October 11, 2013

Home, Library, Coffee Shop or Coworking? Space and the Freelance Life

Today’s guest post is from another local freelancer, Anabelle Fournier:

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When you begin a freelance career, it’s the idea of working from home that seems the most attractive. Finally you can work your own hours, take a 2-hour lunch, do laundry in-between calls or type away with your cat purring in your lap.

But after a few months, loneliness sets in: as your spouse leaves every morning, as your children are away during the day, you end up spending hours on end without human contact (Twitter doesn’t count!). This isolation can cause more harm than good to your freelance business.

Possibilities abound for freelancers: aside from home, there’s the library, the coffee shop and even the coworking space. But which one’s best for you?

Tip 1: Know yourself

You will never know which space works best for you if you don’t try them. I personally have gone through phases where I could not get work done at home but was super productive at the library. These cycles come and go, especially with the climate here, and winter makes me want to cocoon inside while summer pushes me out the door.

I’m a rather introverted and shy person, so I’m mostly comfortable at home (and I like my pajamas) but sometimes I need to leave to get outside my comfort zone. Home is generally best for me, but there are times when it’s actually the worst place I can be. My best work happens when I recognize these changes and move accordingly. Sometimes grabbing my laptop and working on the couch is enough to get me out of a rut!

Tip 2: Try different things

The trick here is to try different combinations to see which one works best. No one space will work 100% of the time, so you need to be flexible and stay attuned to your mental and physical cycles. If working in your home office before 11 makes you want to go back to bed, go get your morning coffee and do some work at your neighbourhood coffee shop. If you need some stimulation after lunch, the library is a nice spot for background noise and free internet access. Meeting up with other freelancers at a coworking space can fire up some ideas and begin potentially beneficial partnerships.

Remember that your space needs will change once in a while. Although it’s great to have a routine, your mind needs a shake-up on a regular basis. Do something unexpected. Bring your computer to the park on a sunny day. Have lunch at a mall food court while catching up on email. Maybe you’ll discover a secret spot to work!

Tip 3: Mind your budget

Day-long coffee shop hangouts can be expensive; restaurants and bistros even more so. Most of them require you to keep ordering drinks or food to stick around. Libraries are free but I never feel safe leaving my computer to grab some water or go to the bathroom, so its inconvenience outweighs its benefits.

Another popular option these days is the coworking space. Imagine an office where everyone has his or her own business. You rent a desk by the hour, the day or the month and have access to typical office stuff like a coffee maker, a professional business address and yes, even colleagues. However, coworking can cost you some precious money, especially challenging when you’re just beginning your freelance career.

Dedicated spaces are important

Office employees are able to disconnect from their work because work is work and home is home. However, because most freelancers lack this demarcation, it can sometimes feel like we’re always “on”. Some of us find it hard to relax and enjoy our free time because there’s always more work to do—and this work remains close to us.

This is why it’s important for freelancers to have a dedicated space—an office, for example—where work happens. This way, you can dedicate all your attention to your profession rather than dividing it between domestic chores and your project to-do list. And when the inevitable crunch time happens, you can close the door and work until the wee hours of the morning without disturbing anyone.

How does space affect how you work? Are you perfectly happy at home or do you need the stimulation of human company?

 

Anabelle is a professional blogger and writing teacher living in Victoria, BC, Canada, where she loves to not wear snow boots in the winter. You can learn more about her on her website.
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Comments (2)

  1. Julie Hassett

    I’m reading this post while writing at the library. I find the library suits my freelancing perfectly. A little bit of buzz, but mostly just 20-30 others around me focused on working. I donate monthly to the Library Foundation and I consider incredibly cheap office rent!

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