Work spaces for writers take many forms.
Update as of 19 March 2020: My workspace looks different now. We came back home from our big adventure, and I had my little home office back for a while. With all the COVID-19 stuff going on in the world, my husband was allowed to bring his work computer home and work here, so I ceded my home office to him. I am now working on just my blogs and taking a break from freelance writing to concentrate on homeschooling, so my home office looks like the dining room table whenever I’m actually working. I also assume most people are now avoiding coworking spaces, and most coffee shops have closed their doors for the time being, so some of the info below is outdated. Still, this post shows you what some writer’s lives are/were like when it comes to their work space. Below is he original post.
For the rare breed of writer who works in-house at publishing houses, magazines and newspapers, the work space may be a cubicle or a desk in an open concept office. But for the rest of us, who live the freelance life, things look different.
Some of us have cloffices. Others have a dedicated office in their homes. Yet others make use of coworking spaces. And for some writers, their backpack is their office, and they take it wherever they go, from coffee shops to libraries, or even the beach (though I’ll never understand how people work with glare and sand nearby… not the most conducive to laptop work, in my humble opinion).
After seeing a few too many gorgeous home offices on Instagram, I was curious to know what more “normal” freelancers’ offices look like. For those of us who don’t ride on how our office looks for page views, I was pretty sure our offices wouldn’t look as pristine as these Instagram posts. And don’t get me wrong—I actually love seeing those pristine offices. It’s just not reality for me and for many freelancers. Here’s my reality:
As most people who follow me on Facebook or Instagram know, I’m currently on a 1-year road trip with my husband and three kids. I don’t have an office; I basically just work wherever in the RV no one else is bugging me (which is hard to find sometimes).
I generally work on the bed in the back, as the table at the front is usually taken by schooling or Lego. When my laptop battery runs out and we can’t run the generator, I work in the passenger seat at the very front. That’s so I can plug my computer in to the cigarette lighter with the aid of a power inverter.
Because my “office” has to be mobile, I have a laptop backpack where my computer lives when it’s not being used. I also carry my planner (I discovered The Happy Planner during this trip and I’m in love), a pencil case, and sometimes, my Day Book in the same backpack.
When I’m not working in the RV, I might be at a coffee shop or at whatever restaurant is inside the Walmart where we will park for the night.
Basically, this lifestyle requires a lot of flexibility. But then again, so does any lifestyle that includes kids. This setup works for me, but I do miss my tiny office back home. So tiny, in fact, that if you want to see a picture of it, it has to be done in three parts. Because my office was basically the electrical room.
Having said that, I’m really not sure how much of that office I’ll be using when we get back. For now, I enjoy the freedom to write (and get paid for it).
I talked with some other freelancers, and here’s what they had to say about their work spaces for writing.
Writing Work Spaces: Keep it Simple and Keep Moving
Jaleesa Dee, a freelance writer who provides both B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) services, likes her office to be simple, so there are no distractions. That’s why her office is her laptop. She can move it wherever she needs it, and she can fully concentrate on the work that has become not only her job, but her “obsession.”
Jaleesa also purposely doesn’t have everything she needs with her at all times, because it forces her to get up and move around during a day where she might otherwise only sit. That’s smart! Changing positions frequently throughout the day is actually better than a standing desk, and it’s infinitely better than just sitting for eight hours straight.
Writing Work Spaces: Keep it Simple; Keep it Focused
Karen Hewell, a B2B content marketing writer, likes her office simple and bright. She chose this room in her apartment because she gets great natural light, so she doesn’t feel “stuck in a cave.”
The second monitor is a must, because she gets easily distracted by articles and other interesting things online, so she keeps all of her work front and center, while any unrelated tabs go on the second monitor. This helps her concentrate and get the job done.
I would love to have a setup like this if I had a stationary office—I’m one of those people who has 5,000 tabs open at a time, so it’d be great to be able to have research on one screen and the writing on another. One day!
Writer Work Spaces: Animal Companions
Ame Vanorio has a really interesting work space, or should I say, work spaces. Ame has many things on the go (like most of the people reading this blog!)
Her Environmental Education Center is licensed for Wildlife Rehabiliation, so Ame works among her wildlife friends. She has a summer office and a winter office. The winter office, shown above, is in the reptile barn of the center, since it’s got the best temperature in the winter: it’s heated.
She loves having her reptile friends nearby as she works: “they’re quiet and don’t pester me for snacks.”
Ame is highly adaptable, which is great, since when the neonate babies come in to the reptile room in the spring, she moves out to a table in the hall.
Work Spaces for Writers: The Cloffice
While this setup came after the writing of the book (he wrote it mostly in coffee shops), you can be certain he still does a lot of writing from here. Cesar’s not a freelance writer, but just like most of the readers of this site, he wears many hats.
In addition to being an author, Cesar also works as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic (the company behind WordPress), and has a highly successful podcast, Project Management for the Masses. The cloffice came after he joined Automattic—and Automattic is pretty awesome in that it pays for its employee’s home office setups.
Cesar’s married to an occupational therapist, so you bet that his office is as ergonomic as possible. He has a sit-stand desk so he can either sit or stand throughout the day, and he has an ergonomic chair.
But while he works from home, just like Jaleesa, he doesn’t stay stuck in his office all day long. To be sure, much of his day is spent here, but he also gets up and moves around—his office is in the basement, while the kitchen is on the main level. And because he works at home and his kids are homeschooled, he can go up the stairs to have lunch with them or get a hug in the middle of the work day. Sometimes, these interruptions are pretty sweet (I should know!)
Work Spaces for Writers: The Office in a Bag
For Jennifer Beam, a webmaster who hires writers and ensures content is accurate for the markets she manages, an office-on-the-go is what works. With 250 websites to manage and little ones to take care of, getting out of the house is ideal. So her office comes with her wherever she goes, and it’s kept to the bare essentials:
In addition to her webmaster work, Jennifer uses her cross-stitching skills to help charity. She designs cross stitching patterns and sells them through her website. Last year alone, she gave away over a thousand needles to youth stitching programs.
Work Spaces for Writers: Flexible Spaces
For Maria Veres, a creative and content writer, flexibility is key. She doesn’t like to sit all day long, so she’ll often move her laptop to the top of her filing cabinet, and work standing up for a while.
Later in the day, she’ll move to the kitchen, where there’s better natural light. But the best part of the office is her writing assistant, who while very beautiful, does more interfering than assisting.
Working spaces for writers can vary greatly, from offices-in-a-bag to cloffices, to a table surrounded by reptile friends, and everything in between. Despite the Instagram and Pinterest-worthy offices, the truth is that your office needs to be what works for you.
If having a pristine space inspires you to get more work done, then have a pristine space. If freedom of movement is what you value most, an office-in-a-bag will probably be your best bet. And if a dedicated room in your home is all you want, regardless of setup, consider how much light you need and how many distractions you can tolerate before picking your spot.
What office setup works best for you? Feel free to share your pictures in the comments!