Freelancing and that priceless worklife balance.

Words, Benedict Smith

I’m working from home today. But then again I work from home a fair bit, so that’s not saying a whole lot. Right now I’m sat at my desk, still in my gym kit, coffee brewing, laptop on, with the sun shining. And I’m on my second football podcast of the day, incase anyone cares. A TalkSport marathon looms.

I’m lucky enough to work flexibly, remotely and pretty much from wherever I fancy. Rather quickly I’ve become the walking, talking, writing freelancing stereotype. I own a Macbook, and I travel around coffee-shops, like some kind of coffee-shop whore, abusing the free wifi and outstaying my welcome. What a cliche. 

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Depending on how much work I get done today, I’ll probably knock-off around 4pm. I started work at 7.30am though. So an early finish is fair enough, isn’t it? 

TalkSport radio, sodden sports gear and annoying dog at my feet isn't everyone's cup of tea. But it is mine. My environment. Work and life, on my terms – or as close to it as I’m going to get. And that’s exactly what flexible working and freelancing allows. Work life liberation. It certainly beats the monotony of the office. I’m having a good day, as you can probably tell. Okay, I’ve been wrestling the damn dog for the past half an hour as he chews his way through my chair, desk, leg and anything else in his path. But that’s about as bad as it’ll get, with a bit of luck.

Days like today make you really appreciate freelancing, flexible and remote working. Freedom to work how I want, from wherever I want. Anytime anywhere working at its finest. I’ve got a few calls to make, so after this I might nip out for a wander. I don’t need to be in the office to be ‘at work’ you see. Modern technology put an end to that a long time ago. It's just a surprise that so many people haven’t clocked on.

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Millions of us work like this. 2million or so as freelancers and contractors, and I can only imagine almost as many as flexible or remote workers. It’s a no-brainer. But who can honestly say they enjoy spending 40 hours a week in the same soul sucking office? Does it motivate you? Make you better at your job? Make you happy? I won't answer that one. 

There’s only so many times you can nod politely and pretend to Jan from HR that you’re even mildly interested in her new eHarmony squeeze. And there’s only so many times you can keep pretending you have this awesome worklife balance, when for two hours each day you’re faced with no choice but to breathe in the body odour of a fellow London undergrounder. They say smoking kills. I’d like to see what ten hours a week on the tube does to your lungs. At what point do you say to yourself, sod this I quit? Today? Tomorrow? Another few years? Never? I’ll leave that one up to you.

Would I trade in my worklife balance for a job in an office? A job that offered a company car, private dental, corporate days out, the odd bonus, pension contribution and anything else that so many companies lure you in with? Honestly, I wouldn’t. Spending decades climbing the greasy career ladder with a severe case of office cabin fever isn't for me. But I’m not knocking anyone that fancies it. It’s your call. I’ve made mine.

Sure, flexible working and freelancing isn’t for everyone. It’s a personality thing. It can get lonely. It takes a bit of discipline, and for some, this kind of freedom can go to your head. But other than discipline – or lack of it – the uncertainty that comes with freelancing can be an issue. What happens if the work dries up, I'm pulled off a project, or just not needed anymore? For starters, I’d have nothing to do on all my coffee-shop visits.

But more than that, it's the thought of going back to the office that terrifies me. I don’t miss the rigidity, bureaucracy or office politics one bit. I love Jan from HR, who doesn’t? But I don’t fancy spending lunchtimes in the canteen consoling her as she lurches from one unsuccessful date to the other. And I’m no scrooge, but Eurovision office sweepstakes and team building days at adventure parks just don’t do it for me.

In truth, I’m scared to sacrifice the freedom and worklife balance that I love and benefit from. I work better flexibly, remotely, and in control of my own schedule. At the minute, life just, well, works. So for now, to hell with the uncertainty. Risk is all part of the fun.

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