Whether you’ve been moonlighting as a creative professional a few days a week or you’re brand-new to the home office routine, working from home can be a struggle. Even seasoned professionals take a few months or even years to get into the groove. Here’s what you need to know about bringing your best when running a business from your abode.
Go lean at first
There’s a lot of money to be made selling things to freelancers, and there’s nothing wrong with an industry that equips small businesses to do their very best. But for the first-timer, it pays to spend slowly and get only what you need.
You probably already have many of the gadgets you need to transition from an in-office routine to your home workstation. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, and accessories are the usual suspects that you won’t have to invest in right away.
What about all those professional chat apps and project management dashboards? Try out any new “must-have” software on a trial basis and then decide if it’s worth the cost.
The tools most freelancers rely on are easily integrated at a moment’s notice and can be bought on the spot once you need them. Be careful buying something just because an influencer says it’s the best. While some enterprise-level services are worth the buzz, not everything marketed to independent contractors is truly appropriate for their minimal needs.
Try, then buy, using month-to-month pricing plans until you can make a commitment.
Follow your body’s lead
Among all of the working-from-home tips we can offer, this one will be the most personal. We all have our natural cycles and energy levels, and there are a few hours every day when we will be at peak efficiency.
Do you know when that time of day is? If so, utilize it to crush those most pressing work tasks and set some momentum to get you through the rest of your work with ease.
For some, this may be at night, when the rest of the world is sleeping. For others, it’s right after your 5 a.m. sprint on the treadmill.
We won’t judge, because everyone is different. As long as your work isn’t dependent on being at your desk at any specific time, you can use this hack to overcome those business chores that need your best focus and attention.
Have virtual office hours
Once you’ve mastered following your body’s lead, you may end up with emails going out at 2 a.m. on a Sunday. While it’s totally OK to work at this time, you still want to present some professional boundaries to clients and colleagues so they know to respect your downtime.
Block off time in your calendar app to demonstrate your true office hours, and stick to only appearing “open” during those times. Use email scheduling tools to hold your midnight email drafts until the next morning. The last thing you need is a client calling you in the middle of the night because you led them to believe that you’re always available.
Keep those boundaries
While we’re discussing boundaries, did we mention how important it is to have them? Of all the tips for working remotely, this one cannot be stressed enough. Work-at-home professionals frequently deal with these issues:
- Friends not taking your business seriously and scheduling social events for when you work
- Family asking for favors, such as babysitting or petsitting during your work hours
- Clients thinking they’re your only client and have unlimited availability
- Children and spouses not giving you quiet time for calls or online meetings
Working from home can be extremely challenging for people with poor boundaries. That’s why you should decide from day one what you need to be successful and write these asks down. You can rank them in order of feasibility, with the easiest at the top.
Communicate to your friends, family, and clients your rules for work, starting with the easy asks and integrating the harder ones if and when they can be done.
(Real talk: Telling your partner that you can’t even talk to the children from 9 to 5 isn’t a realistic ask; saying that from 1–3 p.m., Mommy will be doing client calls and please don’t knock on the door, is more realistic.)
Use off-site resources when necessary
With all the flexibility that comes with working from home, it’s still sometimes necessary to get out of the house. Whether you travel to industry events or need to meet a client for coffee, it’s essential that you plan how you’ll handle working outside of the home office.
During special times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, getting out isn’t what it used to be. It’s still nice to take your work to a different location to get a fresh perspective or some distance while you take client calls or work on a difficult sales pitch.
Working in a car, the garage, or the garden are all easy ways to break up the monotony and get out of your stuffy office.
Consider it your version of an “off-site event.” Bring cake, if it helps.
Seek support groups with care
There’s no better time to work from home, and there are so many freelancing peers to gain inspiration from. From Facebook groups to forums to Twitter, if you’ve got a business dilemma to solve, there’s likely an online colleague who can help.
Unfortunately, having access to a growing network of like-minded professionals can lead you down a rabbit hole of snipe sessions, envy, and discouragement. It can be hard not to see what others are doing and want their successes for yourself.
There’s also quite a bit of frittering happening in these groups. Avoid this by using them with a laser-sharp focus; come to get your questions answered, help out when you can, and use healthy boundaries to avoid falling into the trap of wasted time.
Whether you’re a creative, a marketing pro, or have the next best app for kids, working from home can be very rewarding—provided you do it right. Perhaps the best advice we can give you is to be kind to yourself.
Don’t see your failures as an end, since improving on our processes takes time and many, many attempts. You’ll make mistakes and recover; that’s how we as business owners (and as people) learn and grow.
Linsey Knerl is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech and finance solutions.