Graduating out of the home office

Last week I had what was probably one of the most exciting days of my professional life so far.
After working freelance based from a home office for 18 months I’m renting at hot desk.

For those who leave the house when it’s barely light, travel to a beige office and work in front of a computer screen for eight hours before doing the journey in reverse, home working is a big thing. A BIG THING. It means freedom. It means being able to work in your underpants, should you want to (I don’t – my office is chilly and overlooked by neighbours.

It is good. It is. My commute is a mere five minutes. If the creative juices are stuttering I can wander around my own home and put a wash on while I think about what I need to do. I have very little dead time. I can work in different places as long as I have a WiFi connection and a plug for my laptop. I haven’t yet worked at my desk in my pajamas. I have, I confess, edited the chapter of a book while sitting on the bed with a cold coming on. My cats, both of whom were five month old kittens when I began freelancing, do – I truly believe – think I spend more time at home simply because of them. At 5pm they start pulling my chair apart to make me feed them. On good days I like to think it’s because they want me to stop working and are reminding me about the importance of switching off. The rest of the time I realise it’s just because they’re peckish. When friends have needed me, and family, I have been able to be flexible and offer support.

Working from home has helped me regain my confidence. I needed to focus on my freelancing. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve managed to develop really good working relationships, even hanging on to some regular clients. I am doing better than I was when working full-time for someone else. My last “proper job” exposed me to an unpleasant working environment – I’d never really had one before. Working from home let me build myself up again while I built up a portfolio and a business.

Yet I feel I have outgrown my brightly painted home office. Yes, I can read what I’m writing out loud without anyone raising an eyebrow. I have total control of the radio dial. I can do an hour of yoga while I wait for feedback on a pitch. I can focus on my work.

But it is this last point what also makes it incredibly tough. My office is right there. When I lie in bed I am fewer than 20 steps from my desk. I’ve experimented with working in different places around the house realising I’m trying to bring a wall up between me and my office. I can never switch off. I now leave my mobile downstairs so that at least I give myself ten minutes and a slurp of coffee before I check my emails in the morning. The office is still there though.

When I started freelancing having my work become all-consuming was necessary. It is the only way to build up a business. I had to become obsessed and feel my way. Now I want a balance back. I want to be able to focus on the ‘home’ me and the ‘work’ me.

The good things about working from home will still be there when I work somewhere else. Collaboration, freedom to define my own diary and work practices, no bullying boss. I can’t tell you quite how important that last point is. Freelance means freedom, to me. It means choice and independence. Moving to a new office space feels like growing up, a little bit. I’ve made it work so far. Let’s see what happens next.

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