- I used to be tied to my work location and my work schedule, due to the nature of my old career.
- As a freelancer, I enjoy a flexible work schedule of my own design.
- I also get the flexibility of working from wherever I want, thanks to the remote nature of my job.
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It's a fact of life that some jobs require the worker to be in a certain location. My old career was nothing but jobs like this. It makes sense, as you can't install museum exhibits or manage an artifact collection from off-site. Whenever I wanted a new job title or a modest bump in salary, I had to change jobs, which meant moving — again. All told, I moved almost 5,000 miles in pursuit of education and positions. There were always more qualified candidates than roles available, meaning there usually wasn't much choice for me among cities and states.
I am happy I chose my current state of residence — as I got to apply for positions more selectively that time around and happened to get hired for a job here several years ago. But it wasn't until I completely changed careers two years ago to one that can be fully remote that I got to move to my current city, where I hope to stay for a while.
While this was a step in the right direction, it wasn't until I became a full-time freelancer that I finally found what I was looking for: flexibility. Here are the two kinds of flexibility I lean on to work smarter and improve my personal finances.
For most of my working life as a W-2 employee, I worked some variation of the standard day shift, commonly known as the “9 to 5.” This is a perfectly fine schedule, and is pretty common among white collar and knowledge workers, but it isn't very flexible. My working hours coincided with that of many professional businesses, like doctor's offices, and so I'd have to use paid time off (or take time off unpaid) if I had a medical appointment or needed to run some other timely errand. My total hours worked in any given week usually averaged 35 to 50, depending on what I had going on.
Now as a freelancer, I set my own hours. I still tend to work a fairly regular schedule, and the bulk of my work time is on weekdays during the day. But if I have an appointment or an errand that takes me away from work, I'm free to make up the time I miss (or not!) whenever I want.
I also work more hours per week than I did as a W-2 employee, and definitely work on the weekends, which could be a potential downside to freelance life for some people. Having the flexibility to work more for my freelance clients means more money in my savings account for future goals. And when I have plans (on any day of the week and at any time), I can unplug.
This is another area where freelance life really shines for me — I can work wherever I want. I usually work at home, and creating a nice home office space for myself last year boosted my productivity immensely. I purchased a refurbished computer that gives me all the computing power I need. I have a comfortable desk chair and my office is a cozy space I enjoy working from.
However, I can also take my laptop and work from anywhere I can get wifi. This year, I worked in other countries for two weeks. I've worked in airports, hotel rooms, and vacation rentals. Taking time off is important, but it's great to have the flexibility to work and pad my checking account even when I'm away from home.
Should you become a freelancer?
If you're in a field (or can switch to one) where freelancing is possible, and you've wondered whether it might be a fit for you, here are some questions to consider:
- Are you comfortable making your own schedule and choosing your own assignments? This is the essence of being a freelancer, and some say it's the best part.
- Can you manage paying taxes every quarter? If you forget about this, you'll be penalized. I recommend hiring a good accountant to help you.
- Are you motivated enough to work without a boss standing over you? If you struggle with motivation, freelancing might not be for you.
I love my new freelance life, and I especially love the balance that comes from flexibility, both in work schedule and work location. At this point, I can't imagine going back to a regular job. If this kind of flexibility sounds good to you, you might consider going freelance, too.
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