What they didn’t tell me about working remotely

It’s been 2 years since I decided to leave the 8 to 5 office life. I am a writer, but it was until June 2013 that I decided that I would write for a living, instead of as a hobby.

I lived just outside of Guatemala City, but worked there. That meant that to start my work at 8 a.m., I had to leave at 5:30 a.m. the latest, or risk arriving until 9 a.m. (yes, traffic can be that bad). I always got there early of course, so I had breakfast, read a little, and finally started working at 8.

Traffic was one of the main reasons I decided I wanted to work remotely. From my house on my PJs, I thought, waking up at whatever time I wanted. There were other main reasons, of course, like wanting to give it a shot at being a writer, but the commute odyssey every day ended up making the decision for me.

Two years later, I think of the things that I wish I’d known about working remotely. Some are good, some not so good. But I think everyone should know this.

  1. Waking up at whatever time you want will not necessarily mean you’re sleeping more. Not having a schedule is not always the same as resting more. You can wake up late, but you can also work more hours than before, go to sleep at different times every day and end up feeling more tired at the end of the week. Remote workers should remember to have a schedule, and stick to it, unless you want to lose your mind.
  2. You will have time to see your friends now. Great at times, difficult at most. Because everyone knows you “don’t have a schedule”, people will ask you out to lunch, brunch and breakfast. Specially if you have friends that are still in college or for some reason don’t work or can get away from it. Because you barely see anyone anymore, because you work from home, it’s great seeing your friends and family, but you have to remember that you still have to work. If you have a date at mid-morning, you will loose an entire morning of work. So plan ahead your week, and remember that working remotely is not the same as having all the time in the world.
  3. Find a coworking space or go to a library or café. Don’t stay in your house all day, if your budget permits it. Work from somewhere else, even a park. Going out will help your creativity and refresh your head and you will interact with other people. Staying in will turn your house into a place of work and not into a place of rest. Your house should be the place where you relax and enjoy.
  4. It is hard. Very, very hard. At the office someone else gave you work to do and you did it. But as a freelancer, nobody is giving you work unless you reach out to them and convince them you’re what they’re looking for. You will also get distracted, oh so many times, and you will not always see immediate results. Freelancing is a different kind of hard. You get the tiredness of a regular job but you also get the tiredness of spirit, never sure of what will come. If you think you cannot bear to know what will happen next month, don’t do it.
  5. It is awesome. Yes, I think it’s the best idea I’ve had. It has not been easy, I’ve had to learn discipline and not waste my time on Tumblr all day, but it has been worth it. I have learned to be more productive, I’ve learned decision making and not always having someone telling me what to do or someone telling me I did a good job. I’ve had frustrations, and I’ve wanted to go back to work like a normal person, and I have never started a month knowing exactly how much money I will have at the end of it. There have been rough months, but there have been really good ones, that make me see that my work is actually worth it. Another awesome thing is that I can work from anywhere. I will soon go to Europe and live there and work from there for a while. But the most awesome part is doing what I love to do. This alone is worth a try.

(Originally published on my blog andreadardon.com)