So, you're thinking of becoming self-employed, some kind of knowledge worker, just you and a phone and a net connection. Or your employer is offering to save themselves the cash they spend renting your cubicle and parking space, and let you telecommute instead, hey, with a free entry-level PC thrown in. So is it something you really want to do?

Obviously the individual circumstances will vary - if you're still working for The Man, is it a matter of set hours, or set tasks and deadlines? Who are you going to have to deal with? If self-employed, would you be in front of the screen all day or in and out? Here are a few things that you might well want to give some thought to - pros first:

  • Manage your own time. Time off when you feel you need it. Want to fit your work around E2/Buffy/live Tour de France coverage? Just do it. Would rather work at midnight than 9 am? You may well be able to arrange that too.
  • No more commuting. Say goodbye to hours in traffic jams, drafty bus stops, packed trains. Get up two minutes before you need to start work. Don't pump exhaust fumes into the atmosphere.
  • Wear what you like. (but see DannyE's wu above for cautionary notes).
  • Choose your own coffee. Sex and drugs and rock and roll during working hours.
The cons:
  • Self-discipline. The biggie. So how well do you work with nobody looking over your shoulder? Can you ignore the siren call of just another node before you get around to starting? You're going to need to.
  • Privacy. In a way, you're opening your home life up to the outside world. You'll be dealing with bosses or clients from your bedroom. Is that going to stop you from separating work from real life? OK, the company's human resources people want you to be a wholly integrated part of the company, with their Mission Statement at the heart of your lifestyle, but do you? Are you going to be able to switch off? Are you going to be able to sit at the computer and play Civ III in the evening without feeling as though you're skiving off work? Would it suit you to be sort of at work all the time?
  • Companionship. OK, perhaps you're a sociopath anyway; perhaps you can only communicate through electronic media. But otherwise, how is this going to affect the number of people you actually deal with face to face during the day, and how is that going to affect you?
  • Paying your own utility bills. Maybe the company will give you a helping hand, or the taxman will let you deduct the expenses, but you are going to need to heat and light your working space during hours you'd otherwise be in an office that somebody else is paying for. Not to mention paying for your own stationery and cleaning your own office floor.
  • Sharing the space. If you are a sociopathic geek who lives alone and doesn't want to share any space anyway, no problem. But is your life going to stay that way? Can you keep significant others, parents, children, pets out of your hair while you're trying to work? How will being present but unavailable affect your relationships with them? What's it going to be like if friends and relations visit?

Albert Herring lives and works as a translator in self-employed partnership with his wife in a modest house (subject to clients paying us enough to be able to pay the rent) with two small children (and some bigger ones sometimes) and three cats who like sitting on his hands while he types. He has all the self-discipline and time management skills of a small piece of dyspraxic putty, and is habitually to be found noding ten minutes before a deadline is due and/or working fitfully at 2 am. Let his story be a lesson to you in quite a lot of ways. Look before you leap.