Being a freelancer and working from home might sound like the ultimate dream. You can get up whenever you like, you can work hours that suit you, and you don’t have to answer to anyone.
However, as much as I’ve loved spending the last fortnight in my PJs and I certainly haven’t missed wasting 3 hours each day on the bus, being a freelancer for the last two weeks has certainly been character building.
Here are just a few lessons I’ve learnt in the last 14 days:
1. Maintaining your old morning routine is a necessary evil
Now you’re working from home there will understandably be some aspects of your previous morning routine that you abandon altogether. However, as tempting as it can be to stay in bed all morning and work from your iPhone, you’re likely to be much more productive if you get up, get dressed, and sit at a desk ready for the day.
You don’t have to do your hair or put make up on or anything like that, but try to make yourself look presentable. Not only can this get you in the mood to work, it’s also ideal if you get a spur-of-the-moment invitation to meet someone important.
2. Finding a schedule that works for you will make you feel like a professional
When I first started freelancing, I didn’t think I needed a proper working schedule. Since I was no longer getting up for work at 6am each morning and not arriving home until 7pm, I suddenly felt like I had all the time in the world to get things done.
However, I soon realised just how important it is to create your own schedule. Now, my day tends to look a little something like this:
8:00 – Wake up and have a shower
8:30 – Have breakfast while browsing social media and reading email newsletters
9:30 – Respond to any emails and plan what I’m going to do for the day
10:00 – Start work (3 hours)
13:00 – Have lunch
13:30 – Get back to work (3.5 hours)
16:30 – Finish work
I do give myself quite a bit of leeway though. I try to get all client work out the way during my working hours and often end up working on my own blog and projects late into the night.
Sometimes, if I have social media scheduling to do, I’ll leave that until later on in the evening and do it while I watch the news.
3. Doing non-work related activities during your working hours is a real time waster
Whether you need to visit the dentist or meet up with an old friend, try to schedule non-work related activities outside of your designated working hours.
In my first week of being a freelancer, I made the mistake of arranging a job interview for 1pm on a Monday, drinks with a friend at 2pm on a Tuesday, and a doctor’s appointment for 12pm on a Wednesday. Although these things didn’t take up a huge amount of my time, they certainly interrupted my working day and made me less productive. By the end of the week, I felt like I hadn’t achieved half as much as I’d set out to do.
4. Creating a designated workspace will help boost concentration
Avoid working from the comfort of your own bedroom if possible. You’ll start out with great intentions but before you know it you’ll wake up from a three hour nap with your glasses askew, dribble on your pillow, and your laptop on the floor.
Try to find a quiet spot in your home that you can make your own. This could be the kitchen, the basement or your dining room table.
If you live with other people, make sure they’re aware that when you’re in your workspace, you are not to be pestered.
5. You may get more done when working away from home
If you’re used to working in an office environment, the familiarity of home can make it difficult to focus and crack on with work.
I’m pleased to say that not once in the last fortnight have I found myself watching TV or Netflix when I should really be working. However, I’ve still found myself getting distracted on numerous occasions. Sometimes I’ll innocently wander into the kitchen for something to eat but before I know it I’m having chasing the dog around the garden or rearranging my bookcase in alphabetical order.
This has made me realise just how important it is to find somewhere away from home to get things done. The library has become a favourite of mine, closely followed by a huge Wetherspoons in Manchester. I’m a classy bird.
6. All the stationery in the world won’t make you more productive
As tempted as you might be to buy a ton of Instagram-worthy planners and notebooks for your new home office, they’re unlikely to make you any more productive. If anything, they’ll just distract you. It’ll get to lunch time and you’ll feel like you’ve achieved loads when in reality all you’ve done is create a whopping big to do list and used stickers and highlighters to make certain tasks stand out. Keep your workspace clutter free and focus on actually getting stuff done.
Saying that, I do have my own 2016 diary where I jot down the most important tasks for each day ahead.
7. Digital organisational tools will help you tremendously
While I try to avoid going overboard with organisational stationery, tools such as Trello have been invaluable since I started working from home.
Trello is so much easier – and less messy – than your typical to-do list. Plus, if you find yourself collaborating with others, it’s easy to delegate certain tasks and share your progress with one another.
8. Distractions must be avoided
If you find yourself getting distracted by emails, texts and calls, sign out of your inbox and turn off your phone. If your working day runs from 9-3, give yourself 20 minutes to check your phone and email right before lunch, and then switch off again until you finish. If you have a longer working day, give yourself a couple of communication breaks instead.
9. Communicating with others is vital
After working in an office for a long period of time, suddenly spending all day every day at home on your own can make you feel a little isolated. Make time in your schedule to network and collaborate with others. It could be worth joining a business group in your area so you can chat to like-minded people.
10. It’s important to know when to take a break
Set time aside to exercise, learn, and relax. Go for an early morning run or spend an afternoon on your bike. Spend the day at your local library or book a course to develop your skills. And most importantly, be prepared to switch off and take a break from time-to-time.