How can I be productive when working from home?
According to the UK Office of National Statistics, one in seven British workers, are freelance, while in America the Freelancers Union estimate it is as high as one in three, with Forbes predicting 50% will be self employed by 2020. It’s easy to understand why.
The benefits of working from home, being your own boss and choosing your own hours is very attractive. But it’s also very easy to get this dream wrong and end up hating homeworking.
You may be your own boss, but you still need some rules to make your homeworking work. Here’s ten top homeworking tips to get you organised and keep you sane.
1. Plan your day
With the average commute in America lasting 25 minutes, and 3.7 million British workers commuting more than two hours a day, it’s nice to still be tucked up in bed at 8.30am while others are packed onto trains or stuck in rush hour traffic. However, it’s not so good to still be in bed at 9.30 when they have started their day and are trying to get in touch with you. If the industry you work in works 9-5, then you need to be available for those hours too.
2. Dressing for work
Ok, so it’s a freelance cliché to assume all homeworkers never get out of their pyjamas, but you should still make the effort every morning. Dress smart and you will think smart.
3. Set up your workspace
The image of freelancers working on laptops in the park in the sunshine is as much a myth as the pyjamas. Most have to fit work into their homes somehow, but working at the kitchen table is a recipe for distraction, so make sure you set up a dedicated work space. It could just be a small corner desk in your bedroom, or you could build a work shed in the garden like Roald Dahl or Dylan Thomas.
4. Set boundaries
One of the biggest complaints of homeworkers is that their friends and family assume that they are always free because they don’t have a ‘proper job’. You need to set boundaries and stick to them. They wouldn’t come into an office or ad agency and just expect you to stop work and chat, so don’t let them do this to you at home.
5. Build remote client relationships
You don’t have to travel to work from home, but sometimes it can help. Making the effort to go and meet your remote clients can make all the difference to your relationship, and the gesture will often set you apart and above their other freelancers, so you get the pick of the work.
6. Eat properly
With your own kitchen on site, you might expect to eat better than your office bound friends, but many freelancers actually end up eating much worse. Picking at last night’s leftovers or grabbing a piece of toast is not the same as eating a proper lunch, so make sure you plan your meals.
7. Take a break
Again, you would expect homeworkers to take more breaks than their office friends, but in most cases they take less. With no one to stop and gossip with, and no one to join you for lunch, many freelancers simply plough on all day, eating al-desko, without ever stopping for a break. This is not only exhausting, but it can have terrible effects on your back and your general health.
8. Know when to stop
Knowing when to stop is as important as knowing when to start for freelance workers. If you have not made enough money during normal hours, then you need to increase your prices, not your workload. And if you have made enough, then you need to resist the temptation to be greedy and work late just to cash in. Life is about time not cash; no one ever got to their death bed wishing they’d worked more.
9. Take time off
No work means no money for freelancers, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a holiday. Your employed friends all have several weeks per year in their contracts, and you need to take time off too, or you will burn out. Never add the loss of earnings to the cost of your holiday in your head or you’ll simply never go.
10. Stay in touch
Keeping in touch with fiends and former co-workers can be really hard when you work from home, and finding new friends is even harder, but you have to make the effort. Make yourself attend freelance gatherings and networking events, and if there are none near you, set one up. You can also keep in touch through social media, play online games together or even set up your own card game online where you can meet up with fellow freelancers.