The freelance and home workers guide to productivity
When you talk to friends or acquaintances about working freelance or being home based, you invariably get the same responses. Envy, shortly followed by incredulity that you don’t simply stay in bed and sleep all day/watch TV/play golf.
“I find the ability to work from home whilst wearing my ridiculous giraffe onesie, a particularly liberating experience.”
After working from home for more than 8 year, I rarely get the chance to work from home these days so when I do, I know exactly how to make the most of my time to ensure I am super-productive. My alarm still goes off at roughly the same time, I get up and get dressed and am ready for a full working day well before i’d normally arrive at the office, so straight away i’m off to a head start.
To be honest, it’s now such a rarity that the novelty of working from home these days means I want to make the most of it, and it’s not uncommon for me to be dealing with clients in a highly professional manner (of course) whilst wearing my ridiculous giraffe onesie. By doing this, I have proven my working hypothesis; that liberating your clothing choices helps to spark creativity; I’m not advocating spending all day in your pajamas or fancy dress, but the relaxed dress code afforded by working at home, does in my experience have a very positive effect on my creativity.
Get up and get dressed
Discipline is critical when you are working from home, as is the ability to manage your own time. A lie in is tempting, and of course, one of the benefits of freelance work is that you can do things at a time that works for you, but don’t forget your clients will be up and working, largely between the hours of 9am and 6pm and will expect you to be around then too.
If you work collaboratively, your co-workers who are perhaps office based, will expect you to be accessible during normal working hours too. It might feel like you are on holiday, but you are not. Set the alarm at a decent time, get up, get dressed, grab a coffee and make sure you are ready to go by 9am.
Stay on task and stay focused
Unlike being at the office, when you nip into the kitchen for a coffee, you’ll also notice the washing machine light blinking at you to say its cycle is complete. You’ll notice the crumbs on the work counter, the bin that needs emptying, the rug that need vacuuming. Strike them from your mind (unless you are having a lunch break) and try to ignore them. They are not a priority right now. In general, I will happily do any minor chores in the time it takes for the kettle to boil – anything house related that would take longer simply waits until after 5.30pm.
I read an article recently that suggested having the TV on as company/background noise was a good idea. Not so! TV is designed to grab your attention – don’t do it! If you don’t end up slumped and slack-jawed in front of it, you’ll end up getting drawn in to what is going on, meaning your attention won’t be on your work. The last thing you want is for the quality of work you produce at home to differ from the usual quality of your work.
Build a strong work ethic
Let’s face it, we all have days when we aren’t as productive as we could be. Perhaps we are distracted, creativity is not flowing or we have a problem we need to find a solution to. Don’t beat yourself up over down time. I find I get more done when I work from home and that’s because I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I don’t have colleagues distracting me and I don’t have (as many) clients on the phone demanding my attention and taking my mind off whatever I was in the middle of doing. That said, having worked freelance for so long, I knew that if I wasn’t working, I wasn’t earning – simple as that, and knowing that was always more than sufficient motivation for me to maintain a strong work ethic.
Enjoy the freedom
I’ll often find I’ve done everything I wanted to do well before of 5.30pm or sometimes i’ll take a long lunch and use the time to recharge my brain and get a bit of creative fizz back. If my mind is continually wandering, it generally means I need to take a break and whilst at work you can feel guilty and it is frowned upon to simply take a break when you feel like it, working from home gives you that freedom and is probably what I love most about it.
Even when you do finish at 5.30pm, you get the added benefit of no ghastly commute. There’s an extra hour (or however long your usual commute is) right there that is all yours! It’s amazing what a difference the extra time can have and really helps to influence your work/life balance in a positive way.
Working from home? Watch out for these sneaky productivity zappers!
- Loveable pets are dastardly at thwarting attempts to work and will do all manner of cute and endearing things to drag your attention away from work. A quick few minutes of fussing is fine and a great way to give your brain a quick rest or relieve stress; just don’t let that few minutes of petting turn into playing in the garden or going for a walk – wait until lunch time or after work for that.
- Friends and family are often just the worst at demanding time and attention when you’re working from home. Be strict, don’t let chatty phone-calls distract you and when there is a knock at the door and a friend turns up for coffee make sure you are very clear in letting them know you work from home. Just because you are at home it doesn’t mean you don’t still have to be working.
- TV. Do not turn the tv on, for anything, ever, during work hours.
- Wearing your PJs might be tempting, but isn’t conducive to a professional mindset. Get up, take a shower as usual and get dressed and your head with be in the right place for work. Stay in your PJs and you’ll feel like you have the day off.
- Don’t sign in to any instant chat services. If you use them for work, that’s fine, but make your status ‘busy’ or similar to stop friends popping up wanting to chat.
- Stay away from social media. Again, if you use this for work fine, but don’t even look at your Facebook wall or Twitter stream because you WILL see several things you just have to read and comment on.
- The cup of tea or mid morning 5 minute break can be a real killer of productivity – if you must venture into the kitchen, either ignore the carnage from last nights dinner or set aside time during your usual lunch break to deal with it. Don’t let it draw you in and break your work flow.
Do you work from home regularly? Do you have any tips to share?
Shell Robshaw-Bryan is a marketing consultant at Surefire Media, the Cheshire based web design, eCommerce and marketing company. Shell specialises in organic search, content strategy and social media engagement for both B2C and B2B companies.