My Biggest Surprise After Becoming a Freelancer

Its Probably Not What You Think

At this point I am two months into starting my own LLC and working for myself. A good portion of time was spent on administrative startup activities, a topic I will summarized in my Quickstart Guide available now. However, during this time period, I’ve also had a good amount of time to perform actual freelance contract work. Already having learned so much, there is one thing that jumps out at me from my experience. It’s completely obvious but one of those things I didn’t realize until living it.

Freelancing entails a lot, and I mean a lot, of screen time. I have worked in technology my whole 25-year career, so time in front of a computer screen really shouldn’t be a surprise. But working at home, specifically freelancing, seems to have taken this to a whole new level. It can be draining, something I completely did not expect.

First, there are the logistics and space. I already had an office in my residence where I would work from home occasionally before the pandemic. Being fortunate to work in a field where I am able to work from home, I did so along with many others. It was in fact mandated by my previous employer unless you had a specific reason to be in the office.

After working from home in my engineering role at Amazon, I bought a Varidesk adjustable desktop converter. This was a completely essential purchase in my view. I am extremely happy with it. In fact I’m standing in my office now as I type these words. Sitting or standing for too long consecutively is not good for a number of reasons.

But here’s the thing I didn’t prepare for. Screen time. Lots of it.

Fortunately, it was a gradual progression. Working in a corporate office, you spend time in meetings, walking the halls, and going to the kitchen to get way more cups of coffee than you need. I guess I didn’t realize how that time adds up. Meeting time, for example, is of course work, but it's different than focused work being in front of a screen. Eight focused hours of screen time is tough, but to put things in perspective, I still feel fortunate to do what I do. Fairly certain I would not have made it if I needed to work in emergency services, medicine, or construction. My hats off to those and so many other hard-working folks. I have it easy, let’s face it.

It was during week two that I knew I had to mix things up. My work sessions were extremely focused and intense. I felt productive for two hours but then it would drop off. I decided to use what I call the High-Intensity Work-From-Home Intervals. Think of this approach as taking more frequent breaks in between highly-focused work sessions. The analogy is to exercise, and freelance efforts often do feel like mental workouts.

This technique has dramatically helped, but it does stretch out the day a little bit. Across the board, freelancers and work-from-home individuals are seeing their workdays elongated. I think that comes with the territory a bit, and really isn't anything new since the prevalence of smartphones. It's not unique to this work paradigm.

I enjoy what I do. I still feel lucky to do it. Life and business are all about adaptation. If you don’t adapt to change, things will be difficult for you in the long run. That was simply adjustment number one with likely many more to come. I hope you will follow along with me on this journey, and I am let me know how your journey is going as well!


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