I’ve only recently gone freelance but I’ve had a lot of experience of working from home before, to varying degrees of success, here are a few somewhat obvious lessons that took a while to learn:
1. Plan Your Time Well
This sounds so obvious but it really does make the difference between a productive day and one spent wondering where all the time has gone. Think about when you are most productive and when you are the most switched on – this could be different for you, in the morning and late at night are my best times, but I’m still fairly productive in the afternoon. I like to write a to do list for the day and prioritise – if there are things that can be done very quickly do straight away to get them crossed off, tackle those difficult or most daunting tasks next, then move onto the easier tasks last or when your brain is less productive
2. Turn Off The Pings
Another obvious one, and yet it often gets forgotten. Allocate times to check email, social media, text messages and so on. This sounds easy enough, but what if you, like me, need to work on social media? It’s not so easy. When I have to do this I set myself deadlines such as ‘I need to contact x people and set up an ad, do some posts, I’ll give myself an hour’, this way keeping an eye on the time means that I won’t let myself get dragged into non-work related social media surfing and chatting. I still do those things, but I set myself times. But do whatever suits you best.
3. Have Some Time Away From The Screen
You won’t be working at your best if you’re glued to the screen for 10 hours, and it’s probably not too good for your eyesight either! Plan a meeting at a coffee shop near by, or break to go for a walk or run. Make sure you get some fresh air every day rather than holing up like some crazy old hermit.
4. Clear Your Inbox
I hear people talk about this a lot and it’s a daunting task for many of us but definitely a cleansing experience that I highly recommend. Set up folders for regular clients or types of work, for example I have folders such as:
- Client 1
- Client 2
- Music reviews
- Social Enterprise
- Events PR
No need to go overboard, just make sure that wherever you move your email to is exactly where you would expect to find it. And don’t keep pointless acknowledgment emails like ‘thanks’, ‘see you soon’. Or emails that are really, really old, choose a cut-off date and delete everything before that date, save contacts then you don’t need to keep an email to reply. That feeling of only having a day’s emails to go through is pretty awesome yes you will have to move some into a client’s folder to deal with later but at least you’ll know what’s what!
5. Say No Sometimes
Whether you’re just hard-working, a sociable type, someone who enjoys experiencing culture or maybe even just a friendly freelancer who wants to build and maintain relationships sometimes it can be hard to say no.
Just remember this, you can’t do EVERYTHING. It took me a long time to realise you’re never going to keep everyone happy, and everyone’s time is precious, use yours for what is best for you.
With meetings, seminars and so on, think about how much you will get out of it and what will you be contributing? Yes sometimes you will have to make sacrifices and put in more than you get out and that’s lovely, but sometimes you have to look at your workload and think about what you can realistically do. Make good use of Skype when you’re short on time.
Similarly with social occasions, you can’t be everywhere. For example, I freelance in PR, Events and Journalism in the week, I need to keep a clear head, so I don’t go out socially on weeknights very often. I DJ at the weekend and will be out late anyway so tend to keep my Saturdays for social catch-ups, and my Sundays for shopping, housework and more social stuff. I know I won’t be on top form to get really stuck into some in-depth work if I’ve been DJing late the night before. If something comes up in the week that I really want to attend then I have to shuffle things around a bit. If I’m ahead on work then I might treat myself with a mid-week gig or cinema trip.
6. Don’t Drink Too Much Coffee
When you’re working from home the temptation can be just to keep guzzling coffee from 8am until midnight. This is not a good idea, try to keep it to a minimum. I try to not drink coffee unless I go out for a meeting or I’m really flagging mid afternoon. Too much caffeine causes anxiety, jitters, rambling thought and speech, not to mention heart palpitations oh and you keep having to urinate.
Not conducive to a productive working environment or state of mind.
7. Make Your ‘Office’ A Nice Place To Work
Wherever you work, whether it’s from your bedroom desk or on the kitchen table, keep the space tidy and organised. And if you do use the kitchen table, remember to clear it before your partner/flat mate gets home, no one wants to come home to make their dinner and find their kitchen has been turned into your office.
Make sure it’s light and you don’t feel boxed in or that it seems a dreary space to work in. Think of those times you’ve moaned about the state of an office you worked in before, well now you’re in charge, make it good.
I like to mix it up, in the daytime I work in the kitchen where it’s bright and airy, then in the evening I move to my bedroom desk. Sometimes it’s nice to have a complete change of scenery and go to a local cafe, as long as it’s not too noisy of course!
8. Get Dressed
Right so you’ve set your alarm, got up, now do exactly what you would’ve done before going into a ‘regular’ job. Jump in the shower, get dressed, go to work. It’s a psychological thing but I know I feel more awake when I’ve had a shower and got dressed. Plus you don’t get that embarrassing moment when you get a delivery at 3pm and realise you’re still in your PJs with your hair stuck to one side of your face…
If you like being a freelancer and being your own boss then you need to work hard to make sure things stay that way. Whatever hours you have been contracted to need to be adhered to and client expectations managed. If you have agreed to deliver some work by a certain date then stick to that, only stray from agreed timings for very good reasons that you have made your client aware of so there are no nasty surprises. Communicate with your co-workers and clients in a friendly manner once the contract has been set up, after all you’re missing out on the chit-chat in the kitchen at the office now so you’ll benefit from the interaction as well as maintaining a nice working relationship.
10. Reward Yourself
Don’t let yourself get bored, take a mix of work to keep things fresh, do things that pay the bills as well as those you just do for enjoyment. If you’re just working on one client (or even if you’re not), reward yourself after a hard day’s work. As a freelancer there will be times you have to work day and night, but when you’re doing well take a break, watch your favourite tv programme, pop out to see friends or just do something nice for yourself. It sounds silly but the next day you’ll be even more motivated. As you are your own boss then you may as well be a good one.