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There are a lot of people trying to sell the ‘laptop lifestyle’ on social media these days. Individuals promoting remote business/work opportunities, or wanting you to visit their website/read their blog post about remote work almost invariably present imagery of a super cute home office or a laptop sitting in front of the idyllic backdrop of an exotic beach with crystal clear water and pristine, inviting sand, accompanied by eye-catching text implying that all this could be yours. But is the laptop lifestyle really all emails with a view, long walks on the beach, and cocktails at knock-off time? Here’s the short answer: No. Here’s the long answer: Hell, no. It’s really, really not. I actually do live minutes from an awesome beach, and I can assure you that I’ve never sent a single work email sitting on the beach with warm sand between my toes, my office view is of the clothesline in our backyard, and there are no cocktails, ever. None. (There’s Diet Coke though, and sometimes Milo, so things aren’t all bad).
The thing is though, I think we all know that few things in life are ever really all they’re cracked up to be (especially in the social media age, where everyone’s curating their own personal highlights reel on their social media feed of choice). So, I think ‘Is the laptop lifestyle really all it’s cracked up to be?’ is the wrong question. A better question is: ‘Does the laptop lifestyle work for me?’ (Or, if you’re only just starting to look into the idea of remote work: ‘Will the laptop lifestyle work for me?’). The answer to this question for you personally is going to depend on a bunch of different factors relevant to you and your goals/plans/personal situation. My answer to this question is: Yes. Overall, the laptop lifestyle definitely works for me, and I’m so glad I pursued it and stuck at making it happen. BUT, while my answer is yes, there are a couple of major caveats that go with it, and one or both of these will probably be deal breakers for some people.
So, hands-down the best thing for me about my remote work is the freedom. Running my own home-based transcription business, I choose exactly how much I work and when. While I certainly do have deadlines to meet, I structure my days as I please. And this is the core thing that makes the laptop lifestyle worth it for me. I’m willing to put up with the things I don’t love about it, because that freedom is worth it for me. It allows me to be at home caring for my daughter, and work mostly in the evenings when she is asleep. And, if any unexpected ‘life’ stuff pops up, as it invariably does, I have the flexibility in my day to manage it. I LOVE the freedom my work situation affords me. Now, before I jump into discussing the things about remote work that I don’t love quite so much, I just want to clarify that this freedom I’m waxing lyrical about is not a guaranteed benefit of remote work, it’s simply a benefit of running the particular type of remote business I have chosen to run. There are so many different remote jobs you could apply for or remote businesses you could start that would require set days/hours, and this is an important thing to bear in mind when planning your remote career.
Now, on to the not-so-great things about remote work for me. Overhead expenses, income uncertainty, and a whole new world of taxation regulations to learn about were some of the challenges I was expecting when I started my remote business, but what I’ve listed below are things that either took me by surprise, or ended up being bigger challenges than I’d anticipated they would be.
1. Working from home can really impact you physically.
Spending all my working hours seated at a computer is not doing my body any favours. I’m sore and achy sometimes, my posture is definitely not the best it’s ever been, and while my weight in terms of the number on the scale hasn’t really changed, I’ve somehow just gotten a bit ‘softer’ all over. Now, this is all manageable of course, and I know it just means that I need to get back in the gym, and also start taking regular breaks for a walk/stretch/some fresh air when I’m working, rather than just plowing through in an effort to get things done as quickly as possible.
But the thing is, finding the time for this is really, really challenging. As mentioned above, I care for my daughter during the days, and work in the evenings. This doesn’t really leave much time for regular gym sessions. Now, I should mention here that I seriously have the best, most supportive husband on Earth. He’s a 100 percent hands-on dad, and does the lion’s share of cleaning, tidying and general household ‘stuff’ in our home. (He’s also smart, good looking, and did half of a professional massage course before he went into finance. He’s seriously the whole package.) My point here is not just to brag about my awesome husband, but to highlight the fact that I have the highest possible level of support and assistance from my partner, and finding time to squeeze gym sessions/a run on the beach/meditation/a nap into my busy life is still nearly impossible. I’d strongly encourage anyone who is looking for home-based work primarily because they want to be free for family commitments during the day to put some serious thought into it and have a plan as to how you’re going to manage your general health and well-being when working from home. And, when I work out how exactly to successfully juggle it all, I’ll let you all know.
A pic of my fabulous husband, for your enjoyment.
2. The work/life balance thing is a whole new ballgame when you work from home.
When you literally live in your office, keeping the ideal separation between your work life and your home life becomes a little challenging. This is less of a problem for people who work set hours remotely (it certainly was much less of an issue for me when I worked set hours as an online ESL teacher), but it’s definitely a challenge in running my own home-based business. And, it’s a challenge in a variety of different ways. It’s all too easy to cancel date night, because you need to catch-up/get ahead with work. If you primarily work nights like me (or work with clients in different time zones), your clients aren’t necessarily going to be contactable while you’re working, so there can be some Skype/email/phone ping-pong at all hours of the day and night. And, like I mentioned above, if you’re busy caring for tiny humans during the day and working during the evenings, there’s precious little time for stuff like walks, sleep, showers, friends, etc., etc. While I’m really quite loath to complain, because I sincerely LOVE my life and my work, getting your work/life balance right is seriously challenging when you work for yourself from home.
Now, there are, of course, other things I could have included on this list, but the challenges I’ve outlined above are the most significant ones for me, and I think they’re the things that are likely to be most problematic for home-based workers in general. If you’re really serious about setting yourself up with a long term, home-based career, I’d really encourage you to think seriously about the challenges outlined above, and have a plan to manage them. I know back when I was first starting to think about a home-based career, I knew that I’d be busy caring for my daughter all day and then working in the evenings, but I really underestimated just how busy I’d be. I just had this idea that it would all work out somehow, and I’d be swimming in spare time because I was home all day. But, the thing about home-based work is, it’s still work. It doesn’t matter where or when you do it, 30 hours of work is still 30 hours of work. So, my advice to you is don’t just trust that it’ll work out ‘somehow’. It may work out somehow for you, but you’ll have a much better chance of maintaining your personal life, sleep schedule, and abs, if you head into your home-based career with a solid, comprehensive plan.
So, that’s it for this post. Next week I’ve got a post going live that I’ve been working on for a while now, all about how to become a virtual assistant. The world of virtual assistance can seem like a really challenging one to break into, but I’ve found some great leads for you, and I’m super excited to share them.
Happy job hunting,