Fact: being a freelancer, solopreneur, remote worker or self-employed is pretty bloody amazing.
Also fact: it takes a huge amount of bloody-hard work, self-motivation, long days and long nights and a hefty dose of isolation (and wine) to make it work.
Yesterday, I worked almost solidly from 10.30am to 9.30pm. After being witness to how much time I'd put in over the weekend too, my husband - a lawyer in the corporate world - asked if I was going to bill my client for the number of hours I was actually doing. I told him that in this instance, the total hours for each day simply fall under one day rate, and that's the way the cookie often crumbles.
The salaried worker may think nothing of this - after all, you don't typically get paid extra for putting in crazy hours in a salary-based job. But what the self-employed don't get is paid sick leave, annual leave, career development, team or management support, office space, access to technology and a reliable stream of said income - whether you have a slack day or not. If you want any of these things, you go out and get it yourself. But that's ok. No one forced us to do this (in fact, quite the opposite), we actively pursued this life, and it comes with a list of perks that are attractive enough to some to out-weigh the cons. I'm writing this pool side in Brunei while my client reviews yesterday's work, for example.
I felt inspired to write this post after asking a friend of mine - who boldly decided to embrace digital nomad life about a year ago, working from various parts of Asia - how he's finding the remote worker lifestyle.
"Love it," he said. "Working my arse off though. I don't show the 10 hours in front of my laptop every day or me stressing out".
Aint that the truth (it is).
The self-employed life can be largely summed up using two common analogies: the iceberg concept, where what others see at surface level is only a fraction of what's really underneath, and the duck analogy; everything looks like smooth sailing upstairs while frantic peddling is happening down below.
On relating to Chris' comments, from seven years as a freelance consultant myself, I thought I'd share some of what you don't see when we're bragging about (ahem, I mean sharing) our choice of office location through social media - for those thinking about doing it, or those who wonder how on earth we're doing it.
We are not 'lucky'
Luck did not get us a business idea, bank account, clients, regular work, an accountant, IT equipment, or plane tickets, accommodation and food from where we might be calling an office on social media. We are not lucky. We've made our own luck, we've put in the blood, sweat and tears, and we are grateful when the hard work pays off. The only time luck comes into it, is finding good WiFi.
It's (often) a one-man band
You're the CEO, admin assistant, bookkeeper - oh, and you have your own job to do too while you're helping out in the other departments. Even with a brilliant accounting package, virtual assistant, and your mum who's always willing to lend a hand (thanks mum), you still need to have a fairly good idea of how to do these functions and how to brief them in - then get to work on what you get paid for. Yes, it’s isolating too. This can be a lonely job, until you realise how great it is not to have to make water cooler talk about what you didn’t do on the weekend because you were too hungover from Friday.
I started my business 18 months after I'd moved to a new city, was single and had very little savings with even fewer contacts. There's nothing quite like the thrill of needing to pay rent to be successful, but you gotta keep the motivation going well beyond that.
You have bad days that make you question everything
Sometimes it's all just a little too hard to stay so darn driven, and you find yourself wondering, WTH am I doing? Why did I leave my comfy day job with a regular income to sit here working like a mad person for a client I may or may not particularly like...then you do what my kick-arse boss mate Ollie did today and you say ‘fuck it’ as you crack a beer at 1pm on a Wednesday.
All in good time...
Time off 'now' usually means more work required 'later'. This flexibility can certainly be a perk, like when you're a writer and you’re not quite yet 'in the zone' - but it also means that all those hours spent hunting for inspiration in the form of shoe shopping or browsing interiors online is unpaid and chewing into the time you have left to do the job that you’ll eventually be paid for. It’s called procrastination, and it’s sometimes an unavoidable part of the job.
Pretty fly for a WiFi
To be a 'digital nomad', even if it's in your home city, you're well and truly at the mercy of good WiFi.
Some people wont get it
For the 9-5ers (or 8-6ers), leaving work is usually switching off. When you're self-employed, you are 'on' every moment of every day. Some of my best ideas or tag lines have come to me when I'm halfway through a shower or at 4am when I can't sleep. Speaking of which, sleeping in when you've worked til 1am isn't lazy - it's necessary. Oh, and we're taking Tuesday off too because we haven't had a day off for the last two weeks. You may even be perceived as flaky by some - but sometimes you’re in the middle of a gig, or one has dropped in your lap, and you need to take that business when it comes through. That’s just nature of the beast.
Good people are essential
When personal time is short, and you're feeling isolated from working alone for too long, good people who radiant positive energy or simply understand, are essential. There's no room for any other kind.
Want to know more about what life is like on the iceberg, or just want to connect? Feel free to get in touch and pick my brains, or share your thoughts and comments below.