by Hayley Wood
Having come through my first two years working freelance and from home, I thought I'd review some of the preconceptions and concerns I had before I started, with a view to busting some of the myths that get trotted out about self-employment - and homeworking in particular - for the benefit of anyone else who is thinking about taking the leap.
1) "You can work in your pyjamas all day!"
Yes... but ew, no. Firstly because a) not conducive to separating home and work life, or feeling professional, and b) just seems a bit unhygienic to me so has never appealed. On this point, see the wonderful Hadley Freeman. Not yet got to the stage where I sit at my desk wearing black tie, but I'm not averse. Particularly as one of the things I miss about having an office job is the excuse to buy "proper" dresses.
2) "It's so easy to procrastinate at home - I'd never get any work done."
This one did concern me initially, but it's surprising how the blind panic induced by impending deadlines sharpens the mind and dulls the allure of Facebook when the only person who'll suffer if you miss them is yourself. I thought I might also get distracted by housework, but turns out it's just as easy to ignore the washing up when you're at home working as when you're at home watching TV. And actually, if I've been fiercely concentrating on a tricky piece of work for a couple of hours, spending ten minutes hanging out the washing is a welcome relief. Not that I would let my partner know that.
3) "It must be lonely working at home."
This was probably my #1 concern - I like a chat. To counteract it I initially had grand plans to get involved with co-working (lots of options in the Manchester area) but I only went to one session before I decided I preferred just cracking on with work and socialising afterwards. I was incredibly surprised by how productive I can be with no interruptions other than the cat and the arrival of the post, and also how quickly time flies when I'm really focused on a task (which I found hard to achieve in an office without headphones). Don't get me wrong, I really miss my old colleagues - the lunchtime runs, tea runs, the gossip, the Netflix recommendations, and cat videos - but I haven't suffered too much from loneliness during the day.
4) "You can take time off whenever you want."
I wish! Have never taken so few holidays as in the last two years. I've been better than I thought I might be at not working evenings, weekends and bank holidays, as I can see that would be a slippery slope, but felt a nagging guilt throughout a 2-week holiday visiting my sister in Australia and never entirely switched off. Has made me appreciate the total relaxation I used to feel when I could turn on my out of office and redirect emails to an experienced, trusted colleague! On the other hand, I don't really resent having less time off (as I might if I went to work for an employer that gave me a similarly reduced holiday allocation) - at the end of the day, it's my business, so my decision.
5) "You can work in the garden in the summer."
I tried this for one day last year and quickly realised that this would lead to a combination of a) screen glare, b) laptop overheating, c) midge bites and d) sunburn. However, I have invested in How to Build a Shed and am planning a garden office, so we shall perhaps see what happens next summer...
About the Author
Hayley Wood (www.hwoodtranslations.com) is a French to English translator and editor based in Manchester, UK.