far more easily distracted. There have been days when I’ve sat on the couch to eat lunch and turned on Grey’s Anatomy, only to then find myself settling in for four more episodes. I know I’m at my most productive at my desk, so as tempting as it is to curl up and write in bed or on the couch, I have to avoid it.
Sometimes the internet here really sucks. And I have to either fix it or deal with it myself instead of walking over to the IT Department and being like, “OMG everything is broken, PLZ fix.” This is not a big deal. But since I need to be online 96% of the time, it can be a slight inconvenience.
I’m home all day, every day. Someone once asked me to write a Day in the Life post after going freelance. Here’s how that would go:
- Wake up early. Go for a run.
- Come home. Take Ellie for a walk.
- Shower. Eat breakfast at desk while reading emails and morning news.
- Work. Eat lunch while working. Take Ellie out to potty as needed. Work. Work. Work.
- Meet Brian at ferry around 8 PM.
- Eat dinner.
- Keep working for a little while.
- Fall asleep.
That’s it. That’s my day. Me at my laptop, writing, sending emails, tracking down past-due payments, repeat. I love what I do and I get to go to my fair share of fun events and classes. But this is a pretty standard day in the life.
I’m always in my office. So it’s not like I switch off at 6 PM to head home and unwind from the day. I’m still here. So I just work until my work is done. On Monday, I was at my desk until 11:30 PM. Not every night is that late — most aren’t — but I don’t go leave the office when my boss leaves the office. This is nice in that I don’t waste time commuting, but it also means I sometimes start working at 6 AM or keep working until well after dinnertime.
TBH, I get a little lonely. As much as I’m loving being out here in New Jersey, a few weeks ago I realized that I was starting to feel a little lonely. I missed having my best friend right next door and lots of human interaction at all my workout classes. I felt sad for a few days. Then, when I went in to the Dance Spirit office for a few days and had adult conversations, I realized I needed to bring that back into my life somehow.
Having coworkers runs the gamut. You can have amazing ones — like my former intern, Michael, who turned into a real-life BFF — or less great ones. But it’s fun to have built-in coworker friends who know every detail of your life. During what I call “the Dance Spirit Glory Days,” our staff would spend the first, oh, hour of each day catching up on the show’s we’d watched the night before (usually just So You Think You Can Dance), the stupid things our boyfriends had said or done (usually left the kitchen cabinets open for no reason), or our outfit choices of the day (often legwarmers with high-tops for me). I loved that. Now, I talk to Ellie and listen to music sometimes, but neither are substitutes for true human contact.
So I’ve made a good effort lately to hang out more! I’ve joined friends for workouts, I’ve branched out locally, and I’m getting to know a bunch of my neighbors (and their dogs) better. And, look at that, I’m not feeling so lonely at the moment.
I feel like I’m supposed to do everything around the house in addition to working, and I hate that. Because I’m here, right? So not only should I work a full day (and then some), I should also, in between sending emails, do the dishes, the laundry, the grocery shopping, etc. And take Ellie out for all of her walks. Even if I’ve had a super slammed day, I feel like, in theory, I should have dinner ready when Brian gets home since I was here and could’ve thrown something in the oven. Which has literally never happened…
I feel guilty whenever I leave Ellie. Since I do it so rarely, I hate to leave her. I’m working on it. #momguilt?
People don’t necessarily take my job seriously. On any given weekday day, a friend will ask, “What are you up to today?!” As if I’m just hanging out, playing, shooting the shit. I work at home, but I still work. Yes, it’s flexible most days, but I’m still earning a living. (#TBT to when I left my last job to go freelance and my then-boss said, “What, you don’t have to work now because you’re getting married?” Totes, bro.)
Working from home and being freelance are not mutually exclusive. Being a freelance writer comes with its own set of amazing and less amazing aspects. Maybe we’ll talk about that another time!
FELLOW WORK-FROM-HOME-ERS, TALK TO ME! What worked for you? What didn’t? Did you, too, decorate your home office with stuffed puppies and boxes?