Where Is the Best Place for Freelancers to Work, Really?

work-locationOne of the perks of being a freelancer is that you can work from anywhere, but should you?

You may have visions of dragging your laptop or mobile device to the beach with you and happily working on your projects while enjoying the sea view. But the truth is that for many freelancers, the beach is a less than ideal work location.

As a freelancer, I’ve tried working from many different locations over the years. In this post, I’ll share some of the real pitfalls that you might face as you try to work from various locations. Whether you’re traveling, or just looking for a change of scenery, you’ll want to review this post before deciding where to take your work.

If you’re planning on traveling and working, you may also be interested in this post, 28+ Travel Tips: Giant Checklist for Freelancers.

7 Freelance Work Locations and Their Pitfalls

Whether you just need a change of scenery or are traveling, there are many places where you can get your freelancing work done. Here are seven of them:

  1. The Beach. We’ve all seen that picture of the guy on the beach, sitting happily right on the beach with his laptop. Did you ever wonder how much work that guy is actually getting done? The truth is that many beaches are noisy, crowded places. There’s no place to plug in your laptop, so you’ll need to rely on the battery. Oh, and did I mention the sand? If you get that sand in your keyboard, you’re in trouble. When I took my work to the beach, it was so windy I wound up sitting in the car the whole time.
  2. The Coffee Shop. Working at the coffee shop can be a good choice, or not, depending on the atmosphere at your local coffee shop. What I like about the coffee shop is that you can sit at your laptop for a few hours (while sipping your latte slowly) and no one will question it. However, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a seat. Some coffee shops fill up quickly, and if no seat is available at your shop when you need it, you may be out of luck.
  3. The Library. The library can be a good backup if you absolutely must be online and your Internet goes down or your local coffee shop is full. Many libraries do have a WiFi connection as well as public computers with Internet connections. However, you must remember to be very quiet. To access the Internet on one of the library’s computers, you will probably need to have a library card and your time may be limited. (At my local library, the limit on one of their computers is 15 minutes.)
  4. The Hotel. If you’re traveling, working from your hotel room is an option. Nearly all hotel chains offer a high-speed Internet connection to guests. Some also have a business center where you can go to access the Internet and print documents. In my experience, hotel Internet connections are slower than my home connection. And sometimes they are unreliable. Besides, you didn’t really travel all that distance just to sit in your hotel room behind your laptop, did you?
  5. The National Park. If you’re hiking or camping in a national park, don’t count on being able to access the Internet or even use your cell phone. I learned this the hard way a few years ago when we were visiting Yellowstone National Park and my cell phone wouldn’t work. This may be changing. According to a recent article from Charlie Brennan published in The Denver Post, The National Park Service will introduce cell and Internet coverage in several national parks during the summer of 2013.
  6. The Home of a Friend or Family Member. If you are visiting a friend or family member with a good computer and a good Internet connection, they may agree to let you use it during your stay. This option can be almost as good as working from home. But if your friend or family member doesn’t really understand what freelancing is all about, borrowing their computer to get some work done can lead to arguments and other problems. You know your friend and family members, so only you know whether this is a good idea.
  7. Your Home. I’m fortunate that I have a room in my home dedicated to my freelance business. What’s especially helpful is the fact that the room has a door. When it gets too noisy, I can shut it. I’m well aware that many freelancers aren’t able to set aside an entire room for a home office. If you plan carefully, it’s possible to make do with just a table and a computer in a corner. If noise bothers you and you know others will be at home, set some house rules for when you work.

Your Take Away

Working from anywhere sounds like a nice perk (and it can be), but you should know that some potential work locations have drawbacks that might affect your ability to get work done.

What Do You Think?

Where do you do most of your freelancing work? Can you think of any other locations where freelancers might like to work?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    Enjoyed your post a lot Laura and couldn’t agree more! I haven’t tried any of the solutions indicated precisely for fear of the ”unknown” and known pitfalls and risks :) My kitchen is where I work best! However, I ‘ve been meaning to try out the kids playground and seewhat happens. I’ll make sure nobody plays ball …and that I will have enough battery!!

  2. says

    I am usually a coffee shop guy but if you have a collaborative workspace / co-working space nearby, give it a try! Especially if you can find one that is either inexpensive or free. It’s basically an open space that you can work out of and everyone comes from different fields which makes it interesting to engage, collaborate, and work with them.

  3. says

    Great Laura,

    Fantastic advices. Work is work, not a hobby, and you need an specific work location to increase your productivity and later have time to enjoy in your holidays.

    Well, you can read those thousand articles waiting for you with a tablet in the beach. That could be also a part of your job while you are outside.

  4. Bee Johnson says

    I enjoyed this post. So many of the enticing ads for courses, etc. put forth the idea of working “from anywhere”. Franky, I love working from my home office. Although on one fateful day I decided to work in the kitchen, while eating lunch. I spilled milk on my one month old Mac Pro and rendered it unfixable. Won’t do that again. Can’t imagine working at a sandy beach, so even though I have a lot of organizing to do in my office, I love it in there and work better.

  5. says

    Great comments all! Keep them coming. :)

    I don’t want to knock freelance mobility entirely–just point out that it’s not as simple as it seems. Personally, I never get as much done when I leave my home office.

    Magda Papa–Since you’ve thought of the battery, the playground should be workable. It may be noisy, though.

    Vincent–Co-working spaces can be a good solution.

    Caroline Beavon–Thanks for sharing your link.

    Jesus–”Work is work, not a hobby…” Very true.

    Bee Johnson–Thanks for sharing your story. It seem as though not even all places in the home are equally good for working.

  6. says

    During many years as a freelance writer, I’ve worked in all manner of places. On a sunny day, the garden does have a magnetic appeal; however, the sun makes it hard to see the screen, which somewhat curtails productivity. In the school years, when I regularly used to have to sit around waiting for kids having music lessons or attending sports training, I often worked in the car – in fact, there were times when my car resembled a mobile office! If I’m honest, the most productive place is almost certainly my tiny home office (it’s actually a porch, so I do mean tiny!). All my dictionaries and reference books are close at hand, and (like yours) the office has a door that shuts – always an advantage when working from a family home :-)

  7. says

    I’ve been working from home for a year and a half and it’s not easy… First of all, it’s hard to explain to everybody that you are at home but you are not sleeping, unemployed, cleaning the house, watching TV, but you are r-e-a-l-l-y working. Then, finding the right place to work is long a process. I’m lucky to have at home a spare room with a door, to close whenever I need to focus on something. I’ve already tested all the options mentioned in your post and this is the best solution for me.

  8. says

    My last hone in San Diego had 180 degree view of the ocean so I didn’t have to deal with the sand. :-) Boy, I miss that place.

    I have done plenty of work in hotels over the years and it was a lifesaver in my corporate days. I also went back to school years ago and would not have made it through without hotel hookups for my laptop. :-)

    I’ve never been one for the coffee house (for work). I’m good at tuning out, but I’d rather work from home. Although I’ve experimented with working outside, I enjoy the scenery so much I really don’t get much work done. I do use the outside as inspiration and will voice record ideas.

  9. says

    I usually work from my home office (no door, but quiet) or my daughter’s walk-in basement (with the Rhodesian ridgeback under my chair). Recently, we rented a SC beach house for a weekend family celebration. Luckily there was a Wi-Fi connection for me, but I spent one whole day (out of only three) working when everyone else was having fun. Working isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

  10. says

    What a great discussion!

    SquareSparrow–Having kids myself, I can relate to working in the car. It’s not ideal, but at least you can get something done.

    Raquel Melo–This is so true. Sadly, not everyone believes freelancers are working when they are at home.

    Cathy Miller–A 180 degree view of the ocean! Now I’m a bit jealous. :) I totally get your point about hotels. It’s definitely sometimes necessary to work from them.

    Claire Meirowitz–True. Sometimes it’s best to just let a vacation be a vacation and enjoy the time off…

  11. says

    I alternate between 2 and 3 (coffee shop and library). The drawbacks that you mentioned were spot on. My neighborhood Starbucks for instance, tends to fill up quickly, so my second choice would be to head to the library.

    And for some reason, I can never do my freelance work at home. Too many distractions, I guess.

  12. Rafaella says

    I really enjoyed this post. Just today I was complaining about working alone again after quitting a company I was at, since I earn much more as a freelancer – thanks God.

    I work as a translator here in Brazil and I will put my mind to work on places I could go to work but I think, unfortunatelly, most definitely working in a library would be the only option since I don’t think there are too many people working in coffee shops in the city where I live.

    I normally work from home and I have settle some house rules apart from using ear plugs to fully concentrate. I do not have a perfect place to work yet but I just can’t cope with the bureaucracy of working in companies.

    What I occasionally do is to have lunch with my former work colleagues so I can chat with different people and realize how perfect it is to be a freelancer and have all the freedom in the universe.

  13. says

    Great Comments!

    Francesca Nicasio–Thanks for sharing your work preferences. :) I understand not getting much done from home if it’s noisy.

    Rafaella–Thanks for sharing your story. It’s good that you have former coworkers to socialize with. :)

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  15. says

    IMO, the key is to move to a place with low living expenses, great weather, and lots to do. I used to live in NYC for a while, but the high rent and taxes was biting into my monthly earnings. I recently moved to Hawaii, and while the expenses are still high compared to the rest of the US, the weather is great, my rent got cut in half, and I have access to the beach every single day!

  16. says

    Too many distractions at the coffee shop. I always need to be at the office. Sometimes working from home is a distraction too. Working at the office reminds you that you need to be working and be productive.

  17. Dan Willis says

    Great article! I personally have found really great success with the MyCrowd tool! It is a newer tool that allows you to pull from an aggregate of other freelance sites all from a drop down tool in Google Chrome. Also for those of us in the design world the tool works in Sync with Optimizely!

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