Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

By Colin

Telecommute (verb): to work from home, communicating with a central workplace using equipment such as telephones, fax machines, and modems.

Telecommute; the word sounds as though it opposes the freedom that a freelance writing life should bring, and is therefore in no way desirable. But in an age when technology and e-commerce is being embraced by so many organisations, the word ‘telecommute’ has come to represent the key to a door of opportunity for freelance writers, more than any other word in the English dictionary before it.

But like anything else in this world that sounds good, how much of that should be taken with a pinch of salt? Everything has a cost, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons, from a freelance writer’s perspective, of telecommuting.

Pros

Anywhere, Anytime

Look at the word closely, and immediately you will begin to see what it has going for it. Tele – commute: the ability to “commute” anywhere in the world, without actually leaving the comfort of your own home. In other words, the world truly is your oyster.

Being able to work for any company, anywhere in the world, opens up opportunities for freelance writers that were never dreamt of prior to the birth of the Internet. Effectively, it means that there are no longer any barriers to who can work for whom, and thanks to e-mail, communication between the employer and the employee is faster than it has ever been.

Telecommuting cuts out the need for work permits, and gives employers a much wider scope to choose from, as they are no longer restricted geographically over whom they hire. Skill and talent alone, can once again be a major factor.

Travel and the Environment

Not owning a car – for whatever reason – is no longer a barrier to being able to earn money. As a telecommuter, the only thing you need to get started is a PC, an Internet connection, a desk, a chair, and the motivation.

If you are a believer in environmental causes, then telecommuting can allow you to earn while doing your bit for the environment. Global warming is a benefactor of telecommuting!

Determine Your Own Schedule

Freelance writing already allows you to determine your own working schedule. In the world of telecommuting, there is no such thing as 9 to 5. If you have a young family this can be of huge benefit, in that you can organise work around child care requirements, and shopping trips to purchase necessities.

It’s also a huge benefit when dealing with companies on the other side of the world. For example, if a freelance writer in the U.K. gets contracted to a company in California, the time difference is negated because he can keep in touch through email.

Cons

Alienation

Telecommuting means working from home can be as flexible as the freelance writer desires, but it also means the more jobs he gets from overseas, the more he can feel alienated on a much grander scale.

We all know that writing is a solitary business, but when you are telecommuting on a global scale, the feeling that your home office is a small place to work is magnified to a much greater extent. It is therefore vital for all telecommuters to make sure they get plenty of vacation time and contact with the outside world. Sanity is a treasured commodity.

Communication

Dealing with clients in a telecommuting situation, also puts the freelance writer at risk of severe frustration if they are required to work with other writers on a project, especially if they are also spread around the world.

Having no face to face contact with your client or team can often make the freelance writer feel vulnerable, because without the personal aspect, one mistake could be enough to see you dropped at the click of a button.

Being on the other side of the planet to your client also means that although email is generally fast and reliable, there is always the scope that emails may be misinterpreted. For example, while you could read your brief in the wrong way and submit the wrong article, it also means your client may take something you say in entirely the wrong way, and end up being offended. Neither scenario is good if a long-term working relationship is at stake.

Exchange Rates

A freelance writer telecommuting for an overseas company that pays in a currency weaker than their home country, can be prone to feeling that money is being lost.

For example, a freelance writer in the U.K. who earns $200 USD for a commissioned article, will receive around £100 at the current exchange rate. It is therefore important to ensure you feel you are being paid fairly for the work you are required to submit.

Technology

Telecommuting means there is a heavy reliance placed on technology for all manners of things. These can range from merely keeping in touch with a client, to making submissions, look for work, and accepting payment. Suffer a PC crash or lose your interconnection, and you may as well be sitting on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

It is therefore vital that every telecommuter serious about their business, takes all precautions necessary to keep their PC and peripherals fully protected.

The most vital things to remember are to have sufficient anti-virus protection software, good malware and adware scanning and removal software, a suitable firewall installation, and to take regular backups of all your data and software. It might also be a good measure to ensure your PC is regularly maintained, especially the hard drive, and that you never forget to pay your ISP bills.

The decision to work in a telecommuting capacity can open doors to the most varied and exciting work a freelance writer can possibly imagine. Try it out; if you don’t like it, it costs nothing to stop – possibly the final pro of telecommuting.

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8 Responses to “Pros and Cons of Telecommuting”

  • JB

    I’ve found that one of the biggest “cons” of telecommuting is my plummeting self-esteem. Because I work from home on a regular basis, I look like hell. I only wear jeans and sweatshirts. My hair is in a ponytail. My makeup is drying out in a case in the back of the vanity. I don’t shower. (Well, not as often as I should.) I hardly ever wash my hair—I don’t have time. And frankly, who cares, as long as the work gets done…

    But is that too high a price to pay for flexibility?

  • Mike Randall

    I just found this great website with lots of job offers to work from home: http://www.jobisjob.co.uk/%22work-from-home%22-jobs

  • Kathryn

    I love that you added the environmental spin as a “pro” on the whole telecommuting issue. It’s a great part of being a work-at-home writer and it’s one that I rarely see mentioned in articles about telecommuting. Plus it means that if you plan to work an eight-hour day then it’s really eight hours – not eight plus the commute!

  • Peter Martin

    ‘Global warming is a benefactor of telecommuting!’

    Just chewing this over and wondering (which is why I read and value the tips posted), but isn’t it more the other way round: that ‘telecommuting is a benefactor to global warming mitigation’?

    I do believe that ‘global warming’ (though I prefer the longer, but perhaps more accurate ‘probably man-worsened climate change’, as often the negative effects of climate change can result in colder conditions. And there is also still some credible debate on whether ‘man’ is responsible exclusively, though we sure are not helping anything much) is not a good thing, and hence for preference should be in some way dealt with through positive environmental actions on our parts. Hence the value of some qualifying descriptor.

    So, might one suggest:

    ‘Reduced global warming is another beneficial result (or can a process be a beneficary?) of telecommuting!’

    Just playing with the words. What is for sure is that reducing our need and/or desire to travel will certainly go a long way in helping lower our negative environmental impacts!

  • JHS

    Telecommuting is a huge issue in employment law and human resources right now. More and more companies are offering it as an option, more and more employees want to do it for some or all of the reasons you list, plus many more. It can be problematic, especially for employees dealing with sensitive/confidential information or who present supervision challenges. I do it regularly and those days are easily my most productive because I don’t have to get dressed and drive to the office, nobody stops by with their coffee to chat or gossip, my phone rings less often because people don’t know I’m not in the office, and I get long, uninterrupted periods of pure concentration which are invaluable when I am writing. I wouldn’t want to do it every day because I would miss having human contact, but it is a wonderful alternative on those days when I need to engage in focused research, analysis and writing.

  • Elizabeth Naramore

    I might also add an important issue if you’re telecommuting and that’s BALANCE. It takes a very self-disciplined person to work at home (and not be distracted by your environment and things that need to be done around the house). But working at home also blurs the line between work and non-work, which can leave you feeling burned out if you don’t make that distinction. Making yourself leave the “virtual office” is crucial to keeping your sanity. This is why I keep the computer in a room where I can close the door. It lets me mentally (and physically) close the door to my work and focus on my family and other things.

  • JAB

    Ok, I have read most of the comments. Can someone tell me where I can find a good paying, decent job telecommuting?????? Thanks

  • Carla at How to Work at Home

    Feeling alienated or Isolated is something that I dealt with when I first started working online. The best way to overcome the feeling of isolation is to schedule dinner/ lunch dates with friends or volunteer for a non profit organization in your community.

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