Focusing on the benefits instead of the difficulties of remote work
I’ve written cautionary tales about the work involved in building a career as a freelance content writer. I didn’t exaggerate anything, and I probably downplayed some of the hardest parts. I have worked 70 hour weeks. I have felt the disappointment of working to find great clients, gave everything I had to ensure they were satisfied, and had it still not work out.
I have cried in frustration and screamed with excitement, sometimes during the same day. But, I realized that I don’t spend enough time talking about the great things involved in being a freelancer.
In no particular order, here are a few things that keep me in love with my chosen career path.
The people I have gotten to know on the journey
I work with some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. There is something about building a team that is genuinely invested in helping grow your business that is exciting and fulfilling. It is also less overwhelming when you take a step back and realize it doesn’t all rest on your shoulders.
Trusting my team to do what they do without micromanaging took time. After all, it is my reputation on the line, and it was hard to learn to trust the talent of those I have working alongside me.
Fortunately, they have been patient with me — risen to every challenge and forgiven every mistake I have made along the way. I cannot overstate the importance of surrounding yourself with those smarter or more talented than you, especially in areas that aren’t your strong suit.
Then, there are the past, present, and future clients. I have had the pleasure of working with some extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Even the clients that, on my darkest days, had me reconsidering if this was the path for me taught me valuable lessons. I have been deeply inspired by the passion of some, learned new points of view, and have made valuable contacts for which I am deeply grateful.
My time is my own, and I use it as I see fit
This is a bonus to remote freelance work that cannot be overstated. Even for those who thrive in a structured work environment, there is value in being able to structure your day to suit your internal rhythms.
I accomplish most of my work that requires concentration, research, and heavy thinking before 9:00 am. For me, those quiet hours of the early morning are reserved for the hardest or most challenging parts of my job.
Then, once that is done, I can spend the rest of the day writing short blogs, answering emails, submitting proposals, editing, or whatever else is on the agenda. Even better, though there are always deadlines and responsibilities, I am solely in charge of how I meet those deadlines.
I prefer to have things done days in advance. It provides a cushion in case things don’t go as planned, allows me plenty of time to edit and refine, and most clients appreciate early submissions.
We all have those days when life doesn’t go as planned. Things come up, distractions happen, and family life is always messy and unpredictable. I often, though not always, have the freedom to close my laptop and call it a day when it seems impossible to accomplish anything. I may be working again at 8:00 pm when everyone starts to settle in for the evening, or I may call the day a bust and make up work the next day.
I think there is something inherently valuable in being in charge of how we divide our time and energy. There are night owls who do their best thinking long after most of us have drifted into dreamland.
Others would rather work in short twenty to thirty-minute bursts, with frequent breaks. I prefer to sit down to work, using a KanBan method to move things toward completion, and not stop until I am ready to wrap up for the day.
Having the freedom to work in a way best suited to how my brain functions allows me far more creativity, relaxation, and the ability to feel somewhat in control of my life. If you are new to freelancing, it may take you some time to determine the method that works best for you. That method may also change to accommodate your life and as your business grows and changes.
I determine the value of my time
I know how long it will take me to write a 1,200-word legal blog over a complex corporate litigation topic compared to the same blog length over recent changes to DUI laws in Delaware, and I can price accordingly. One will take extensive research, and depending on the client’s goals; it may take exhaustive SEO research. The other may have come with a detailed content brief where I only need to provide the basic research and quality SEO-friendly writing.
Since the DUI blog could probably be completed, edited, and polished in three hours or less, it costs far less than the blog over complex corporate litigation, which will require many more hours of exhaustive research, studying brand voice, and ensuring value for my clients.
That sounds simple, but when you get started as a freelancer, it can be hard to understand your worth. That can be a dangerous trap. Listen to the wrong people telling you that you should never accept work that pays less than X amount (which is always arbitrary, depending on your information source), and you may miss valuable opportunities to:
- Learn new skills
- Make important contacts
- Hone your skills
- Impress clients, and rack up referrals and great reviews
However, there is the trap of undervaluing yourself, which can be hard to escape. The other side of the coin is attempting to charge rates that exceed your CURRENT skills and abilities. No matter how much raw talent you bring to the equation, you must learn your market to hone your rates to match the market.
Once you understand how to price yourself and establish a reliable client base, it is up to you to decide how much or how little you want to work. There is freedom in structuring your work life to meet your financial needs. The one caveat is, like any business, freelancing demands that you reinvest some of your earnings back into the business for tools, training, or assistance from other freelancers.
The very best part
For me, the best part of freelancing is the ability to work remotely — from anywhere with a hotspot signal or wifi. That means I can spend a chunk of the summer in our RV at the beach or take a work trip with my spouse without interfering with work. The freedom to plan work around my life instead of life around work is something I hope never to have to give up.
Even though the gig economy continues to grow and remote work is here to stay, many freelancers still struggle to legitimize their careers. Often, others see the ability to work in yoga pants or pajamas combined with the ability to set your own work hours and often equate that with it being something less than a “real” job.
There is a tendency to want to justify ourselves by pointing out how hard we work or the negative side of working remotely. I write about the challenges of freelancing as a tool for other freelancers. I know when I started, I was hungry for good information about how others were managing certain aspects of remote work.
The article above is my attempt to ensure I don’t lose sight of the great things, small and large, about joining the freelance world.