Ahhh that venerable topic. For some reason the media has latched onto Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ and is entirely obsessed with endless dictatorial articles on how to find that sensational fulcrum between work and life – or rather, the total abandonment of work for life. The articles usually feature women meditating in some forest or trekking up Annapurna, rather fashionable and comfortably dressed (that alone is a fulcrum), wearing rather bubu (dyke-ish) shoes.
Reality is that hardly anyone can afford to take off like Elizabeth without falling into the sketched stereotypes. You slog and slave and save up for one off trips to the beach in some remote island in Asia (if you’re lucky) – let alone a one year long career hiatus to exotic countries starting with the Alphabet “I”. Italy. India. Indonesia. Notice a trend here? Having said that, it is possible and I think I have found that pivotal solution that might actually allow us to work and live fabulously without accumulating criminal records. One word. Freelance.
Thanks to the convenience of internet and mobility (danke sehr Zuckerman, Jobs and Google), it’s not unusual to sit by a beach in Miami and sip on some questionable alcoholic concoction while finishing off a design work for a client in Japan. Imagine earning while you travel. Imagine not having to face humming fluorescent lights, cold filing cabinets and Styrofoam-like ceilings again! Imagine that.
I confess, I’ve flirted with the idea of going freelance every now and then over the past 2 years cos let’s be honest, aside from waking up early and wasting time being stuck in traffic, nobody likes being restricted in stuffy cubicles and wooden panel walls with no windows – especially for creatively driven individuals like myself. I might roll out of bed at 2pm in my undies, and take 5 breaks within an hour while I’m working, but hey, if I get the job done, who freaking cares? Client’s happy. I’m tipsy. Everyone’s hunky-dory!
Of course there’s the fear factor of losing the security of a monthly fixed income when one quits his/her staple job. But I’ve noticed freelancers are risk-takers. They live within their means and make do. They are also somewhat westernized individuals and value work life balance. They steer away from the conventional and traditional approaches to life – much to their advantage as it reflects in their work. They’re not the type to splash their earnings on branded handbags or sports cars. They’re more likely to save their money for a one month bolt to trek through the Amazons or go on a backpacking photography expedition in India. They’re passion driven, not possession driven.
Whilst freelancing allows the versatility of working hours, it’s not all glitz and glam. You envision sitting at Starbucks working furiously on your laptop or at a bar chugging beer whilst making a conference call, right? Or maybe that’s just me. But think about all the extra expenses. How long can a Grand Latte last you anyway, before it turns cold and insipid. And if you smoke, you’ll be sitting out in the heat, which means you’ll be getting a lot of distractions – what with the human traffic and kids running about playing with sugar packets and straws. It’s amazing how they can turn anything into tools of destruction.
So needless to say, it is important to have a personal space at home to work from; a space that is comfortable, private and filled with objects of inspiration. I do have a working space at home should I ever decide to leave my job, but thankfully my current office is in a neighborhood bungalow so it does feel somewhat homely. I don’t feel as if I’m being cooped up amongst office supplies and watched over like a hawk – my bosses are trusting and they don’t micro-manage me. Amen.
To my friends out there hoping to freelance one day, good on you and all the best! Here are some examples of work stations to inspire you to set up a home office. While at it, I should point out that its always handy to have a bar fridge at arms reach to quench your thirst at 3pm in the arvo 😉