Is working from home the dream everyone thinks it is?

By Georgia Cadoret |

Working for myself has not been all it was cracked up to be | Pinterest

I’ve never worked very well at home; my bed is too nearby and the fridge is constantly screaming at me to open it. So, this week I’ve been journeying to nearby cafes to sit in and try to get my work done – a better option than sitting in my room, getting distracted by rogue chin hairs and finding something to clean. Or so I thought. Instead, this week has turned out to largely consist of eating too much cake and not spending enough money for the amount of time spent in each cafe, whilst I scroll the internet for government grants and chickpea recipes.

Work would come flowing from my fingertips as I sipped an afternoon green tea and smoked a cigarette à la Carrie Bradshaw.

This morning I didn’t leave my house until at least midday, traipsing through the kind of rain that you keep thinking is about to blow over, but then in fact blows you over with another gust of slanted deluge until you’re forced to realise that skirt-no-tights was indeed a very ambitious and stupid fashion statement. Just because it’s August does not mean you’re entitled to wear whatever you want and expect the weather to work around the days that you decide to ‘feel yourself’ and make an effort. Anyway…

I shuffled into a high-ceilinged cafe, all wood, navy paint and tropical wallpaper, with great wedges of cake stacked on the counter and youths in aprons serving artisanal tea. Forgetting myself (and apparently the state of the world), I took a seat at a table with a few cups and plates left from the customers before me and began to unpack my office for the day.

“Excuse me”, a pale, thin waitress with dark lipstick approached me. “The sign says to wait here. I need to clean the table before you can sit down”. “Oh, sorry!” I said, jumping up and playing dumb to cover up my actual stupidity.

“Well, now I have to seat all these people waiting behind you, and I’ve got to wipe your table.” She began to wipe. I didn’t understand why she was angry as I had been in front of them to begin with, but apologised again and sat, tail between my legs, at the forbidden table. I ordered a latte and, forgetting to ask for decaf, sipped at the under-heated, over-caffeinated drink from a tall glass as it stared at me, anaemic and tepid.

An alarm outside resounded a non-stop screech. A baby started wailing. The man sat next to me started singing ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, quite loudly, to himself.

It feels like a glorified GCSE study leave, only with more pressure because you can’t retake a commission.

This is how most of my days have been as a freelance writer, and I’ve only been at it for five days. It is not how I had imagined working for myself ought to be.

I imagined waking up early and doing an at-home yoga video, or maybe a Zoom class. Ripped and sweaty from my mindful workout, I would brew some organic coffee and listen to a podcast in the bath titled ‘How to Live in Greater Alignment With Your Higher Truth’. I’d get dressed into a soft, at-home-chic cream jumper, spray some lovely perfume and then bash out three hours of extremely sellable words. I’d post on Instagram as I met a friend for lunch, still sparkling from my workout and literary success, and then have a ten-minute power nap, awaking refreshed and enthusiastic about the next three hours of work which would come flowing from my fingertips as I sipped an afternoon green tea and smoked a cigarette a la Carrie Bradshaw.

It feels like a glorified GCSE study leave, only with more pressure because you can’t retake a commission.

Cafes are a popular choice of work place for the creative classes | Unsplash

I had turned to cafes in the hope that they would provide a nice bustling environment for me to feel inspired in – not to get told off by underpaid waitresses and fret about the severe lack of plug sockets.

On this particular day, my boyfriend came to visit me on his lunch break. Please don’t ask, please don’t ask, please don’t ask. “How’s the writing going?” I looked down at my Instagram page where I had just liked a photo of a chocolate torte.  

“Fine thanks, I think I’m getting more into the project now.” I didn’t want him to wonder what the hell I’d been doing sat by myself in a café for four hours a day. My last Google search was the lyrics for ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ – the guy sat next to me had got a lot of the words wrong.

When my laptop reached 4%, and the scary waitress loomed over me as I crouched under my table looking for a plug socket, I decided to pay up and give up.

“Freelancing looks like the dream, but it’s not.” | Pinterest

I met with a friend and we ate pasties on the pier, moaning about the dire state of the world and our future prospects; online university in September, the bleak alternative of deferring a year, finding a job once we eventually graduate…

“Freelancing looks like the dream, but it’s not.” I said, as we eyed a gull pulling up to our bench, intent on our pasties.

“Maybe you should try writing at the pub instead, get the juices flowing.”

A point worth considering, I thought. But for the fact that the only juices I’d ever seen flow from anyone at the pub were not the type I desired, usually leading to an anecdotal tale that, had we been sober, might have been worth writing about.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Falmouth University, the University of Exeter or Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union.