2 Mar 2015

It's a freelance life: Getting out of your pyjamas

Just like every job, also freelancing has its pros and cons. You are free to plan your own schedule and enjoy peaceful mid-day visits to the supermarket with all the grannies and stay-at-home moms, but you can't always count on being able to pay for your bananas. You are free to take a day off when you are ill, but no one will pay you for lying in bed. Although you can work in pyjamas without anyone questioning your choice of outfit, no one will ask how your weekend was or suggest a coffee break either. The first time you have a real face to face conversation (note: saying hello, thank you and have a nice day to the supermarket cashier doesn't count) is probably when your housemate comes home. That's the first time someone might point out that it's 6 o'clock and you are still in your pyjamas.

When I started freelancing a few years ago, I always worked from home. It was great in the beginning, but by time it got frustrating. There were too many distractions, too many dishes waiting to be washed and too many dust balls to get rid of. The house became shinier and the fridge got fuller, but I didn't feel efficient no matter how many hours I would have worked in between all the chores. My days were a blur without clearly defined mornings, afternoons and evenings. At the end of each day, I would either have a day's worth of speech waiting to be splurted out to the first living soul who would be willing to listen or I would swell deep in my solitary despair, melodramatically questioning my career and everything I could think of. Either way, it wasn't really my idea of an ideal working day.

Sticking to a schedule, waking up early and working from 10 am to 6 pm helped a bit, but it wasn't until I forced myself to jump out of my pyjamas and actually go somewhere that things started rolling. My boyfriend had been urging me to start going to the library instead of working from home, but each time he had suggested this, I had come up with a ridiculous excuse for why it wasn't such a great idea (after all, I had so many things I would need to carry with me and it would be so much trouble to drag everything around. I would need at least a dozen bags and yada yada yada...). However, after a few very frustrating days last year, I finally gave in. I stuffed my pencils, notebooks, laptop, camera and drawing tablet into a backpack (all of which fitted in just fine!) and headed to my new office. After having gotten to the library and set up my working station, I had to admit that it hadn't been troublesome at all. To add some motivational social pressure to "force" myself to come to the library every, I decided to start documenting my days there by taking one photo a day and posting it on Twitter with #freelancerslibrarychallenge.

Now, I've been working from the library for over half a year. The strangers there have become my imaginary colleagues and the librarians my imaginary bosses. Some days, I take the liberty to stay at home, most of the times just to realise that going to the library would have been smarter. Quite often I forget to take a picture and post it on Twitter. Nevertheless, most of the times I am in the library, sitting in my usual spot surrounded with PhD students, other freelancers, teenagers and elderly, who come there to read the newspapers. I can't go to the supermarkets at the same time with grannies and stay-at-home moms anymore, but let me tell you, working from the library is a lot better!

If you are stuck in your pyjama zone, here are some tips that might help you get out of there:

1. Don't be stubborn
If you are not at your most efficient at home, be open to trying other places. Renting a studio is a great option, but working from study caf├ęs or libraries can be just as great! You can also team up with a fellow freelancer and visit each other's home offices for a change.

2. Make it fun
Come up with something that will motivate you to get out of pyjamas. Maybe it's a great take-away coffee on your way to your new "office", maybe it's a lunch date with a friend or a fun podcast you can listen to whilst working (I highly recommend The Fizzle Show!). If you want to take a more playful approach, set yourself a challenge: work in a different place every day, rate them with stars or document your journey to Super Efficient Me.

3. Add a bit of pressure
It's easier to fall for chocolate if no one knows you aren't supposed to eat sweets. Make a deal or a bet with a supportive friend and promise to start working from somewhere else than home. If you know a fellow freelancer who is struggling with the same issues, meet up or call each other every day to report your location and how things are going. That way both of you will also get the daily doze of social interaction that you would get in a real office - a win-win situation!

4. Repeat
The more often you work from somewhere else than home, the sooner it will become a habit and the quicker you will get rid of your frustrations and longing for pyjamas.

5. Reward yourself
If you can't find motivation to stick to your new routine, try a carrot-and-stick approach. Maybe each successful week of working somewhere else than home will finish with a slice of cake or your favourite movie...and if you have failed to get out of your pyjamas, you might have to deliver that piece of deliciousness to a friend or a fellow freelancer!

What about you? Are you able to work from home or do you need a change of scenery to be efficient?


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