The average person will spend a whopping 90,000 hours on the job over a lifetime. Thinking about going freelance or working from home? Here’s everything you need to know.

In recent years, there has been a definite shift in the workplace, with many choosing to work for themselves, or working from home, rather than the usual nine-to-five grind at company HQ. This style of working brings with it many pros and cons, but with a bit of mental tweaking, the rewards usually far outweigh the drawbacks. However, just as the environment has changed, so should your attitude and work ethic.

Here, you’ll discover the various perceptions and realities of a freelancer and how you can be part of this exciting new way of working.

What others think you do

While more and more people are choosing to work remotely, not everybody understands what it entails. Because of this, you may find that people think you’re in-between jobs or have all the time in the world.

Some people may send you jobs to apply for and look at you strangely when you tell them you already have a job. Be prepared for this viewpoint. Be clear when you explain to friends that they can’t simply pop around for coffee whenever they want.

What you really do

The reality of being a freelancer requires a complete shift in mindset. It means being bound to your own rules, rather than someone else’s. In saying this, as a freelancer, you’re not actually working for yourself as, instead of having one boss to report to, you now may have many, and each one will require something different from you.

Also, every freelancer, or remote worker, is different. So what works for you, may not work for another. The important thing is to find what works for you. You are now responsible for setting your own working hours, and just because your freelancing friend works best at six in the morning doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. Working for yourself means having the dedication to get the work done without someone monitoring your every move. The work you do is now up to you.

Being alone

Some thrive on working alone, whereas others do better in the company of others. Either way, this is the part that can usually make or break a freelancer. You might find an increase in the need to scroll through social media for bursts of interaction and, with nobody monitoring your screen time, this can become even harder to ignore. Don’t worry. Take a deep breath. You’ll discover ways around this. Once you’ve set up a good schedule and figured out what works best for you, you’ll find that working alone allows you to maximise your actual work time. You might even find you get more done than ever before (no more loitering by the coffee machine and chatting mindlessly to your desk buddies).

If you’re struggling, join some freelancing groups or find people in your area to meet up with on a weekly basis. You’ll find your rhythm over time – you might even discover that you’re really great company.

Work = money

Depending on your working-from-home situation, your salary may no longer appear in your bank account at the same time each month. And unlike at the office, if you’re a freelancer, the more work you produce, the more money you’ll make.

Innovation and creativity

Working for yourself means having to find the work yourself. It means constant networking and building working relationships. It means never giving up and always searching for new ways to stay ahead of the game. It means stretching your mind and your imagination beyond what you thought was capable, to ensure you have that edge.

How to avoid distractions

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, books, your bed, your pet … the distractions are endless when you’re working from home. Want to watch a 20-minute video on funny things cats do? There’s nobody to stop you. But, in the freelance world, time is money.

No one said it was going to be easy, but the only way to stop distractions from seeping into your working day is to have a plan in place. Schedule time for distractions and use them wisely.

Remember, at the end of the day, this is a career path you chose and if you want to make it work, you have to be strict about the way you work. When you see the dollars rolling in, you’ll probably find that those distractions have very little appeal anyway.

The emotional roller coaster of a freelancer

If you ask anyone who works for themselves if they’ve thought about giving up, the answer will most certainly be yes. It’s not always easy to be a freelancer. It’s a constant hustle. One day, you’ll feel on top of the world (hello, new well-paying clients), while other days, you’ll wonder why you’re doing it. However, with more and more people now working this way, you’ve now got a safety net that many didn’t have before. You’ve got a community of people who understand what you’re going through and who can offer advice along the way. Take that advice, but always remember that what works for them might not work for you. You’re an individual and what you do is unique.

And just because you’re talking a little too much to your pets these days doesn’t mean you’ve lost the plot. It just means you’re part of an exciting new shift in society. It means you’re part of the change.

Use the low times to recharge and ride high when things are going your way. Be happy that you no longer have to spend all your money on fuel, waste hours at weekly meetings or work to make someone else rich.

You’re living in a new and ever-changing world. Work hard, work smart and enjoy the flexibility. The majority of your hours are spent working, so why not enjoy those hours? Be in control of your own life.

Five rules for freelancers

  • Think outside the box. Get creative.
  • Use your time wisely.
  • Find what your perfect working time is.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself.
  • Network! Network! Network!