If you’re making the switch from full-time employee to freelancer, or just starting to work from home more, there are a few things you should be aware of as you prepare to make the transition. As someone who has extensive experience working from home, I can attest that it’s not for everyone. It requires a lot of focus, motivation and self-discipline.
Here are a couple of things you should be mindful of as you prepare to work from home:
1. Set a regular routine for starting and stopping work
Many people fall into the trap of thinking that because they’re working from home, they can take a relaxed approach to their work day. Not having a commute is great, but you can’t get into the habit of merely rolling out of bed and sitting in front of your computer.
What ends up happening is that you have your first cup of coffee when you boot up your computer. Then you have your second and then your third cups. The hours pass and the next thing you know, it’s 2 pm and you haven’t showered, had lunch or gotten up off of the couch.
Office life provides the benefit of a commonly accepted structure. There is a set time to start, to take lunch and to leave for the day. When you’re freelancing and setting your own hours, it’s important that you set a structure for yourself. For example, don’t log in before 9 am, take lunch by 1 pm and don’t stay logged in past 6 pm.
2. Have a dedicated work space
Not having to sit in a cubicle all day is definitely a plus to being a freelancer. I hate to disappoint, but working from home doesn’t mean you get to sit on your couch all day with your computer on your lap. It’ll only take a few days of that set-up for your neck, back and wrists to start aching.
When you’re freelancing and setting your own hours, it’s important that you set a structure for yourself.
Even if you live in a small space, it’s important to carve out a dedicated area to work in. You may not realize it at first, but it is a huge benefit to be able to leave work at work. When you work in an office that typically means leaving work at the office. When you’re out on your own, you still need to have that space, even if it is just a small section at the end of your dining table.
3. Stay focused
When you work in an office, the temptation to check Facebook every 10 minutes or to send Snaps to your friends is a lot easier to resist. You’ve got your boss, colleagues and IT department’s restrictions to help you stay on track.
When you’re working from home, it’s much easier to get – and stay – distracted. To help combat this, set specific breaks for specific activities. For example, give yourself 30 minutes in the morning to check Facebook and 30 minutes in the afternoon to check your text messages. To help yourself stick to these breaks, consider installing software or apps where you can set daily limits on the usual time wasters.
4. Go outside, talk to people
When you’re out on your own, the concept of time tends to be a bit more fluid. You can become so engrossed on a new project that you forget to leave your place. While your dedication to your work is admirable, you need to take a break and get some fresh air.
Not only is Vitamin D good for you, you will also appreciate the break from your work, especially the time away from your computer screen. Make sure you take regular breaks outside of your place. Yes, even when it’s -30 outside. Make plans to see your friends and family, they’ll enjoy seeing you and you get the benefit of keeping your conversation skills sharp.
5. Set pet boundaries
Who doesn’t like being able hang out with their dog or cat all day long? We already know about the merits of having your dog around while you work, but there are some downsides, too.
The biggest issue is the distraction that comes with sharing a space with your pet when you’re trying to get work done. You have to be exceptionally mindful of the distractions when you’re on the phone or a Skype call. Hearing a dog howling in the background, or watching a cat walk across your keyboard may put off a client or potential client.
When you’re working – regardless of the location – you need to be professional. No matter how cute your pet is, you need to be able to work without interruptions from them.