Now that I’ve raved about the sovereignty of working for oneself as a freelance writer…let me tell you about the downside. The one thing that was lacking for me as a freelancer who worked at home was one of the most important: peers. Say what you want about your coworkers, but they are essential. Having a second opinion sitting one desk over from you is invaluable.
Can you recreate this experience as a freelancer?
It’s an important thing to ask yourself if you are thinking about going out on your own and stepping away from the corporate environment. A lot of people here in Phoenix like to go to co-working places and/or coffee shops. To be honest, sometimes I like working in coffee shops but other times, not so much. I guess it depends on the atmosphere on any given day. I most often like working in my own home office where I can control my own atmosphere. But sometimes it gets to feeling like an island and the coffee shop starts to become appealing again.
But as a writer, peers are so important. I work in a newsroom and can’t begin to tell you the importance of a second set of eyes on a piece of copy. When I work on my own I have to change my work habits to give myself extra time for revisions. I write and then let my work “cool” for a while before I re-read and revise. Without a coworker sitting next to me to serve as my second set of eyes, I can only depend on my own. So I come up with little tricks like letting a draft “cool” for a couple hours or overnight before I come back to it. (This method has really helped with a few Boston University papers, too).
Freelancing from home means I have to create my own peers. Twitter and Facebook are great for this. But so are instant messaging, email, and Skype. It never hurts to have someone you can call or IM for advice or a second pair of eyes when needed. I’ve met a few great freelance writers online and they have given great help over the years. It’s also great to keep in touch with others to see how their careers take shape and see how they market themselves. It’s so good to see how others succeed — it’s inspiring.
Sometimes that’s the most important thing. Do your coworkers inspire you? Do they make you better? Do they make you want to step up your game? Are they supportive? If not, maybe you would be better off creating a community of peers on your own.