The thing I most love about my life as a freelance writer is precisely that I’m free. I get to make my own schedule to suit me, and this feels very healthy and adult. There’s no more slinking past a glowering line manager at ten past nine because the District Line was running slow, and no more ‘body just about awake, mind asleep’ experiences after working late the night before (because late is when I’m at my best, but early is when my employer wants me in the office).
For me, the whole ‘freelancer in pyjamas at 3pm’ vibe is a myth, because getting showered and dressed is what I like. After years of punishing commutes, I mostly have no problem being productive in my home environment. If I miss anything at all about life as an employee, it’s this:
1) Commuting to work forces you to get moving, physically. When you don’t have that it’s easy to lapse into an ultra-sedentary way of being. And we all know how bad that is for your health.
2) Working outside the home neatly separates your life at work from your life outside work. Having an office space in your home means that you need to be disciplined about creating enough downtime for yourself. And if you hold business meetings where you live, you’ve got the added cognitive burden of making sure your clients don’t catch a glimpse of your elderly, greying smalls drying on a radiator.
3) Moving between different locations makes me more creative and more productive. This sounds slightly crazy to the uninitiated, but I’m a big believer in embodied cognition. For me, thinking and problem solving happen in the body, not just in the brain. If I’m to be more effective at work, I must get outside and move around.
I’ve tried getting in a morning walk before sitting down to work, but if I do this every day it starts to feel purposeless, thereby losing its appeal. I’ve tried working in coffee shops, and this is okay from time to time. But I often work in London, which means you have to secure your workspace early and have an elephantine ability to retain urine, or risk losing said place when you’re off on a loo break. And have you seen the price of coffee nowadays?
Because I regularly meet with clients, I tend to use coworking spaces. Unless you’re there late, these are pretty hopeless for sitting down and actually writing, because there’s always a lot of ambient noise. I’m in east London, so the ambient noise tends to be that of ping pong and hipster music; great cover to enable private conversation, but crap if you want quiet. And holy guacamole, those places are expensive. Think £300-£400 a month just for the privilege of hot desking a couple of times a week.
That’s why I was interested to hear about Spacehop, described by its founders as a kind of AirBnB for freelancers. The idea is that you book the venue of your choice using the Spacehop website, then tip up and work there for the day. Here’s the bit I really like: although you can pay more, many of the spaces seem to cost under or around £20 for the whole day.
The venues seem to vary quite a lot, from desks in shared offices through living rooms in private homes to quiet corners of creative studios. Facilities generally look pretty good, with one very welcome frequent perk being free tea and coffee. This is more than enough to tempt me to try the service. So for a few days spread over this week and the next, I’m going to be a spacehopper.
Even if you’re not a professional writer, the challenges of finding the right time and place to write are many. It’s possible that Spacehop may have come up with an affordable solution. So why not drop by this blog at the end of February to find out what my experience was like, or sign up to my hugely entertaining newsletter using the opt-in form below?