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Summary:

Web working is not for the faint of heart. Most WWD regulars who’ve spent over a year web working already know this by experience. However, new web workers or people who are thinking about working from home have yet to experience many of these hardships. If you haven’t made the jump to web working yet, you’ll need to face the cold hard truth of what you’re about to get into.

Web working is not for the faint of heart. Most WWD regulars who’ve spent over a year web working already know this by experience. However, new web workers or people who are thinking about working from home have yet to experience many of these hardships. If you haven’t made the jump to web working yet, you’ll need to face the cold hard truth of what you’re about to get into.

Your work will become dependent on technology. Let’s face it, both the hardware and software we use aren’t 100% reliable. When it comes to power outages, internet connections, computer malfunctions – web workers are left vulnerable. True, you can resort to some analog tools such as pen and paper – but they can only serve you for a limited time, since you’ll need a computer and the internet eventually. Because of this, web workers living in a small town or rural area with few internet options might be at a disadvantage.

Most of your business relationships will feel weaker. Whether you’re a freelancer or a telecommuting employee, you won’t get to see the smile on your client’s face for a job well done. Plus, it would be easier for you to be fired or laid off compared to your office-working counterparts. After all, your supervisors don’t see your face regularly and they often lack a close personal connection with you. It’s rare to find a web worker whose clients and colleagues are all within the same country, let alone the same vicinity. Web workers need to put in some extra effort to make themselves memorable and to make their business connections stronger.

You can’t fake through your workday. Web working tends to be more results oriented than time oriented. Unlike some corporate offices where you show up, work sometimes, and IM your friends the rest of the day, web workers often need to give extra reassurance to clients that their projects are underway. And how’s that done? By answering all your clients’ questions and emails within 24 hours, giving regular progress reports, and sticking to deadlines. Since your clients can’t look over your shoulder and watch you ‘faking it’ for their benefit, you’re facing more scrutiny.

Tougher work/life balance. Based on a discussion we had on WWD over a year ago, it seems that not many web workers take vacations. It’s also hard to get one’s work schedule under control. It’s perfectly understandable to have such a blurred distinction between work and life, especially if you work from home – but forgetting about your work/life balance can leave you stressed.

You’re forced to take a long, hard look at your priorities and goals. This is especially true for freelancing web workers, since they are the only ones who can decide where their career is headed. There’s no designed “corporate ladder“, you’re forced to sit down and think your life through. This can be really difficult for people who avoid introspection and who prefer to place their fate in other people’s hands.

Few people in the outside world understand what you do. Friends and family call you in the middle of the day, knowing you’re home. Most people have puzzled looks when you explain that you telework. Even corporate web workers are seen as unproductive by some of their colleagues.

If you still want to persevere as a web worker despite these disadvantages and obstacles, then good for you. Accepting them and finding workarounds is vital to surviving the virtual workplace. And if you’re truly passionate about web working, you wouldn’t want to do otherwise.

What difficulties do you face as a web worker? How do you overcome them?

  1. People who do not work in a web environment won’t understand how much you depend on technology. Whenever something is not working, you feel like you are back in the Stone Age.

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  2. The other thing that happens when you webwork is there is a decrease in the level of socia activity that you get involved in i.e. your social contact is basically limited to your immediate family or if you are single, almost none. You can avoid this by allocating a lunch time every fortnight or so to have lunch with friends or other people who telework/webwork within your area.

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  3. One can get too sedentary. After all how many cups of tea does one person need to go downstairs to make? I deal with this by scheduling 4 training sessions plus an hour long pilates class per week, that makes me get out of the front door and exercise.

    I also call-screen a lot and do not always take calls from friends and family if I am on a deadline. I explain later and I know it is a continuing battle but I am determined to make them see my workspace and worktime as “work” and not “home”.

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  4. Good points. When I have no Internet connection I am not a happy person. When (and if) a site goes down.. disaster.

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  5. Stacey Higginbotham Monday, June 2, 2008

    Along with the work life balance issue, if you have young children (or a demanding spouse I suppose) your ability to set your own hours at home can be compromised. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has come home when I’ve needed just ten more minutes on a project in order to ship it out the door. It’s frustrating for both of us when she knows I’m at home and unavailable to her.

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  6. I identify with each and every one of these things (the one about people calling you in the middle of the day is classic). Then there’s how the day never ends…you may finish work at 10 pm when others finish at 5, and it starts all over again early the next day. But in the end, if you do it and stick with it it’s because you love it (and I do).

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  7. [...] point of Web Worker Daily’s 6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be a Web Worker may be moot. I honestly feel that freelancers [...]

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  8. With all the bad comes good. Life is too short to do something you’re not passionate about. Provided you can find a balance between solo work time and social time where you’re interacting with clients / colleagues (if not in person, then via video conference), I think the formula can result in a seriously fulfilling career.

    All that said, I think “Web Workers” need a to develop the skill of time management and discipline more so than most. But nobody ever achieved growth without pain, did they?

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  9. Interesting topic – there’s a lot of noise evangelising online work, without much talk of some very real downsides to it.

    One of the biggest concerns against web work I come across is a lack of social interaction with other workers. Ironically tho I think i have much stronger ties to the people I currently work with online, as we all have to make a much bigger effort to communicate effectively.

    For me a problem is spending too much time in front of a screen. The invention of a screen-free computer is most welcome ;)

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