No, it’s not true that only work when I want to work, because this is still a business and it needs to be run, but there is a certain level of freedom that comes along with freelancing. They say that you can work from anywhere in the world, because you are not bound to a single physical location… but is that really the case? Let’s have a look.
Of course, this will really depend on the kind of work that you do, but it’s pretty safe to assume that every business needs to have reliable Internet access. I write for a living, primarily for the web, so I necessarily have to be online for most hours of the day. And while the Internet access doesn’t have to be fast, it needs to be reliable and largely unfiltered.
What I found when I was in China was that several sites are inaccessible behind the so-called “Great Firewall of China.” This severely hinders my ability to do my job. You also have to consider that countries like Cuba have very weak Internet penetration; where there is access to the web, it’s very slow and can be very unreliable. That just won’t do. So, that’s the first hurdle: reliable, (reasonably) fast, and (relatively) affordable Internet access.
Shipping and Postal Service
Again, this will depend on the kind of freelancing that you do. If you’re in the business of designing websites, for example, you aren’t completely reliant on having affordable and fast postal service. For the most part, as a freelance writer, I don’t either… except for a few major aspects of my particular working situation.
While they don’t represent the entirety of what I do, product reviews do play a large part. In this way, wherever I choose to work has to be reasonably accessible and affordable for companies who want to ship editorial samples to me. And it has to be reasonably expedient. Depending on the work that you do, this could be more or less important.
For the most part, all I need is a good computer, a good camera, and a solid Internet connection. There are certain conveniences and creature comforts that come with my home office, but they’re not completely necessary most of the time. However, it is certainly useful having that infrastructure in place, like a printer, a telephone, several external hard drives, and so on.
You may need greater infrastructure if you’re in a line of work that requires it. Photography and videography professionals oftentimes require more powerful and bulky equipment, which can restrict where they can and cannot work, for example.
Client Meetings and Events
Most of my work is online, so I rarely have to meet anyone in person for what I do on a day-to-day basis. However, being in Vancouver allows me to attend events like Freelance Camp and it makes it easy for me to travel to other events like PAX and CES. If you’re in the tech industry, it helps living in a city like Toronto, New York, or San Francisco where press events are hosted quite frequently.
If your freelancing involves client meetings, as would be the case with consulting or wedding photography, you may not be quite as mobile. Thus, you may not be able to work anywhere in the world, because you have to be physically located where your clients are.
It’s Not for Everyone
Can freelancers really work from anywhere in the world? Yes and no. It helps that you can keep your living expenses low by moving to cities (or countries) with lower living expenses, but that may have an effect on the clients that you are able to attract, the events you are able to attend, and the projects you are able to complete. It really depends on the kind of work that you do, but freelancers generally do have good opportunities for mobility and this is absolutely one of the reasons why I chose this career. Give me an Internet connection and I’m ready to roll.