Share This Page

At a coffee shop, free from the workaday grind

It's a hot trend in the workplace: working from home or the coffee shop or anywhere, thanks to the Internet.

"Imagine a work world with no commute, no corporate headquarters and perhaps not even an office in the physical world at all," suggested ABC News last week.

I'm familiar with the concept.

I've been self-employed since 1993. In addition to writing this weekly column, I provide communications services to corporate clients. My biggest client is in Virginia. I work from Pittsburgh.

I have a broadband card on my portable computer that gives me Internet access from anywhere. I dial into meetings and conduct interviews with my cell phone. There's no need for me to go to an office.

I sit in coffee shops most days and pubs most nights. I sit in the corner and peck away on my keyboard. I make a fine living wearing blue jeans and sipping a latte. And I've got plenty of company.

I've befriended others who work as I do: a marketing consultant who works 30 hours a month so she can spend most of her time with her children; a computer engineer who from Pittsburgh works for the Virginia company that also pays me; a pro who ghostwrites books for big publishers.

It's a grand time to be alive. It's a grand time to be FREE.

I'm free to work or not work on any given day. I don't punch a clock. Nobody cares where or when or how I work. My clients only care about results -- about how well I get the job done.

I'm free to fail or succeed, too. If I want to make more money, all I have to do is work harder -- work harder to find and service new clients. The more hours I bill, the more dough I earn.

And while I can earn more as a self-employed fellow than I ever could as an employee, I save money for my clients. I'm a bargain. When they contract with me, they are buying my experience and skill. I get things done faster than someone less experienced.

Better yet, they don't have to worry about taxes, health insurance, workers' compensation and a million other government-imposed obligations and burdens associated with full-time employees.

When companies contract my services, they don't need to worry about the high cost of office space, either -- heat, electric, wiring, security and all the other headaches and worries of operating large buildings.

Most employees don't know it, but their salary is only a fraction of their overall cost to their employer. If your pay is $50,000 a year, your full cost to your employer is closer to $75,000.

While I charge a nice fee for my services, my clients save money. We both win. In fact, there are lots and lots of winners.

The environment wins. Four years ago, I commuted daily to an office building in Virginia. I put 24,000 miles on my car that year. I burned a lot of gasoline and sent a lot of money to oil-producing countries that wish us harm.

But now I walk to the coffee shop in the morning and hardly ever use my car. I put only 6,000 miles on the odometer last year. I put gas in the tank about once a month. I use the savings to buy good coffee, and the coffee shop wins, too.

I'm a lucky fellow, I know, but here is the best part. I was able to establish a wonderful quality of life on my own. I didn't need a government program to do it. Sure, the government gave birth to the Internet, but you get the point.

There are lots of jobs that can be done from anywhere nowadays. Why live in a high-cost metro area when you can move back to a wonderful place such as Pittsburgh• The housing is cheap here and you can walk to the coffee shop in the morning.

What a great time to be alive -- a time to exercise our freedoms to the fullest. Now if you'll excuse me, my latte is ready.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.