17/04/2012 15:43 BST | Updated 16/06/2012 10:12 BST

The Freelancing Life: The Best and Worst of Times

Flexible work hours may be on the rise, but anyone who ventures out during rush hour traffic could be excused to think otherwise. The freedom to break out of these patterns is often a key motivator for freelancers, as it was for me too. But soon another problem emerges: the longer I am away from the morning rush hour, the harder it becomes to stand nose-to-armpit on the morning trains on the rare days I have to do it.

I am expecting no sympathy whatsoever for this, nor for the fact that freelancing has severely hampered my ability to work in offices in general. It is the eight-hour work pattern that gets me. Please do not misunderstand: I more than put in the hours at home, but maybe I do so while have lunch at 10, and then taking a two hour break in the afternoon before picking up work again after dinner. When you are working unsupervised you start to develop a pattern that works for you, and once that is done it is really hard to go back.

Some freelancers will sit at desks in office clothes during the day, but personally I think that shaking it up is half the point of working for yourself. If not, you might as well go find a job where chasing invoices is someone else's problem. Here are a few things I have learned about location-independent working, for better or for worse:


My time is my own. I am not a morning person and this has been a massive problem for me my whole life. Now I do things at the times that work best for me.

The pyjamas factor. When I work in offices I notice there is a fair amount of lot of clockwatching, or presenteeism, going on. While the freedom to wear jammies is not to be ignored, what I love most about working remotely is that no one cares how long my tea breaks are, let alone what I am wearing. It is all about the work and what it looks like on deadline day.

Boss power. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the amount of work there is to do and the fact that it is all down to me. Then I remember that I am in charge of this operation and I call the shots. This makes it a lot easier to do the boring things too, as that is another building block for the big picture.


The slacker within. Sometimes I muck around too long during the day and have to spend all night to finish something. This does not happen too often anymore though, as the horror of it is whipping me into shape.

Too many hats. I have to do all the organising and then I have to do all the creative work: I like both roles but I struggle to shift between them. This means I end up getting no writing done when I am in organising mode, and ignore my emails for days when I am in a writing mode. This is really not an option.

"Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom." I should probably include a point about the lack of guarantees here, and it is true: I have no idea what I will be working on a month from now. Personally I am okay with this, but for lots of people that would be a major cause of stress. But if I am having a rough day, the pragmatism at my core reminds me that since I have work at the moment, this means I will probably get work again - because I am capable. Arrogance aside, this is something you really need to believe.