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Three things you need to know about working online

I knew I was going to work online at 22 when I did my first internship at Australia’s largest independent women’s media group based in Sydney.

Everyone was competing to be the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave at night and while fast moving and exhilirating, an air of desperation seemed to hang over everything. I decided I’d rather eat my own eyeballs than work in a box in the city under the increasing pressures of staff journalists and writers in traditional publication set-ups. So when they offered me a job, I said ‘hell nah, sis.’ (just kidding, they didn’t offer me a job, they said ‘see ya!’ and I cried about it to my mum, thinking my life was over and I’d missed my big break)

But anyway.

The whole office thing DID make me feel like I was tied up with rope, and not in a fun, sexy way.

I didn’t like the expectation that we’d slap on makeup every day and dress ‘the part.’ Buying clothes to wear to the place that you make money to then buy more clothes to wear to that place kind of felt a little dumb to me. Nothing against fashion.

Nothing against make-up, I like to slap on some rouge to feel sexy like the next lady, but it’s always the EXPECTATION I didn’t like. Just like the EXPECTATION you’ll sit in your office chair for 8 hours a day. Like, maybe I do want to sit in the office chair one day. Maybe the next day I want to work standing up. Maybe the next day I want to hang from the ceiling fan like a gargoyle. Maybe one day I want to dress like a cool office lady. Maybe the next I don’t want to get dressed at all and let my nip nops run free. Who knows. That’s the thing about creative jobs, you can’t necessarily do the same thing every day to conjure the magic. And that freedom is not usually available in a traditional office set up.

A few years on, my desires are fully realised and I am a freelance writer working 100% location independent. Woo!

But now I have learnt working online comes with its own plethora of problemas. Apparently, nothing in life is ever perfect or comes without problems or challenges (how rude, right?)

1. Nobody thinks you work. You have to put in boundaries.

When you work from home, most people who haven’t ever done it hear the ‘from home’ bit, but not the ‘work’ bit. And for them, your schedule is pretty flex. And while its true the whole intent of working from home is to work your own schedule, it only takes a few ‘small favours’ and ‘quick drop-ins’ before your day is completely derailed. If you’re riding a wave of creatvity and you pause it halfway to complete a small favour for a loved one, you might not get that train of thought or flow back. If your partner or housemate or parents have guests in your house, you can feel like the rude, angsty teenager who is hiding up in her room and playing death metal while the mature grown ups socialise downstairs.

If friends visit internationally, you can feel like a straight up asshole for having to put up boundaries between work time and fun time, or not having as much time for them as you would like. You can even be called an asshole for doing it. I know I was by one friend who came to visit and got exasperated every time I pulled out my computer. ‘Really Cait? Again?!’ It was like ya, I got deadlines and I kind of like having money to eat, I don’t know what to tell you.

I find the best way to go about it is to think about it in any typical office framework.  Could  a friend drop into a traditional office any time for a coffee and catch up? Could you leave halfway through the day to show your friend of friend who is visiting from out of town around the town? Rarely. As a favor, as a sometimes thing, yes. Always, daily? No. Have boundaries. Your work deserves your boundaries. Be somewhat flexible, so they don’t snap at the smallest inconvenience, but not so bendy your own priorities, desires and plans always get pushed away.

You get a bit socially funky

When I was working in a women’s clothes store, a Tex-Mex restaurant and in that weird liquor store on the edge of the city in Perth, I was around people consistently. My work was people. Existing in and amongst people was something I never even thought about, because it was innate, like breathing.

When you work online, you might be alone for days at a time and in that time, your only contact with another living being might be your cat. And though Mr Bigglesworth is dope and all, he isn’t going to cut it as your full spectrum of social interaction. I now know social skills are like any muscle, if you don’t use it, you start to lose it. You can start to experience social anxiety or exhaustion easier. Group gatherings can seem daunting. I legitimately feel like my social skills have worsened since I started working online. It’s important to make an active effort to keep your social whiskers sharp. You know it when you feel it, like a little reminder. ‘Ok, you need to go human with other humans now.’ Listen to it.

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You have to be a nice boss to yourself, otherwise there is no point

Some of  us started working online after too many experience with bad bosses… only to become the worst boss out of them all. Self-criticism, judgement, never happy with our work, no holidays, no early finishes, no days off, thinking about work outside office hours… sound familiar? If you’re going to be your own boss, be a fucking good one. Encourage yourself. Set yourself realistic goals. Applaud your small wins. Give yourself time and space away from work. Follow your curiosity and creativity. Nurture new ideas instead of shutting them down. Otherwise, there is no point.

What advice would you give about working online?

Feature Image: Oui.surf

About the Author:

Caitlin is a journalist and writer from Australia. She’s into collecting and sharing the stories of other human people. Mostly women’s stories. You can find her at @caitlincreeper

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