And just like that, I’ve been in business for ten years. Freelancing has been a long and challenging journey, one that has been richly rewarding and has come to define a big part of who I am. It was a lifestyle choice just as much as it was a career choice, even if it was a decision that I made “accidentally on purpose.” Over these years, my work environment has evolved greatly, molding me just as I have molded it.
When I first started out, I didn’t know how long this ride was going to last. Because of that mentality, I didn’t invest as much as I could have or should have into my business infrastructure. As I sit here typing these words ten years later, I can look back and see just how much has changed in terms of how I work and how I approach my business.
Location, Location, Location
Something that we’ve discussed many times before is that one of the greatest appeals to freelancing is that I can work at just about any hour of the day from just about any location in the world. That includes where I choose to set up camp for my home office.
And in the early days, at least for the first couple of years, I didn’t have a real home office at all. I’d work wherever I happened to put down my laptop. It might be on the kitchen table one day, on the coffee table in the living room the next day, or even with the laptop on the seat of a cheap office chair with me still lying in bed.
Even when I did start working out of a more permanent base of operations, it was in the middle of the action in the home. I used a desk that was located just off the living room and this was a placement I used for many years. Maybe I didn’t want to feel left out. Maybe I just didn’t have the extra room.
Realistically, the location of your home office can have a profoundly dramatic impact on how you work. Today, I have a spare bedroom that acts as a dedicated home office, a space that is used only for work purposes.
On the Subject of White Noise
Do you listen to music while I work? I used to. I don’t anymore.
Indeed, at least for the first six or seven years of my freelance writing career, I was more inclined to have some sort of “white noise” going on in my work environment. This is tangentially related to the point above, as I would oftentimes leave the television in the living room on during the day while I worked, even if I wasn’t really “watching” TV.
My thoughts on this, reflecting back, are that I wanted to mimic the background chatter of a typical office. Even music’s relationship with productivity is complicated at best. Maybe it’s because I’m older now, but I find the white noise to be too distracting. These days, I prefer to work in as close to pin-drop silence as possible.
Home Office Mobility
For at least the first half of my career, my primary machine was a laptop. I went through a few of them and I started using a docking station with an external monitor a little later on, but the rig itself was a laptop. That has changed. I still have my Ultrabook, but I really only use that while traveling. My main rig is a desktop with dual monitors.
This might have something to do with my shifting perspective on mobility. For years, I’d pack up my laptop and head out to the coffee shop for a few hours on a not infrequent basis. I’d take the laptop and work from the dining table or from my bedroom or from my future wife’s house. Today, I’d like to think that I’ve put down roots. I’ve settled into where I want to be.
Staring at a Blank Canvas
It won’t be surprising at all to hear that my bedroom, as a teenager and later as a university student, was plastered with various posters. After starting my freelance writing business and actually setting up camp in a semi-permanent home office, the walls of my work environment were stark and barren. There was practically no decoration on those eggshell-colored walls at all, maybe because I was trying to convince myself to focus on the work.
My attitude has since shifted. I now have a couple of posters from the Zen Pencils books, plus one from The Oatmeal explaining “why working from home is both awesome and horrible.” It’s not much, but I gaze up at them every now and then for inspiration.
The Persistence of Change
The point of today’s post wasn’t to argue that one particular work environment is necessarily better than another. It’s not even to say that some home office configurations are better for some people and other configurations are better for other people. The point was to illustrate that the working needs and preferences of even the same individual can change over time for a whole host of reasons.
If you’ve been working from home for some period of time and you find yourself in a bit of a rut, consider changing your work environment. Move your desk to the other side of the office. Spend more (or less) time working at the dining table. Take the laptop out to a public space more (or less) often. Sometimes, a little shake-up is all you need to keep moving forward.