As I write this, I’m sat in my friend’s garden in California enjoying the 30 degree sunshine (that’s 88 fahrenheit to my American friends) and the cool breeze blowing through. The birds are singing, the dogs are running around, and I am barefoot (something I so very rarely get to be in Scotland). And this is where I get to do my work. I don’t have to trudge to a soulless office every day or sit in traffic for an hour or more before I can start getting paid. So long as I have an internet connection and my laptop, the world is my office.
I have a tendency to talk about the pitfalls of running an online business:
the loneliness, the sporadic payments, the fear, and a whole bunch of other stuff. What a drag. I write about those things because I don’t want you to dive into this without knowing what you’re letting yourself in for.
But there are many things that are absolutely bloody brilliant about this line of work. Today, I’ve decided to write about those things because, for me, they far outweigh any of the downsides. So here’s what I love about this lifestyle:
The World is My Office
It’s not just my friend’s garden in California that I’ve made my office. Last week I was sat in a restaurant in Heathrow penning a blog post while waiting for my connecting flight. A couple of days later I was answering emails in my hotel in San Francisco before heading out for a day of exploring Golden Gate Park. I’ve worked on the train down to Norwich where I was visiting friends for the week. I’ve worked in Tempelhofer Park in Berlin. I’ve worked at the airport on the way home from Valencia. I’ve worked in hotel lounges in Edinburgh. I’ve worked at my brother’s house in my hometown on the same day I met my niece for the first time. And you all know that my new regular office is a spot overlooking the sea in Edinburgh. I can work anywhere. And I love it.
I Don’t Need to Ask Permission for Time Off (or Anything Else)
‘Oh, but Karen, that sucks that you have to work while you travel,’ you say? No it doesn’t. It doesn’t suck at all. It’s fucking marvellous. Because it means I don’t have to request time off and just ‘not go’ if I can’t get it. It means I don’t have to quit my job if I want to hit the road for a few weeks or months. It means nobody can tell me what I can or can’t do.
I Don’t Have to Work When I Don’t Want To
And hey, if I really don’t want to work while I’m travelling, I can just do it all ahead of time: write and schedule blog posts and newsletters in advance; arrange copywriting projects before and after I get back; set up an out-of-office email response so I don’t have to answer emails while I’m away. Any time I need a break, I can just take time off. I took three weeks off earlier this year, where I just did the bare minimum, because I needed a fucking break after dealing with a shitstorm of things going wrong all at the same time. There were no repercussions. No bollockings from my boss. Just time off when I needed it most.
I Get to Choose the Work I Do
After almost three years at this, I am now in the enviable position of being able to turn down projects I don’t want to work on. But it’s not just being able to turn away projects I’m not interested in that I love. Even more than that, I love that I have more time to work on my own stuff without worrying about where the money will come from.
I Get to Set My Own Schedule
I get to do things in a way that suits me. I don’t have to start or finish work at an arbitrary time. If I want to lie in bed until 11am, I can (although ew, I never do that). If I want to crank out all my work in two hours and then head out for the day, I can. If I want to go to the cinema at 2pm on Tuesday, I can. If I want to work at the pub, or a coffee shop, or in the garden, I can. If I want to go for a walk or to the gym for a couple of hours in the middle of my work day, I can. You’re getting the picture, right? I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want. And it is good.
The Buck Stops with Me
I get to make all the decisions about how my business is run. As somebody who despises requesting permission to do things (see above) or being told what to do, that’s a pretty fucking special place to be, let me tell you. People who don’t like responsibility or making decisions might find this aspect of running a business difficult. But me? I love it. Love. It. I’m a big fan of doing things my own way (in case you missed that) and I still marvel at the fact that I’m the one who gets to call the shots about everything: Choosing the new logo’s design? Halting the redesign of the website because I don’t like how it’s panning out? Adding new services and courses? Hiring an accountant to do all the paperwork? All my decisions. Fuck yeah.
It didn’t all start out this way, of course. In the beginning, although I could theoretically turn down work or travel to America and work from there or take a lot of time off just because I felt like it, in reality, I couldn’t. In the beginning, I couldn’t afford to do any of those things. I had to work hard to get to where I am now. It’s taken almost three years. In the beginning, all I did was write just enough crappy SEO articles to cover my rent. And it has been worth it, completely. So don’t despair if you’re not where I am yet. Just keep working hard, paying attention to where your business is taking you, doing what feels right at the time, and moving forward. You’ll get there. And the freedom will be worth it.