OPINION: The invisible side of freelancing

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - If you think that having your own home as your workplace is an advantage, then you are wrong.

To many of us, freelancing is the ideal income opportunity: with no boss to answer to and zero peer pressure, freelancing feels like just the right choice. One can work from the comfort of their home and focus on their business. But is it that simple? Perhaps not.

 If you think that having your own home as your workplace is an advantage, then you are wrong. For one, too many distractions in the workplace—the kinds we usually come across at home—will ultimately affect the pace of your work.

While working from home, one might be prone to seeking more breaks: to watch a movie, listen to music, or have a chat with family or friends. As a result, a task that can be completed within an hour may take longer to finish, resulting in the decline of one’s productivity and efficiency.

Many people choose freelancing as their main source of income so that they can spend quality time with their family or can have ample amount of time for themselves. However, the freedom that comes with freelancing may have negative impact on a person’s work.

Let me explain: for a regular officegoer, there is a trade-off between income and leisure. It depends on one’s priority and what holds more importance in their life. However, this doesn’t mean that these two are mutually exclusive. One can enjoy both through proper work-life balance.
But the problem arises when a person is reluctant or unable to find the right balance. People often procrastinate and this takes a toll on the quality of their free time. The extra burden or tension a person faces as a result of not doing their job on time takes away from the joy, which they could have derived from leisure.

In short, freelancing might render a person incapable of keeping their personal and work life separate. At this point, however, it should be added that not all freelancers face such existential dilemmas. Nonetheless, many experience this, even if for a short period of time.

Without a supervisor or boss to oversee a person’s work, one can lose track of their work, due to a lack of feedback and monitoring. Sometimes emotional breakdown or monotonous feelings can take away from a person’s enthusiasm to work and even make them slow. In such situations, appreciation, casual suggestions or, at times, even criticism can boost an individual’s morale. However, freelancers don’t have colleagues or bosses around for such feedback. This can lead to loss of efficiency and thus income.

In traditional employment formats, poor performance doesn’t immediately affect an employee’s income; an employee still receives remuneration with a word of caution from the employer. On the other hand, freelancers are always exposed to the possibility of financial loss due to their lack of efficiency. Thus, freelancers almost always live with financial insecurities.

Not that such losses occur every day, but this always remains a possibility, since one’s income is dependent on the speed of their work and their efficiency. And even though a person might be efficient and committed to their work, at times luck runs out leading to unwarranted financial losses.

One might question the logic of having to go to a workplace every morning, when one can simply work from home, thanks to the technological advancements that have made our lives simpler. These days, an individual can work from wherever they want and whenever they want. So, what is the point of going to office?

One answer is the importance of supervision and reinforcement which have already been discussed above. Healthy competition, financial rewards and promotions are some of the benefits of working in a professional environment. Networking and interpersonal interactions are also some of the positives of traditional employment.

Always staying within the confines of one’s home can cause loneliness and depression. Humans are meant to coexist in a social setting and interact with each other, and a solitary life inside the house can have a negative impact as people have an emotional need to interact with other humans.

Criticism and competition are not necessarily bad, especially if we can take them constructively and treat them as opportunities to improve our performance and grow. The desire to excel, to exceed expectations, will help us explore our potentials and keep us busy, and leave no room in our lives for negative thoughts, loneliness and depression.

Traditional employees use their vacations and weekends to spend quality time with their families and friends; freelancers, on the other hand, are often deprived of this since they do not always have the luxury of well-defined holidays or weekends.

Freelancers also sometimes face problems establishing trust with their clients: often clients find it difficult to rely on unknown freelancers to get their job done. A freelancer needs to work hard in order to gain the confidence of a client. This results in maximised output and positive outcomes for both parties.

Freelancing, as discussed in this article, has its pros and cons. For one, it is an important source of income for our economy and it can greatly help in alleviating unemployment. However, people often tend to get drawn away by the prospect of working from home, and fail to reap the benefits of this non-traditional employment format. An individual must understand that they need to find the right work-life balance even while working as a freelancer; otherwise growth and sustainability will become difficult.

Jinat Jahan Khan is a student at the Department of Economics at Dhaka University.

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