As I said in my last post, I have recently become self-employed, freelancing my design skills.
I thought I would cover some of the issues I have come across so far, and some of the resources I have found helpful.
First, the problems/issues:
It can be lonely. I am very happy in my own company. I always have been. But sometimes you just want people to bounce ideas off, or just banter with for 5 minutes when the particular task you are trying to achieve is driving you crazy. I find that this can be overcome by completely switching off from what you were doing, just like you would be if you wandered over to chat to a colleague for 5 minutes. For smaller problems, I find checking my personal email, looking at design inspiration websites, or looking at friends’ sites or flickr accounts is enough to get me back on track. For severe mental block, either a trip to the living room to watch half an hour of recorded TV shows, or a 30 min walk will do the trick. Which brings me to…
Motivating yourself could become a problem. It can be hard to define boundaries when you work from home. Your living space and work space become a little too close for comfort sometimes. It could (and I have to say that so far this has not happened to me) become very easy to get up late, finish early, watch a little too much daytime TV, let a friend stay a little too long when he stops by, etc. On occasion, these are perks of working for yourself, granted. But if they occur too often, you won’t get anything done. Working in the field that I do, I could feasibly work any hours I wanted to, but I dont think my girlfriend would be too impressed if I became nocturnal. And neither would my clients, I assume. They (generally) work ‘office’ hours, so they (quite rightly) expect me to be available at the same time. I have deliberately set out to start off on the right foot, keeping ‘office’ hours at least. I generally work longer than that though. Which leads nicely to…
It can be hard to switch off. With the work/home divide so blurred, it could be easy to go the other way, and never be able to switch off. There is always time to send one last email, make one last change to that document, etc. It is all to easy to answer the business phone at 11pm. But I really do agree with a lot of articles I have read that advise freelancers to beware of communication with clients outside normal working hours. The idea being that once the client gets one or two communications from you outside normal hours, they will think it is OK to contact you any time. There are always exceptions to this, where communications at 11pm need to take place, but try and keep them to a minimum. And the more you do little bits of work at night, the less you will be able to relax, and that will ultimately make you less productive during your proper working days. I also always keep a Sunday work free. I think this is very important. It is not good for anyone to work 7 days a week for any extended period of time. You need one day of relaxation and fun and not worrying about work at all.
These are just a few of the issues I have come across so far. I’m positive there are many more lurking around the corner, not least the anxiety about money and the problems of getting paid. I am learning all the time, not just about design now, but also about business. I hope to talk about these issues here as and when they arise.
I found these articles very helpful with regard to these issues:
Five Common Working At Home Problems Solved
Being Productively Unproductive
Five steps to get yourself in a mood to work
And now the upsides. Do I really need to discuss the upsides? Flexible hours, no boss, no potentially characterless dingy office, no irritation coworkers, your own music (this is a big thing for me), the list goes on.
And finally a couple of sites which I am finding particularly helpful while starting up on my own:
Web Worker Daily
and a giant resource worth checking out:
101 Essential Freelancing Resources
I hope this article has helped someone who is starting out, or thinking about it. Coming soon: more problems, solutions, resources and possibly an anecdote or two.