As a freelancer or remote worker, your options of workplaces are nearly endless. Many find it helpful to have a hub—the place you typically work—for consistency and routine. We’ve found that most freelancers (at least in our community) like to work from home.
The great thing about working from home aside from being comfortable and avoiding a commute is accomplishing otherwise inconvenient tasks and chores during your scheduled breaks. Need a break? Go for a run and shower, do your laundry, tackle your dishes, read in a quiet place. All things that working from the comfort of your own home allows.
To work from home and be effective, it’s crucial to set boundaries and process to avoid distraction or misaligned priorities. Here are several ways to make the most of working from home from our own experiences, research and tips from the Peep community.
1) Set up a comfortable workspace
It’s crazy what a difference a comfortable chair and workspace tailored to maximizing your personal productivity can make. This can be difficult in large cities with small apartments and housing—trust us, we know, but it’s possible.
If you don’t have an entire room with a door to call your office, claim a corner and equip it with your necessities and things that make you feel productive. This could be a calendar, an inspiration board, a plant or maybe just a clean workspace. Most importantly, make sure that you’re cut off from any potential distractions—dishes, messes, TV, people, etc.
Peep Valerie Stimac said, “Create spaces for work, and spaces for non-work (such as a desk for work and the bed for non-work). Boundaries on the physical space—even if invisible—help get you in the mood to work when you need to, and also give you a break from work when you need to escape.”
We really love how Peep Danielle Devereux set up her home office. She also said to “always have a record spinning.” 🙂
Peep David Hathaway added, “A home office provides the unique opportunity to create one’s work sanctuary, a place where the lines of home life, inspiration and creativity blur into one existence. Surround yourself with words of inspiration.” This is on his wall:
Other important elements to control (and you have the power to because you’re home!) are temperature, music or sound and lighting. Peep Dinah Russell suggests placing yourself near a source of natural light. She says, “Not only will you save a bit of energy, but the natural light helps prevent you from staring only at the screen light all day (and if it’s a window, it’s an excellent way to shift your gaze every so often and avoid headaches).”
Peep Dusti Arab says that plants make all the difference. “Plants! Seriously, go to to Trader Joe’s, pick up some fresh flowers and a couple of nice potted plants. The research shows you work better, and isn’t it lovely to have something green around?”
Shelley Webb agreed: “A feng shui tip: Face your desk so that you are behind it facing them as people walk through the door (even if clients don’t meet you there). Always have fresh flowers in view.”
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2) Create a routine
Research points to creating habits and a routine for maximum productivity. This especially holds true for freelancing and working from home.
We’re not going to tell you when to wake up or whether you should be a morning person or a night owl. As our friends a Zapier pointed out, everyone has different circadian rhythms. The trick is to find what works for you and stick with it daily.
When we looked at the daily routines of some of today’s most influential creatives, there was one commonality: they take their routines very seriously. Whether it’s writing down their dreams, walking their dogs, writing in the mornings and emailing in the afternoons or assigning certain days for meetings and others for desk work, they stick to them. For Peep Aray Montalvan-Till, her life changer was getting out of the PJ’s and physically getting out of the house for coffee or breakfast to start her day.
Research shows that it takes three weeks (21 days) to make or break a habit. After experimenting with a few routines to see which feels right for you, try it out for a month. It will become second nature before you know it.
3) Get intimate with your to-do list
You likely already use to-do lists, as they are handy in any environment. The trick to making an effective to-do list when working at home is to keep it simple and obtainable. It’s also most effective to make a new list daily to start the day fresh with a clear vision of what you need to accomplish.
Peep Raphaelle Heaf said, “Set out a list of what you need to achieve each day (in whichever app or note form works for you). Even if the tasks are repetitive, such as emailing new clients or updating your own site. It’s a great feeling to check it off and know you’re accomplishing what you need to.”
Amanda Thames goes a step further: “I took home a tip from my corporate job and started managing client info and tasks in a CRM. It even syncs with Evernote, QuickBooks and Google calendars! Tasks and notifications keep me on top of important deliverables. This organization of all digital elements gives me the feeling that I’m still in a professional, organized setting.”
4) Take breaks
Dedicated time for focusing and time for breaks within your daily routine. The Pomodoro Technique is an effective approach to this. Set a timer to get a certain amount of work done (let’s say 40 minutes) and work only on that task, take a ten-minute break, work for another focused time lot and repeat. It’s a simple and highly effective way to get through your to-do list.
Peep Brian Lenny says, “Don’t just sit there and look at the screen for eight to ten hours straight. Work in two to three-hour chunks, and take a break. Go somewhere else, move to a different room in the house, go for a walk around the block, whatever. When you split up your work and take breaks, it allows for your mind to rejuvenate so that when you come back to your workstation you’re ready to rock with a fresh perspective, and a rested mind.”
Don’t hesitate to take advantage of working from home either. If you can do a chore within your break time, go ahead and do it. The more you can totally relax on your off time, the more you’ll avoid potential burnout. By getting chores done during your breaks, you’ll find yourself with a lot more enjoyable time on your hands.
Rachel Medanic added, “While you are working all day by computer, phone or chat, the house often stays dirty. I’ve also found that when I’m deep in thought and need to work through challenges mentally first, I do give myself mental breaks by moving laundry to the dryer or doing the dishes. Being creative, working hard and taking care of yourself all at the same time sometimes requires a break that physical chores often provide. Physically doing things away from the keyboard helps my mind process. When you work at home, your home tells the story and shares evidence about your mental journey.”
5) Take advantage of the opportunity to be healthy
There’s upsides and downsides to working from home when it comes to your health. Yes, you’re tempted by the kitchen being a few steps away, but that can be a good thing if you stock it with healthy snacks. Peep Krista Gray says, “Take advantage of the opportunity to prepare healthy foods and time to take snack breaks throughout the day. Don’t let those energy levels drop!”
Kat Loughrey says, ”I make sure I never eat at my desk too and always separate myself to my kitchen table or go out for lunch to give a sense of a true break. One of the perks of working from home is that you can cook great meals and I find cooking an excellent activity to do as a way to use your brain differently. Plus it’s amazing when you can make a soup at lunchtime so at night, you have a fab dinner ready and waiting for you!”
6) Decide to enjoy solitude, but make time for people
Like anything else, enjoying the solitude of working from home (assuming you’re alone) is a decision. Geoffrey James who’s been working at home for ten years made a great point in this Inc. article, “Working at home means spending many hours each day with only yourself for company. Since that’s the case, you might as well decide to enjoy it.”
You can still make time for other people. If you have an ounce of extrovert in you, you’re going to want to. Remember, one of the biggest benefits to freelancing is flexibility. Make time to have coffee with a friend at least once a week. Or schedule a coworking or fitness date. Another awesome benefit of freelance and WFH is taking advantage of mid-day gym or studio classes that allow for interaction but without the rush of post-work hours.
Raphaelle added, “Working from home can feel lonely and you can end up working yourself into a silo. Remember to network and go out for a coffee, or tea. If things are quiet take some time to pop out for an afternoon or take part in work group meet ups. They’ll not only help you stay sane and happy but might lead to your next work opportunity.”
7) Find your tribe
Connecting with people online can be beneficial to your freelance or remote work career. Online communities are great for swapping questions and tips and eliminating any feelings of aloneness. By finding your tribe, you create opportunities for conversation during your breaks or off-work hours. Or on work hours if you want. 🙂
Chat with your tribe about client work, business advice, productivity tips, your new favorite band or the latest episode of Game Of Thrones. Think of it as a digital watercooler, but without the awkward feeling of being stuck there. You can “walk away” and come back anytime!
Peep Krystal Douglas said, “Working from home gives you the control over workplace distractions, but it can also isolate you from participating in conversations with real humans. Slack keeps me social, which is something many don’t often think about.”
If Facebook groups are more your thing, ours is super active and filled with interesting conversations on anything from whitehat SEO tactics to how to set up an LLC and beyond. We’ve also enjoyed being a part of the Freelance to Freedom Project community, Dreamers and Doers and The Fetchers (our sister community).
8) Set boundaries
It’s crucial to set boundaries with yourself and your loved ones when working from home. Have set times for when you’re working and when you’re available for friends, family and social events. If you’re in a relationship or have roommates, the person who works at home tends to bear the grunt of home responsibilities.
If these things are not a bother to you and don’t interrupt your day, then great! But try not to morph them into excuses to not get work done. You do have a job just like everyone else does, just with more flexibility. Try planning your week out over the weekend and coordinating with your loved ones or roommates on when you’re available vs. when you’re not. That will create concrete boundaries so you can stick to your routine.
It may take some time for family and friends to understand the boundaries that you set, but it will happen. According to The Atlantic, researchers noted that if people work remotely for more than a year, these conflicts seem to decrease as families settle into a routine.
Hang in there
Just like moving offices, working from home is an adjustment. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a while to get into the groove of things, it will happen. Be persistent with yourself and experiment and iterate just as you would with any other strategy! Peep Ashton Wright suggests “Create short-term & long-term work and personal goals. Then watch your visions come to life for yourself and your clients!”
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