Home working Vs shared studio space
The upside of working from home includes convenience, the 10-step commute, increased productivity, a better work-life balance, as well as being eco-friendly where one less car exhaust chokes the surroundings during the rush hours. With the pressures of an erratic income though, the cost is often a deciding factor.
So what about the less positive aspects of working from home? Isolation is cited as a major drawback. The impact of working alone at home is not just a lack of social interaction in the form of 'water cooler' chat, however. The difference is heightened if you have come from a lively working environment such as an advertising, media agency, or publisher. By their nature these companies are full of 'sparky' people who bounce ideas around, the resulting environment giving rise to creative ideas you might not otherwise have had. Thought-provoking sessions take place for these companies to make the most of that chemical reaction.
To compound issues, a lack of motivation can be a by-product of isolation. 'Creative block' without a like-minded colleague to inspire you can eat into your time and therefore profit margin. Worse still is steeling yourself to churn out some 'bread and butter' work to keep the coffers healthy when the sun's shining outside. With nobody else in the same boat to console you this can be a tough call.
There are ways of mitigating these negatives. Have your post delivered to a PO box so you have to leave your four walls each morning to pick it up; take your work out to a Wi-Fi enable cafe for an hour, plan for a large phone bill or get familiar with Skype while you stay in touch with colleagues over the phone, speak to clients on the phone rather than email, hold regular meetings and round up a support network using Freelance Alliance to bounce ideas around. Always make sure you're busy and time has a habit of moving faster as well.
Shared office space
Another option is to try out shared office space. It could be that working in another location part-time is the solution. For many freelancers, the ideal scenario is shared office or studio space hired by other creatives. However, they will still require an office door to shut when they need to work while enjoying a communal coffee area.
Freelancers discussing the 'home vs external office' issue on the forum have raised a further issue in that it will depend on the sort of person you are. If, by and large, you can happily spend a whole day enjoying the peace and quiet then you are likely to thrive at home. If, however, you find yourself climbing the walls with cabin fever then find reasons to get yourself out and about more in the first instance. Most will acknowledge there is a transition period, particularly if you are used to the buzz of a lively office, what feels deathly quiet now may grow on you in the months to come.
More on working from home as a freelancer.