Telecommuting: Is It The Answer To A Part-Time Freelancer’s Juggle?

work-outsideIf you have been freelancing on the side while working another full-time job, you probably know the juggle I’m referring to all too well. It’s tough to manage two jobs, especially when you’re working all day at your primary job, and focusing on your freelance work at night, weekends and holidays. If you’ve been doing this long enough, you may be thinking about eventually taking the plunge and going off on your own.

But, it’s a Catch-22. You know that you need to be able to beef up your freelance workload and dedicate more time to your clients to make it realistic, but there are only so many hours in the day and so much we can do on limited sleep. Or, maybe you enjoy working at your other job and are not in any big hurry to jump ship. So what’s the solution?

One best-of-both-worlds option is to explore working from home part- or full-time with a telecommuting arrangement, giving yourself more dedicated freelance time while maintaining your primary job.

Telecommuting Is Popular

The idea of telecommuting is not new. In the U.S., the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 required the nation’s most polluted regions to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles by up to 13%. Soon afterward, companies began experimenting with telecommuting programs. And other countries, such as Canada, the U.K., Australia and Germany, have also begun supporting telecommuting programs. Although the teleworker numbers varied over the past two decades, it seems to be an arrangement that’s currently on the rise.

A 2009 report by WorldatWork, based on data collected in 2008 by The Dieringer Research Group, found that 33.7 million adults in the U.S. telecommuted at least once a month (that’s over 11%), and as many as 13.5 million telecommuted everyday. The 2008 survey also found that a large percentage of these teleworkers were self-employed professionals or business owners.

It’s interesting to note that the survey also found that the majority of those who telecommute in the U.S. are men (61%) with an average age of 40 years old. But a whopping 42% of those telecommuting fall in the 18-34 category.

On a worldwide level, consider these facts:

  • In the U.K., teleworker numbers jumped to 1.8 million (8%) in 2005. Source: UK Office for National Statistics
  • In Australia, almost one quarter of New South Wales businesses allow staff to regularly telecommute. Source: State Chamber of Commerce (NSW), in partnership with Unisys, Getting a Grip on I.T. Study (view PDF report).
  • In Canada, 7.6% of workers telecommute at least one day a month. Source: Gartner Group Paper: Teleworking: The Quiet Revolution (2005 Update)

This recent increase in working remotely shows the benefit to employers and employees alike, and demonstrates that it is becoming much more attractive for corporations as they look to reduce their cost of doing business, especially during strained economic times.

Telecommuting Considerations

But telecommuting is certainly not for everyone, and there are many things to consider before approaching your boss about creating a telecommuting arrangement:

  • Your Motivation: Ultimately, the primary reason you are exploring telecommuting may be so you can ditch the commute and have more time to focus on your own work. But if that’s your sole driving factor for exploring telecommuting, you may be doing a disservice to yourself and your employer.

    Not only will you have a hard time convincing your boss that this is a beneficial arrangement for the company, but with time it will become evident that you are not fulfilling your job responsibilities and are distracted by freelance work when you’re supposed to be on the clock. That’s a quick way to lose the privilege of working from home and maybe even lose your job.

    Take a realistic look at why you want to telecommute, what you expect to get out of it, and how it will benefit your employer. And don’t forget to consider any consequences of not being in the office full-time (i.e., lack of co-worker camaraderie, difficulty completing your job functions, a feeling of isolation and disconnectedness).

  • Your Level of Discipline: Ask anyone who currently works from home, and they will likely tell you that it can be difficult to stay focused. You need an inordinate amount of self-discipline to successfully work in an environment filled with distractions…and what home environment isn’t? You will need a plan for managing daily distractions – such as kids, pets, the TV, visitors, household duties – and getting your work done.

    If you find that you have trouble focusing on work when you’re at work, telecommuting may not be a good option for you.

  • The Company’s Past History and Policies: If there are currently no telecommuters in your company, or if they are repeated unsuccessful attempts made by coworkers to create a telework situation, you are facing an uphill battle. Take time to explore the company’s policies and history with telecommuting before investing time and effort in working to make it a reality.

What’s Next

The next step, if you’ve thought through all of these factors, is to develop a plan for approaching your boss about telecommuting. Tomorrow’s post will provide some insight into the best way to start the ball rolling and specific data to include in your telecommuting proposal.

Have you considered telecommuting to battle the part-time freelancer juggle?

Image credit: Victoria Clare

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  • bebopdesigner

    It is indeed hard to concentrate when we have kids. It takes a great effort to get things done. But it’s not impossible either. Discipline, planning and good communication do make a huge difference. Love your posts! Thanks very much for sharing.

  • http://www.dangrossman.info Dan Grossman

    Another good topic to cover. If I were working full time and wanted to start telecommuting, I’d probably ask the boss about doing it just one or two days a week at first. Make that day or two your most productive (and make sure your boss and coworkers are aware of that wherever possible), and gradually ask for more flexibility over time.

    As far as working from home goes, perhaps a topic you could cover in the future is how to work from home without working from home all the time. How to find spaces you can take a laptop and work outside of home other than the local Starbucks?

  • Trey

    In our organization employees have the option of telecommuting when they are ill or are unable to make it to work due to whatever reason.