Pick your spot
Among the most obvious advantages of an office job is the office -- that is, a dedicated space where the work gets done. Freelancers are responsible for figuring this space out for themselves, whether at home, a café, a library, in a plane, on a train, with a fox, in a box, etc.
One of the key advantages of freelancing is escaping the mind-deadening labyrinth of cubicle walls and beige carpets, but once you’ve escaped there’s no secret formula for discovering your ideal, productivity-maximizing alternative workspace. Everyone’s preferences are different, and finding what works for you might take a little trial and error.
“I love variety,” says Robert Evans, a writer & editor at the humor site Cracked, who constantly refreshes his surroundings with travel to stay creatively stimulated. “I've worked from the tops of mountains, villages in rural India, hostels and bars around Europe, two active war zones, plus planes, trains, and automobiles,” he says. “And of course my home office and the Cracked office. I prefer variety to any one place.”
Evans began his freelance career at 20 after leaving a job as an aid in a special education classroom, which -- while objectively a noble and rewarding calling -- included a trying amount of “being punched in the face.” With a desire to write, but no formal training or specific career goals, Evans applied for an unpaid internship with Cracked, writing articles for the online magazine and any other publisher he could find. He landed a full-time contract gig with a tech news site until his toehold at Cracked turned into a stepping stone.
“Eventually Cracked started paying me to freelance,” says Evans. “That gradually evolved into a full-time freelancing gig. Then they hired me on salary.” Now the editorial manager of the site’s personal experience article team, he still finds time to write his own material for the site and freelance elsewhere on his own time.
But not all writing thrives under such stimulating conditions. For freelance comics writer Ryan Cady, whose body of work includes books for Image Comics and Archie, seclusion is a necessity, at least in the beginning.
“I have a really terrible attention span, so I have to get super disciplined,” says Cady. “I can't write first drafts or full scripts at a busy place like a coffee shop or a park -- I have to do it at home, usually in the kitchen when everyone else is asleep.”
Once the structure is laid in seclusion, ensconcing himself in a bit more of a vibe becomes essential to drawing the outer character of his stories.
“When it comes to rewrites and edits, though, I love to find a Starbucks and let the background noise and people watching eat up my leftover attention while I focus on the work.”