Working from home sounds like the best thing ever, especially compared to having commute and waste hours of your life in traffic. And, it really is the best thing ever. However, while enjoying this flexibility, freedom, and convenience, you need to remember that you must stay productive. There’s no one there to watch over you so it might be easy to get pulled to the couch for one episode only to realize that you binge watched the day away with Netflix.
Instead, you need to stay focused on your work and maximize that revenue potential that is there for the taking thanks to the growth in available freelance projects. Here are some tips I’ve learned throughout the last 13 years that have helped me stick to my content writing projects while still striking a balance between work and play:
- Make a professional office. My office has a door that closes out the rest of the house and is set away from the noisy areas. It only has things I need to get my work done. While everyone might not have this luxury, try to make the environment as professional as possible to mentally psych yourself out that you are in there to work. The ability to close the door helps keep others out, but it also reminds me to go shut it when I’m done for the day rather than returning continually.
- Get dressed. While this may sound obvious, I did actually work for a PR agency from a home office where my boss often was in her pajamas, robe, and slippers. It was her house and I never questioned it plus it was in the days before video conferences and Skype. For me, though, I would not feel like I was actually working if I didn’t get dressed and do everything else I would do if I had a job outside of the home. It’s part of the mindset and discipline of working from home.
- Train everyone else who lives here. My family is now used to the idea that when I’m in my office or have the door closed, it means do not disturb unless it’s a critical emergency. It took time for them to understand that this is my workplace, which means it’s the same as if I was in another location. This has helped to greatly decrease the interruptions that often make an assignment take longer or that lead to careless mistakes. Whether it is family or roommates, make sure they understand the boundaries of your freelance job from home.
- Create a routine. I stick to the same schedule during the week as I can tied to my kids’ school schedules. Of course, they often have events or games that may mean minor adjustments. However, I sit down to write at the same time every morning and end approximately the same time every night with designated breaks for exercise, errands, and lunch. This helps me ensure I work during set hours based on the number of writing projects.
- Avoid technology distractions. I do not turn the television on during my workday or have one in my office. While I do keep my phone with me at all times, I minimize my use of social media sites where I might get sucked into conversations with friends. I do enjoy music while writing so my iTunes or Pandora accounts get a good workout.
- Use a time tracker. I particularly like the time tracker available from Due.com, an online invoicing service I also use to bill my clients. I can turn it on when I start a project and use it to keep myself focused on completing it in a timely manner. This also helps to gauge how productive I’ve been, how much money I made by being productive, and the rate I need to charge clients that prefer I use an hourly rate versus a word rate.
For more great tips, check out this article from John Rampton about being productive as a stay-at-home freelancer. I learned even more that I’ve now applied to my own freelance career, helping me to get more projects done. That translates into more money and more free time to enjoy the flexibility of the freelance life.