Here’s a confession for you: I’m writing this article reclined on an unmade bed. I’m wearing a tatty T-shirt and a pair of shorts I probably wouldn’t wear in public. I’m also really, really comfortable, and have blasted through a ton of work so far today. I have some personal “freelance rules” I stick to, but conforming to a dress code isn’t one of them.
So why the big confession, I hear you ask? Well, here’s the background:
To stay on top of the latest freelancing news I have a number of Google Alerts set up. As a result, I read a ton of home working articles each day.
Judging by many of the features I’ve been reading about home working recently, it almost seems as if there is an emerging diktat of “freelance rules” that all of us are meant to follow if we are to have any chance of success.
These articles are really formulaic and dull. They always talk about having a dedicated workspace and a set morning routine. They suggest banning social media during the work day, and dressing smartly to get yourself into a business mindset.
Quite aside from the fact that there are now hundreds of these articles saying exactly the same thing, I have a major problem with their basic premise:
If freelancers wanted to conform to a bunch of rules, dress codes and exacting timescales, they could just get a job.
Now I’m not trying to say that setting some freelance rules for yourself is necessarily a bad thing. Everybody’s different and needs awareness of their personal limitations and temptations.
For example, many people have said to me in the past that they don’t know how my wife and I can both work from home without getting distracted; Not just by each other but by things like TVs, household chores, and other diversions.
To us, this simply isn’t an issue. If anything, my biggest problem personally is making myself do anything non-work-related until my entire “to do” list is finished. Much as I love music I even tend to mute Spotify the first time it breaks my concentration and not turn it back on again for the rest of the day. Distraction is simply not a problem to me with the way I work at home.
On the other hand, wearing uncomfortable clothes would distract me, and starting work at a set time rather than when I wanted to would irritate me. Sometimes, if the mood takes me, I sit up half the night writing a huge article or building a new website. Usually, this would be followed by a lie-in! This flexibility is one of the most significant attractions of freelancing – to me and to many others.
So why is it that all of these “freelance rules” articles say the same things over and over again?
To a degree, I think it’s laziness on the part of some of the writers producing these articles. It’s easy to spout off the same, obvious advice over and over again. But perhaps the advice that’s being given out is actually good and valid for most people. If this is your viewpoint and I’ve got this all wrong, please let me know in the comments!
But as far as I’m concerned, the whole point of home working is to get as close as possible to this well-versed working ideal from Confucius:
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
I may remain a little distant from that particular holy grail, but I do like the work I do enough that I’m not constantly trying to out-run it. I think that if I needed to dress differently, get up at a different time, and force myself into a different room just to get into the right working mindset, I’d need to seriously review whether I’d chosen the correct freelance path.
All that really matters is that we get our work done to a good standard and that we exceed our client’s expectations (and, please note, those expectations will invariably include us being suitably dressed whilst on a video call!)
But beyond that, the only freelance rules we should need to have in place are those we impose on ourselves to make our lives and careers better. These endless lists of mindless advice won’t transform anybody’s freelance life – or, for that matter, turn a lazy home worker into one who’s proactive and driven.
There are 53 Million people working freelance in the US alone. There’s no way there’s a “one size fits all” set of advice for all of them. It would be great if people writing about the subject would realise this. If you can’t be free when you freelance, it takes away a lot of the point.
FURTHER READING: Please don’t be fooled into thinking this article means that you can lie in bed and make money being lazy. This article on what it takes to be a freelancer will show that I think quite the opposite!