by Emma Warnken Johnson
When I first started full-time freelancing a little over a year ago, I worried about working from home. Would I feel cooped up in my little apartment? Would I end up editing from my couch? Would I ever remember to leave the house again?
Luckily, I started freelancing just as the weather got warmer. After years of life as a nine-to-fiver, it shocked me to discover that Toronto is a busy, bustling place—all day, every day. This is even truer in the summer: businesses bust down their doors and windows and spill out onto the sidewalks, and people take advantage of every inch of outdoor space. Once I figured out how to do the same, Toronto summers quickly became one of my favourite things about going freelance.
My goal has been to get outside, or at least get some sunlight, as often as possible, and I’ve started planning my projects with this goal in mind. I think about each project as a series of tasks that require different tools and different kinds of concentration; then, I plan my schedule according to which venues I can use for each task.
Libraries. When I have work that requires a high level of concentration and a lot of tools (dictionaries, Internet access, style books, and guides), the library is my best bet. Sure, these are open in the winter too, but newly renovated branches have a ton of natural light streaming in, and if you scope out the best new branch nearest you, it’ll be bright and airy (and air conditioned!). I get there early, as I find the study tables (and the outlets) fill up early at my favourite local branch; I also bring headphones and a good white noise app for emergencies.
Coffee shops and patios. When I still require Internet access but perhaps not as many tools, I head for a cafe. This requires a recon mission to all your local options, scoping them out for how busy and noisy they are, and which ones have free wifi. In the summer, I also factor in open windows, natural light and whether they have a patio. Different cafes can serve different purposes: I have one that I prefer for proofreading because it is filled with natural light but still manages to have quiet corner tables; I have another that’s a bit busier and provides a few necessary distractions for those less interesting administrative tasks.
Public parks. This is by far my favourite summer option, and it surprises me that I don’t encounter more freelancers in my local park. I often grab a coffee in the morning and head straight for a shaded picnic bench with my laptop or a stack of proofs. Sadly there’s no wifi in public parks in Toronto (though there are some signs that it might be in our future), so working in a park requires a little strategic prep work. I print off as much as I can—pages for proofreading and indexing, style sheets, etc.—and work without a computer as much as possible. As I work, I flag global searches or changes that will need my attention once I’m back online (and then build time into my schedule to work on these queries independently). When a computer is essential (say, for copy editing or more substantive work) I make sure my battery is well-charged and take as much material offline as I can, using my smartphone for essential searches. It’s possible to turn your phone into a wifi hotspot, but so far I haven’t needed to test this out—mostly because I find it incredibly productive to physically remove myself from the distractions of the Internet.
For many freelance editors—especially those of us just starting out—it’s difficult to find affordable office space in the city. But in the summer, the free spaces available to you practically double, and if you plan your work strategically, you can use them all and take advantage of the beautiful weather.
This article was copy edited by Nicole North.