If you’re just getting started with freelance writing, you might be unsure of the best place to work. Is it your desk at home? A table at your local cafe? On the couch with your PJs on? (That last one is a viable option, but only very occasionally.)
Two of the most common workplace options chosen by freelancers are a dedicated home office and a coworking space. So which of these might be best for you?
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each of these freelance workspaces.
Working from a home office
Establishing a dedicated office space in your home is a great option for freelancers. However, there can also be some drawbacks to working from home, so it’s best to look at both sides of the story.
You can create a workspace and routine that suits you perfectly.
Working from home, you have complete control over your work environment and routine. There’s so much flexibility to tailor things to your own specifications.
Find you work better within hours that don’t match the traditional 9-5? Your home office is available 24/7. Prefer a standing desk or exercise ball to the standard office-chair-and-desk combo? There’s nothing stopping you from setting up your office however you like.
Just as you can shape your own workload and projects as a freelancer, with a home office, you have the power to shape your entire working week to suit your wants and needs.
It can help you cut down on costs.
You can really save some money working from home, after the initial cost of setting up your home office (technological equipment, furniture etc. – which you can claim on tax, by the way).
There’s no commute to an office, first of all, so there are no travel expenses. And bonus: you save precious time that you would ordinarily have spent commuting.
Plus, there are so many more ways you can cut down on costs without even really trying: avoiding the temptation of endless takeaway coffees on the way to the office; eating lunch at home instead of grabbing something from a cafe; not having to purchase a uniform or ‘work clothes’… The list goes on.
It can help you create a healthy work-life balance.
How many people do you know who are stuck in the daily grind, complaining about their lack of work-life balance? Perhaps you were even one of them once, and that’s why you decided to become a freelancer.
When you work at home and set your own hours and schedule, there’s a much greater opportunity for achieving work-life balance. Escaping the trapped feeling that can sometimes come from working a ‘traditional’ job can be great for your mental health and productivity.
Want to attend that yoga class in the middle of the day, or be home to pick up your kids from school? You can adjust your workday to suit. Want to take the occasional day off for life admin, appointments, or a mental health/self-care day? You can do so without having to ask permission or jump through any hoops.
A word of caution, though: the work-life balance can sometimes go the opposite way when you’re left to your own devices as a freelancer – more on this below.
You need to practise great self-discipline to work at home.
This is perhaps the biggest struggle faced by freelancers. When it’s only you holding yourself accountable to your work, it can sometimes be difficult to stay motivated, avoid distractions and get the work done.
As a work-at-home freelancer, there’s no boss making sure you arrive on time or checking your productivity. There’s nothing to stop you spending four hours on YouTube or watching ‘just one more episode’ of that Netflix show instead of working. It’s just you and your own self-discipline.
Basically, there are way more distractions around when you work in your own home, and way less accountability enforced upon you to avoid them. If you think this would be a problem for you, perhaps a home office isn’t your best option as a freelancer.
It can get isolating after a while.
Many writers, by nature, prefer working on their own. For a lot of freelancers, working in the peace and solitude of your own home sounds like an absolute dream.
However, after a while, working alone in a home office can become somewhat isolating – especially if you’ve made the leap from a ‘regular’ job to a freelance career. You may grow to miss the teamwork, the ‘water-cooler chat’ and the sense of community that comes from working in a traditional office environment.
For your own mental health, it’s vital to ensure that you’re getting some social time in throughout the week if you’re freelancing from home. Whether it’s a quick coffee or lunch with a friend, or even just shaking things up and working at the local cafe every now and then, human contact can really make a difference to your mindset and wellbeing.
It can be hard to separate work from home life.
Remember that work-life balance we talked about above? Well, while a home office workspace can help you achieve it, there’s also a risk that things might go the other way.
As a freelance writer, especially one who’s just starting out, it can be hard to make ends meet. You’re constantly pitching and searching for new gigs, and in your anxiousness to bring in a good income, you might end up taking on more work than you can ideally manage.
When this happens, it can be all too easy to forget to set boundaries on your work time – especially when you work from home. Your office is always right there, after all, and there’s nothing stopping you from working into the wee hours every night.
While there’s nothing wrong with working hard, it becomes a problem when you’re unable to separate your work and home life. When you’re unable to switch off at the end of your work day, close the door to your office, and take some time to step back and unwind.
This is something all freelancers need to be wary of. If you’re finding it too difficult to compartmentalise your life when working from home, you might need to take a look at some other options.
Which brings us to our next type of freelance workspace…
Working from a coworking space
A coworking space is a workplace, usually an office, shared by people who are all working on their own individual projects. Desk space is usually rented on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Coworking spaces are becoming more and more common, and are especially popular with freelancers and creative types.
As with any workplace, though, there are ups and downs to freelancing from a coworking space. Let’s investigate the pros and cons.
A coworking space can help you form a set routine.
We’re big fans of routine here at Writer’s Edit, whether it’s a freelancing schedule or a fiction writing routine. If you’ve got enough discipline, you can definitely form a set daily routine from a home office – but if you need a little help, a coworking space might be just the thing for you.
While it’s not the same as a traditional workplace, in the sense that there’s no boss waiting there for you to arrive every morning, a coworking space is still an external workspace. The mere act of getting up, getting dressed and going there can help you settle into a more regular routine.
If you’re transitioning from a ‘normal’ job to freelancing and finding it too hard to establish a work routine at home, perhaps try a week at a coworking space to see if it suits you better.
There’s a social aspect and a sense of community.
Above, we spoke about the fact that working from home can sometimes feel a little lonely and isolating. If you thrive on social interaction and don’t work super well with only yourself for company, a coworking space might be a good option.
Even though you aren’t working directly with the other people in your coworking space, you’re still around other people. There’ll be someone other than your cat to talk to when you’re making a cuppa in the kitchen. There are people to grab lunch with if you want some proper human interaction to break up your workday.
There’s also a certain sense of community in coworking spaces. Most people who choose to work in these spaces are in similar positions, career-wise – most often they’ll be freelancers, like you, and are often in creative-type industries as well. This can foster a great community vibe, even though everyone is working individually.
Coworking spaces are great for networking.
Networking is an important part of being a freelancer. Often, you’ll find yourself picking up jobs, projects, or new connections and leads simply through talking to people. However, this can be hard when you work alone at home!
That’s where a coworking space can come in handy. As we mentioned above, many of the people you’ll be sharing your workspace with are often in similar industries. There will also probably be a relatively high rate of new people coming through, all of whom will have a different set of connections themselves.
A simple chat or two with your fellow coworkers can often lead to you making some new connections, and might just open up some new freelancing opportunities.
There are distractions in a coworking space, too.
Just as there are myriad things to distract you when you work at home, there are distractions abound when it comes to a coworking space as well. (Let’s face it – there aren’t many workplaces at all that are 100% distraction-free!)
Some people you’ll be working alongside might want to chat to you more often than you’d like. The office is also likely to be loud – with so many people working on so many different projects, there will probably be times when you feel like you can’t hear yourself think over the noise of conversations and phone calls.
You’re also more likely to be tempted to head out for longer lunches, or linger around the kettle when making a cuppa, if your fellow workers invite you out or strike up a conversation.
While there’s nothing wrong with being social, of course, you do need to keep tabs on your time and try not to let too many distractions keep you from your work.
There are costs involved in renting a space.
One of the biggest apprehensions freelancers may have about coworking spaces is the cost involved. While working from a home office is effectively free (apart from equipment costs), there are consistent costs involved in renting a desk in a coworking space.
Depending on the location and style of your coworking space, these costs will vary. You’ll usually be paying on a daily, weekly or monthly basis for the use of your desk, any technology provided, and any other amenities included in the space (such as a communal kitchen).
It’s worth keeping in mind the other incidental expenses you might incur, too. Takeaway coffees, lunches out and after-work drinks with your fellow freelancers will all add up.
If you’re worried about money, especially at the start of your freelancing career, have a good think about whether you can really afford the costs involved in a coworking space, or whether you’d be better saving money with a home office.
There may be restrictions on hours you can work.
Every freelance writer works differently. As we mentioned above, one of the benefits of a home office is that it is available 24/7 – so if you work best at ‘unconventional’ hours or like the freedom to be flexible, it’s ideal.
Things are a little different with a coworking space. Depending on the venue you choose, there will usually be time restrictions on when it’s available to workers. For example, it may only be accessible during standard business hours, and/or only available on weekdays.
Freelancers who work better in non-standard hours, or who want to be able to work whenever they choose (including weekends), would have to find a coworking space that suits these requirements. Otherwise, you may be better suited to the flexibility of a home office.
As you can see, there are benefits and disadvantages for both of these freelance workspace options. Taking some time to figure out how you work best, and what you want from your workspace, will help you choose which one is right for you.
You may even like to combine the two, working from home some days and renting a desk in a coworking space on others. That’s the beauty of being a freelancer – you can have the best of both worlds!