I work as a freelance writer and simultaneously on this blog, which I hope to turn into my full-time business soon. It would be an understatement to say that I love my professional life right now. I love that I don’t have to sit behind a desk at a 9-to-5 job. I love that I can work in my pyjamas with the air conditioning at my beck and call. I love the fact that I don’t have to spend hours getting stuck in traffic playing clutch-brake orchestra. I love that I have creative freedom, and independence to work the way I want to. And I love that my offbeat career gives me a sense of ownership that I did’t really find before.
But you know what I don’t love? The constant jabbing from peers, relatives, and even family members, who are skeptical and sometimes downright disapproving of my professional choices. If you do something besides medicine, engineering, or a corporate job in this country, you probably know exactly what I mean.
What frustrates me is that this is the case in 2018, when we are surrounded by digital nomads, social media influencers, gig-economy workers, and people who are more driven than ever to chart out their own specific career paths. Why then do our previous generations, 9-to-5 job goers, and many others with conventional jobs not understand that things are changing. Their skepticism, more often than not, is just plain derogatory. This needs to change! Freelancers, entrepreneurs, creative workers and those in non-traditional work setups need to be taken seriously.
I am frankly tired of explaining what I do and where I am headed to everyone I meet (regardless of whether I know them or not). So, here’s a little PSA, answering all the questions I’ve ever been asked by the skeptics, conventional thinkers, and aspirants of the nomad life and an offbeat career.
I still work, just not in an office
The first thing most people assume when you tell them that you’re working from home is that you have absolutely no work and you’re getting paid for chilling! If I had a rupee for every time someone said “Tu toh humesha free rehti hai” (“You’re always free”), I’d be a millionaire! Like what the f***!
The digital world works differently from the offline work. In my field (which is mostly writing and sometimes designing) all I need is a computer and an active internet connection (electricity to run these obviously) and I am good. Just because I am sitting on my bed typing, doesn’t mean I am free. I get paid in return for this work and I take it extremely seriously. When I don’t say stuff like “Tu toh office mein baith ke Netflix dekhti hai”, you have no right to comment on my style of work either.
Yes, I can work from anywhere I want
This is perhaps one of the best parts of being a digital nomad, and a part of what defines success for me – the freedom. I can work from anywhere I want – my bedroom, the toilet, or even Timbaktoo, as long as I have my laptop and the internet. I don’t have to punch in and punch out of an office, I don’t have to get stuck in traffic, hell I don’t even have to change out of my pyjamas. As long as I am submitting my work on time, it’s all good.
No, I am not in between jobs
Another notion that is extremely popular is that freelancing or project-based work is only okay if you’re taking time off between jobs or are not able to find something in the short term. If you want, I can list out so many people who have successful freelance careers. This idea about such work being a temporary fix needs to change. It is as much of a career as a full-time office goer. Just the dynamics of having an offbeat career are different and our society needs to accept the change.
The money I make is proportionate to my work
Unlike office-goers, us digital nomads don’t get a fixed salary – meaning there’s no monthly payout, but we get paid according to the work we do. It can all be from one source or multiple sources depending on the amount of work we are willing to take up. And no, it doesn’t remain the same every year. It changes from project to project and also increases as we gain more experience. More experience equals better remuneration and better work opportunities – just like it would work in a 9-to-5.
But it doesn’t make it okay for you to ask creatives/digital nomads/people with offbeat career choices about what and how much they earn. Just how you’re uncomfortable discussing your salary with your peers and relatives, it’s the same with us.
It is not easy
But just because I have the freedom to be mobile, it doesn’t mean I have it any easier than a 9-to-5er. Anytime I tell anyone that I do 90% of my work from home, the first reaction I get is, “Wow! That must’ve made life so easy!” It’s not. I have to be extremely disciplined. There is no one else to ensure that I make submissions on time. I have to put myself on a schedule, submit projects on time, and also ensure that I get my payments on time. I then have to manage my finances according to the payment schedule because unlike a salary, not all of the money comes together necessarily.
Along with that, I have my blog to run, which takes up at least 50% of my time and isn’t yet monetised. So, all my friends who look at my Insta feed and think “life is easy”, it’s not. But it’s my choice and I am extremely happy with that.
It’s not luck, it’s hard work
Another thing I get a lot is, “You’re lucky you don’t have to go to work” or “You have it good, you have no idea what a job is like.” To the people giving such statements, I’d like to say it is so not about luck baby. It’s all about the hustle. Despite the fact that I can make my own schedule and work from my couch, it is not possible to do this without understanding my own talents, having a solid work ethic, good time management skills and a constant motivation to chart out my own path.
It is not everyone’s cup of tea
Just how not everyone can be a doctor, engineer or civil servant (sorry dad, this ain’t happening), the same way, not everyone can be the most productive while working outside of office. It requires a different set of skills and a lot of self-motivation. I’ve had people say, “I could never work out of my house, I’d just be too distracted.” It completely depends on your temperament. If working in an office is what helps you be more productive, then that is what you should do. Just don’t look down upon those who don’t function the same way as you.
I am my own boss
People, especially in India, somehow think that working freelance or not working in an office is demeaning or derogatory (thanks to everything here being attributed to “log kya kahenge”). It’s not! In fact, it is entrepreneurial. I work for myself! What could be better than that? Technically, I work according to the clients’ brief but it is up to me which projects I choose, which clients I choose to work with and when to walk out of a deal! At the end of the day, I am my own boss and that is a feeling that cannot be matched by anything else.
I am thriving, not surviving
The conventional notion of success is usually seen as climbing up the corporate ladder or getting one promotion after the other while your salary increases proportionately. I want to ask, who made this definition? If I am earning well, supporting myself and my family while doing the kind of work I want to do, exploring new avenues, travelling, and also investing in a side business, how the hell am I not successful? I don’t want to bring this down to numbers, but I know that at this stage I am earning more than what my peers with the same work experience make in offices. I also make less than some of them. So are they more successful or am I?
This notion requires a serious change in our perceptions. We need to stop measuring success with a benchmark of certain jobs. Success is individualistic and holds different meanings for different people. It’s high time we understood that.
Hopefully this piece has cleared up a lot of notions about the life of a digital nomad. If you have any more questions, leave them down below in the comments section or drop me a text on my Instagram or Facebook.
Read about my last post on living independently, here.
This was all for today!
Until next time,