How To Become A Work-From-Home Master
Working from home - both the bane and benefit of every freelancer’s existence. You love the thought of it but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It actually takes discipline and establishing routine to make working from home the productive lifestyle you swore you’d lead when you took on self-employment.
I remember during my first year I got into this swing of waking up, heading straight to the couch and working from my laptop while watching SVU reruns because I told myself I needed background noise. Needless to say I wasn’t very productive and I was pretty gross; often losing track of time and not realizing I hadn’t brushed my teeth or put on deodorant until well into the afternoon.
After getting through season five of SVU I realized I did not like the person I was enabling myself to be and needed to make some real changes to feel more balanced, less lazy and a lot more productive. I also needed a shower.
Fast forward to now, five years later and working from home still presents its challenges but I’ve set some rules in place for myself that help make everyday a productive one.
Here are my tips for becoming a work-from-home master.
Create A Dedicated Work Space
Find a place in your home that you can dedicate to work. This will be different for everyone and while I highly encourage having a desk, a dining room table or breakfast bar are great substitutes.
I don’t recommend your workspace be on your couch or on anything where you can recline. While I love being on my laptop and having my feet up on my couch, I am never as productive as I am when I’m sitting upright.
When choosing a space for work in your home, try to find an area that has the following:
Away from household distractions (dirty dishes in the sink, children’s toys on the floor, etc.)
It’s important your work-from-home space be an area where you can actually separate yourself mentally from everything else you use and enjoy your home for.
I use our third bedroom as my home office and do my best to put up blinders when walking around the house for things like lunch or answering the door for Amazon; because your girl has obsessive tendencies and can’t stand it when there’s a dish in the sink just begging to be put in the dishwasher!
But if I tend to that dish then I tend to wipe down the sink and clean out the refrigerator and then start a load of laundry and start writing out a grocery list… The point is: If I see something that needs to be done, I do it and that’s a big obstacle for me because it often leads to creating distraction instead of staying focused and productive on WERK.
Find a space that you can check-in for work and -out for everything you’d typically do while at home.
Set Office Hours
As a freelancer, it’s incredibly important to have office hours. Not only to manage client expectations but to give yourself structure.
Many people think having structure is impossible when you’re self-employed but that’s just not true. The beauty of freelancing is that you’re in control. Don’t forget to remind yourself of that every once in awhile.
Setting office hours should empower you to develop a routine for yourself like you typically would if you had a 9-to-5 office job. You’d wake up in the morning, enjoy your morning cup of coffee, maybe squeeze in a yoga class before you get dressed and head to work. The same should be taken into consideration when you work from home.
Establish office hours so you can develop your routine and achieve your version of work-life-balance. Freelance life is supposed to allow you to do all of the things you want to do with your time. Don’t let it create an opposite effect where you convince yourself to always be on and working just because you’re able to do it from the freedom of your own home.
I touched on this a bit earlier but it’s so important to eliminate any distractions from your home that would take you away from getting work done. For me, I need my home to be clean - period. If the home isn’t tidy, I’m not focused.
Other distractions I try to eliminate are:
Mindless social media scrolling: There’s a difference between taking time to engage in social media to benefit your business and spending 20 minutes scrolling through videos of pigs taking a bath. Cut the scroll!
Noise: If noise distracts you (or a lack there of), plug in your noise-canceling headphones or put on some white noise to help you regain focus.
Pets: As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, I have two dogs who are both very needy for attention. They sleep for most of the day but every now and then have a tendency for loudly playing while I’m on client calls. When that happens, or if I think it could happen, I put them in their beds in our master bedroom and shut the door. It’s never for long and it helps calm them down - and helps prevent me from having to apologize to a client for the barking dog in the background.
If you find yourself being distracted by a common theme throughout your days, find a way to eliminate that distraction so you can stay focused and do your best work.
Get Out Of Your PJs
I think it’s pretty ironic that I’m about to tell you to change out of your PJs but truth is, I’m still in mine as I write this. It’s a rainy day in LA and I have nowhere to be but at my desk and it’s a rare occasion where I don’t practice what I preach - AND THAT’S OK!
The point here is that I’m most productive when I’m not in pajamas. Most days I will change out of PJs and into activewear or comfortable denim. I’ll wash my face, brush my teeth and hair, put on some CC cream, deodorant and then get to work.
It’s not a huge effort but it makes a big difference. If you want to be productive and eliminate any doubt from your S.O. that you actually did something of value today when they get home from their 9-to-5, get out of your PJs and get to work.
Talk To Someone
One of the biggest things I didn’t realize about working from home is just how lonely it can be.
You are by yourself all day and unless you have clients who love phone calls, most of your correspondence will primarily be done through email. It’s important to talk to someone; anyone.
Make time to pick up the phone and call a relative or an old friend. Schedule calls with people in your network so you don’t lose your conversation skills.
I realized a change in myself probably around my second or third year of freelancing where I would struggle with conversation because I just wasn’t having any. I’d either talk too long or too fast, have difficulty forming sentences and just felt awkward. This is not me.
I also realized that there would be days when I would only talk to my husband before and after he got home from work and that was a problem I needed to find a solution to.
Now I talk to everyone.
I am not shy when it comes to conversation and make an effort to have a casual chat with just about anybody I come into contact with throughout the day. That’s people I pass by when I’m walking the dogs, the barista at Alfred’s, Anthony who does my nails at Olive & June, Mary who delivers our mail… AN-Y-BOD-Y.
Get Out Of The House
How many of you working from home and reading this typically don’t leave your house during the work week?
I get it.
Your home is your office and your office is your home, but it’s still important to get out of the house every once in a while.
Keep yourself active and engaged with things happening in your community so you can get out of your PJs, talk to somebody and enjoy those office hours! (You like what I did there?)
Sometimes I almost feel guilty for leaving the house. Like that feeling when I’d go to leave work at 5pm and my team would side eye me as I inch towards the door. But the reality is, that mentality is just unhealthy (even if you do work in an office with an actual team) and the only person who can make me feel anything is ME.
It’s important to get outside and break away from work so you can actually stay engaged in work.
When I spend hours on my computer without any breaks my mind becomes fatigued and I become less productive. So I’ll take the dogs for a longer walk, go to a class or take my laptop to the coffee shop down the road and just take in a bit of new scenery to help adjust my internal boss mode.
So if you’re feeling uninspired or having trouble getting anything done, give yourself a break and get out.
I hope these tips have you feeling inspired to create structure for and master your work-from-home freelance life. I went to social media to see what tips our Scope Force community had to share for being productive from home and here are their tips:
“Dedicate a space in your home specifically to get work done. If you’re hanging out in the kitchen or TV room, you’re more likely to get distracted by chores you need to do rather than the work you’re getting paid for. Make that space comfortable and enjoyable since you’re likely to spend a lot of time there.“ - Katie Johnson
“Make sure your goals for the day/week is within viewing distance at all time. Either a notepad or whiteboard works great. Temptations for falling down the youtube hole is minimized when I can see how much needs to get done.“ - Jared Serfozo
“I have to get up and shower to start my day. If I try to work in my PJs I just can’t focus. Chores like dishes or laundry only get done on my lunch break or after ‘business hours’ 👍“ - Jessica Mack
“I love working from home and in my pjs! The fear of failure is all the hustle motivation I need!“ - Brittany Eisenberg
“I always have to change clothes - even if it’s just into another pair of leggings! And my most productive days always start at my desk. It’s like a signal to my brain that it’s work time! 😊” - Carly Elaine
If you’ve got a tip of your own, make sure to share it in the comments.