Whenever I tell people I work from home, they never fail to remind me how lucky I am. But what they really mean is that I’m lucky not to have to commute to work in the morning in the MRT crush. Actually getting work done at home, on the other hand, isn’t quite so rosy.
When you work from home, chances are you’re all alone as the other people in your household head out to work. That means an entire day can go by where you don’t speak to a single soul. And believe me, you might enjoy that for a day or two, but after an entire week of working alone in the dark of night, with only the glow of your laptop screen for company, it really affects your mood, and the dark thoughts start rollin’ in.
Here are three options with desks, chairs (well, technically you can get all your work done sprawled on the floor or on the toilet, but try that for a few years and your body will hate you for it) and, of course, that all-important wifi connection.
These days, you see more and more people hunched over their Macbooks at cafes—every freelancer knows you need to get out of the house to work every now and then, or else your sanity and productivity take a hit. And cafes are the most stereotypical locations where freelancers try to get work done.
For the price of a cup of coffee, you sit get to sit in attractive surroundings that have been prettied up for customers, usually with a pleasant, unobtrusive soundtrack and the smell of freshly brewed coffee in your nostrils.
There’s the social element too—you can chat with the baristas, invite your office-bound friends to join you for a cuppa during their lunch break, and at some cafes you can also sit at the communal table with the other solo folks working on their computers.
While Coffee Bean and Starbucks have been offering unlimited free wifi for the longest time, and are still the favourite place of students who park themselves there with their ten-year-series all day long, there are now more than enough hipster cafes for freelancers to take their pick from.
Surprisingly, despite the fact that cafes provide a more stimulating and, some might say, distracting environment than, say, the library, it’s surprisingly easy to be efficient in one. Maybe the low hum of people’s voices and the background music helps to lull your brain into a state of focus.
The only drawback is that you’ve got to make sure you consume your coffees slowly, or else at the end of an 8-hour marathon you could find yourself so buzzed you can barely zip up your laptop sleeve without breaking a finger.
Coworking spaces have proven quite popular with the freelancer and startup set, which is why they’ve been mushrooming all over Singapore in recent months.
Ostensibly, coworking spaces offer desks and all the facilities a freelancer could want—wifi, printers and a chair that doesn’t give you a backache.
But the real reason many freelancers choose to join coworking spaces is to participate in their communities—most coworking spaces attract very specific kinds of people, and organise mixers and events so members can mingle and network.
If you’re thinking of joining a coworking space, check out these tips elsewhere on MoneySmart.
Coworking spaces solve many of the biggest problems freelancers face—you get to meet a community of like-minded people who can motivate you, network and have a space to work. But the main reason many still choose to seat-warm at Starbucks is the cost factor.
To put it bluntly, most coworking spaces in Singapore are not cheap to join. You’re looking at spending a few hundred a month just for part-time desk space.
Freelancers who aren’t raking in big bucks or have an unstable income often do not want to spend extra to join a coworking space. Relatively affordable flexible work spaces are open at three public libraries in Singapore, and a new one is going to open in Tampines next year. However, these will still cost about $20 a day or $399 a month.
If you need to work in absolute silence, you’ll probably do better working at a public library than in a noisy cafe.
Singapore has a great network of public libraries, ranging from small neighbourhood branches in shopping malls to the futuristic new library@Orchard, the mammoth National Library with its dizzying views over the Bugis area, the cosy, music-focused library@Esplanade and the very oriental library@Chinatown.
All public libraries offer free wifi, shared desks (dominated by mugging students) and a certain number of plug points.
It should be noted that certain libraries tend to be very crowded. At some branches, the library is so packed with students and snoozing uncles that you need to hover like you would at a food court to get a seat. The stress of students during exam time is also palpable.
However, you enjoy the added bonus of being able to leaf through a novel or magazine when you need a break.
For freelancers on a very tight budget (got to make up for not having those CPF contributions!), the library is also the most economical option since it’s free.
Cost: Very low
As a freelancer, where is your favourite place to get work done? Tell us in the comments!