Working from home : ten tips

Many people starting out work from home in the first instance. Possibly the greatest benefit is being able to achieve the perfect work-life balance, as well as earning a living.

Freelancers often start out working from home, for a variety of reasons. Some believe home will be a better working environment or are going it alone to run a small lifestyle business. Other freelancers either work from home to keep overheads as low as possible, dividing their time between the home office and the client's site.

Here are a few recommendations for making the most of working from home:

WORKSPACE

Make sure that you have a separate area for working. Install a separate phone line for business use. Ask the rest of your family to respect that you are trying to make some money while you are in the office. A separate area should be sacred so you are still able to walk away at the end of the day and switch off. Some people have found this particularly hard. In an office environment you walk away and forget about it, at home there's always the temptation to do a little bit more before you go to bed. We, therefore, recommend that you get up and still ‘go to work’ and walk away at the end of the day.

GET ORGANIZED

Invest in filing and online organisation systems for your home office to help reduce time spent on admin. It will also feel more like an office and you are then less likely to drift into doing non-work tasks during your work hours.

SUPPORT NETWORK

As more and more people freelance and work from home it's likely you'll meet others in the same boat. Since you are now away from the office network you're now missing those social perks, new contacts like these can be a good sounding board. You can also join Freelance Alliance to network with people in the same field as you.

WORKING HOURS

Firstly work around the hours when you work best as far as possible. If you are more alert at night there is no point in starting at 7.30am. You will need to take into consideration when your clients need to be able to get hold of you. Make the most of the flexibility that you have and make sure you take breaks to keep yourself refreshed.

TIME OUT

Those living and working on their own especially need to plan time away from the desk as contact by email and phone is a lonely experience. Ensure you break up the week with meetings or time spent at your clients' sites, lunches, conferences etc. Do something at the end of each day that you associate with switching off. Go for a walk or read the paper to replace the drive home which used to be your switch off time for instance.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE

Make a list of everything that is important to you, from your goals, your family, friends, gym to walking the dog, in order of priority. Allocate time each week in line with that priority and stick to it.

HAVE A DAILY ROUTINE

Make a list of things that need to do every day from calling new prospects to having a cup of tea at 10.30 and answering emails. It will make sure you don't overlook them. Minimise disruptions and don’t make a habit of doing non-work-related tasks during work hours, and don't encourage friends to drop by on a regular basis during working hours.

PLANNING AND LISTS

When you first start working from home it can be very difficult to stay motivated and focused. A tip to stay focused if to yourself a task, break it down into manageable chunks. So you'll aim to have this bit done by 10 am, the rest by lunchtime. That way, if you work fast, you can reward yourself with breaks.

If you get de-motivated have a ‘procrastination list’ and keep adding to it. The idea is to identify times when you are most likely to be productive at certain tasks. The list should form a pattern of what you consider more ominous at the top and less problematic further down. What you don't feel like tackling today, you may well feel like tackling another day. Therefore, helping you to understand which tasks are best done on which days. Also, list your achievements. So for every task still to do, here's one you've already done well.

FAMILY

If you are working with kids or family at home be open as to what's expected of each other for example, a team approach. One suggestion is to use one calendar for work and family and different colours for important activities, so all understand when hard work has to be put in to take time out for those activities.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY

Last but not least, have fun. Allow some time for doing the things you enjoy during the week. All work and no play is never good for anybody.

More on working from home as a freelancer.

                             

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