My Biggest Surprise After Becoming a Freelancer
At this point, I am three months into starting my own LLC and working for myself. A good portion of time was spent on administrative startup activities, a topic I summarized for the benefit of others in my Quickstart Guide available now. Over this time period, I’ve had a good amount of time to perform freelance contract work. Already having learned so much, there is one thing that stands to me from the experience thus far. It’s completely obvious but one of those things I didn’t realize until now.
Freelancing entails a lot, and I mean a lot, of screen time. I have worked in technology my whole 25-year career, so time in front of a computer screen is nothing new. But working at home, specifically freelancing, seems to have taken this to a whole new level. It can be draining, something I completely did not expect.
First, there are the logistics and space. I already had a home office where I would work occasionally before the pandemic. Being fortunate to work in a field where I am able to work from home, I did so along with many others. It was in fact mandated by my previous employer unless you had a specific reason to be in the office.
While working from home in my engineering role at Amazon, I bought a Varidesk adjustable desktop converter. This was a completely essential purchase in my view. I am extremely happy with it. In fact, I’m standing in my office now as I type these words. Sitting or standing for too long consecutively is not good for a number of reasons.
But the thing I still didn’t prepare for was screen time. Lots of it.
Fortunately, it was a gradual progression. Working in a corporate office, you spend time in meetings, walking the halls, and going to the kitchen to get way more cups of coffee than you need. I guess I didn’t realize how that time adds up. Meeting time, for example, is of course work, but it’s different than focused work being in front of a screen. Eight concentrated hours of screen time is tough, but to put things in perspective, I still feel fortunate to do what I do.
It was during week two that I knew I had to mix things up. My work sessions were extremely focused and intense. I felt productive for two hours but then it would drop off. I decided to use what I call the High-Intensity Work-From-Home Intervals. Think of this approach as taking more frequent breaks in between highly-focused work sessions. The analogy is to exercise, and freelance efforts often do feel like mental workouts.
This technique has dramatically helped, but it does stretch out the day a little bit. Across the board, freelancers and work-from-home individuals are seeing their workdays elongated. I think that comes with the territory a bit, and really isn’t anything new since the prevalence of smartphones. It’s not unique to this work paradigm.
I enjoy what I do. I still feel lucky to do it. Life and business are all about adaptation. If you don’t adapt to change, things will be quite difficult in the long run. That was simply adjustment number one with likely many more to come.
I hope you find a work cadence that suits you. I think I’ve finally found mine. Ok, now it's back to work.
Darren is the founder and editor of Freelante, a site dedicated to providing resources and insights for freelancers and small business owners. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.