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?