Web work can be an unstable ride. Since we are all independent, we have varying ways of dealing with challenges and opportunities that arise in our work. I don’t think there’s one strategy that fits us all, but there are four aspects of our careers —I think of them as pillars — that need to be established to create a sense of security. If you’re lacking any of these pillars, any unexpected event can be damaging.
So what are my four pillars of web working?
The first thing we often have to grasp as web workers is the ability to manage our time and tasks well. Having the freedom to schedule your workday sounds like a dream to most people, but it’s actually a big responsibility. We need to find our time sinks and make them more manageable. Idle distractions are OK, but not when you spend five hours a day on them.
Conversely, be aware of “too much” productivity. While there are many of us web workers who truly love and enjoy our jobs, there might be some more important things that we sacrifice for it. These may include our health, relationships — even the necessary time to relax. Yes, it’s good to be productive, but the things we do are only as good as how we are when we do them.
One of the common impressions that people have about web working is that it’s financially unstable. This is often true. We all know that income from freelancing or contractual work fluctuates. Even if you’re a regular employee working from home, there are still those supervisors who judge employees on the basis of their presence rather than their performance. That’s why it’s essential for all web workers to keep their finances straight.
Another financial issue that many web workers face is the lack of separation between personal and professional expenses. While the line is more blurry with freelancers, even telecommuting employees may need to consider it, especially if there’s an overlap in their personal and work resources (such as equipment, subscriptions, etc.).
Also, do you have a web working expansion fund? This is meant to pay for any work related emergencies such as equipment repair and replacement. You could also use it to purchase books and tools that will help boost your career.
While you’re at it, set up ways to protect your income as well, in case you won’t be able to work. You can do this by saving up for an emergency fund that covers a few months of your living expenses. Don’t forget to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage for medical emergencies as well. That type of emergency tends to eat up any savings you have tucked away.
A pillar that is somewhat related to your finances is your job security. Apart from being a source of income, job security is also essential since it’s your track record. You need to be able to explain any large gaps in your resume to future prospects. Plus, if you’re passionate about your work you probably want to keep doing it.
For employees, do you feel like your company is stable enough to keep you for as long as you want to work there? According to Jonathan Fields, author of Career Renegade, you need to be a creator-operator to be indispensable at work. You need to have the ability to create new solutions and innovations, as well as have the stamina to execute them.
For freelancers, how can you ensure that you’ll have regular work? You can use some ideas from this long list from Freelance Switch. It might also make sense to review what promotion or sales techniques have worked for you in the past and try to replicate or refine them.
Passion and Purpose
Apart from the pragmatic side of things, there are other aspects of our work that need to be there even if they aren’t as measurable. We need to feel a sense of fulfillment to keep the engine running. This doesn’t necessarily have to come from every task you do. Even side projects and hobbies can be a good source. Without it, everything else will seem empty.
How are you doing with each of these pillars? Are you satisfied with what you’ve achieved in this areas or is there room for improvement?