It has been nearly a year and a half now since I left my job and started working for myself at home. My 'office' became the kitchen table and my view was a beautiful garden surrounded in bush and a little view out to sea. I think like most people I started out with the assumption that working from home would be like a permanent holiday. I would set my own hours, spend days in my pyjamas if I felt like it and never spend another early morning crawling through traffic on the motorway. And yes while some of these points are exactly like this, I also discovered that working from home creates a whole new set of hurdles!
Time management is so crucial to your productivity and has to be established from day one. In order to run a smooth operation you need to figure out a few key aspects;
1. Decide when you are most productive. Are you an early riser? Do you prefer to ease your way into the day over a late morning cup of coffee? Or does your mind kick into action once the sun has gone down and everybody else is in bed? The beauty of working from home is that you get to choose your hours, the difficulty is sticking to them!
2. Set your hours. How many hours do you need to work in a day to stay on top of your workload? You may find that you don't need to put in eight hours a day. Often you can be a whole lot more productive in four hours of solid concentrated work than you are in eight distracted hours.
3. Learn how to switch off! This can be really hard to do when your office is just in the next room but for the sake of your sanity you must not blur the lines between work time and home time. Set yourself a time when you switch off your computer, put away your notes and dedicate your attention to friends and family.
Create a space
In order to 'get in the zone' you need to figure out where you work best. Ideally of course you would have a spare room in the house that you could convert into an office. Sometimes though this isn't an option. It didn't take me long to realise that working at the kitchen table wasn't really ideal. I happen to work best when I have a buzz of people and background noise around me. So every now and then I grab my red notebook and head to the local cafe for a coffee and good writing session. The point I am trying to make here is that there are no rules, you just need to figure out what works best for you.
Leave the house everyday
When you work from home it is easy to find yourself spending an entire day (or two) locked up inside, and before you know it you haven't felt the sun on your face or had a real conversation all day. For sanity sake you need to get out of the house at least once a day. Take the dog for a walk, wander down to your local cafe or hit the gym. Not only will that save you from become a socially challenged hermit but you'll find that it refreshes you and does wonders for your productivity.
Social media discipline
Oh has there ever been a better procrastination tool?! Whilst the likes of Facebook, Twitter and blogs are brilliant for marketing and communication, they are also major time leeches. In order to get a handle on this addiction I have found a few things useful;
1. I spend about an hour in the morning whilst having my breakfast catching up on blogs etc. Then I try not to look at them again until I have finished my work in the afternoon.
2. When possible I like to write my drafts with pen and paper so that I am nowhere near my computer!
3. Turn the internet off at the wall if you don't need it! That way you can still work without all that temptation.
Get dressed everyday
Sounds like slightly silly advice I know, but it's so important as part of your daily routine. When you're home alone all day it's easy not to get dressed, brush your hair, wash your face etc. However for many of us it is an important part of signalling the beginning of the work day. This is also another reason why leaving the house once a day is a great idea, because you have to make yourself presentable to the world!
I know it's difficult! Especially when you're a freelancer and not working simply means not being paid. Even YOU deserve a break every now and then though. If you're life is all work and no play then you're eventually going to burn out and be forced to take time off. My suggestion would be to set a little bit of money aside from each job (no matter how big or small) and put it into a holiday fund. You'll be surprised how fast it adds up and before you know it you'll be lying on a beach in Fiji thinking about nothing other than when to have your next swim.
Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life
I hope that was a little bit helpful to anybody starting out or thinking about working from home.