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Up until recently, I like many was juggling part-time freelancing and part-time design/photography. The client base wasn’t there and I didn’t have the confidence to make a proper jump to full-time freelancing. However, there are plenty of clients and opportunities in Edmonton and abroad; projects kept coming in, clients kept growing and eventually it made sense to make the leap and go full-time.
With going full-time, Andy & I decided that working from home would be best. No office rent overhead meant it would be easier on us, and lower overhead means a cost savings for our clients too! But working from home, despite what my friends might tell you, isn’t all Call of Duty, pajamas and getting up at noon. Nope – in fact, it takes a lot of discipline both to work from home efficiently and to not let your work consume your life. Thus, I bring to you 6 Tips for Working from Home – hit the jump for some great practical info!
You’ve heard it a million times, and that’s because it’s the single most important part. Make a schedule and stick to it. This differentiates “work time” from weekends or off-time, and helps you keep track of how much work you’re actually doing in a day. For example, our basic schedule is as follows:
7AM – rise & shine!
8AM – at the computer and at work.
Noon – lunch.
1PM – back to work.
5PM – shut it down.
We have your pretty basic work day, but it really helps to set that schedule out. Of course, if something needs to get done during the day that doesn’t involve work, we’ll go do it. If a client absolutely needs us to work past 5pm, we will do it. But more or less, we stick to the above schedule.
There is a big psychological part to working effectively at home, for me anyways. I need to feel like I’m at work – like I’m supposed to be doing work. If I feel that way, then I will work effectively. Part of that is “dressing the part”. Now, I don’t mean rocking a suit while you sit and design a logo or website – that’d be silly. What I mean is don’t just wear pajamas and not shower. Odd to say, I know, but I hear the question “So do you just wear pajamas?” ALL the time.
Admittedly, if I have a cold that normally would have put me out of commission, but some extraneous circumstance is making me work, perhaps I’ll wear sweatpants or something. But that instance aside, I get up, shower, and put on decent clothes that I a) feel comfortable in, and b) that I could go to a short-notice client meeting in (usually that involves a nice pair of jeans, and some sort of shirt/cardigan or plaid shirt). It’s practical and dressing the part reminds me that I’m here to work, not sit in my pajamas and look at LOLcats all day.
A big part of working from home, and enjoying working from home, is being able to “quit” work at the end of the day. When you work at an office, it’s easy to go home and forget about work. But when your work is beside your kitchen, like in my case, it’s a little more difficult. Thus, it helps a lot to be able to have ways to “quit” work so you don’t find yourself on the phone or emailing at 9pm.
One great way to do this is to get a business phone line. Now I know nobody likes additional costs, but you don’t need to have a guy come in and install an actual, physical phone line. Chances are your landline provider offers something like a SmartRing service. Ours does, and essentially what this means is that we can have two separate phone numbers with different ring tones on the same line. So we give out one line for business (which has a double-ring, pause sound) and we have another number – same line – for personal (your standard ring).
A few reasons why this is great:
a) it’s cheap.
b) it looks more professional than having your home number as your listed business number
c) you know immediately, thanks to the ring tone, if it’s a business or personal call, and because of that,
d) you can stop answering business calls after a set time.
Andy and I made a decision to stop answering the business phone after 6pm, unless there is an explicit reason why a client might be calling. This helps us separate work & home, which is important to us.
Yes, this is important because you don’t want an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org on your business cards – but it’s another way to separate your work & personal life. If you use the same address for everything, there’s no separation. You’ll be checking your email on weekends and see a request for a quote – chances are that’ll be on your mind or you’ll be working on it that weekend.
Part of working from home effectively is not burning out, and not having time away from work will burn you out. So get a business email. Another tip – have it forward to a different account. Nobody likes the web host’s webmail interface – it’s always terrible – so we have ours forwarding to an easier client (be it Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook or Mac mail). But if you have it forwarding to your personal email, you’re back in the same boat I mentioned above.
The way I combat this is to use Yahoo for my personal mail, and have my business mail forward to my Mac mail program. This is great for two reasons: it separates personal & business, and I can quit Mac mail as a program at the end of the day/week, leaving me free to do my personal work on the computer without seeing work-related emails popping up until I want to see them.
Yes, an important part of working from home is actually leaving your house sometimes. I have to be very conscious of this, myself, because I can be somewhat of a homebody. But leaving your house provides you with a number of benefits, including:
a) the opportunity to find local business clients
b) fresh air!
c) thwarting of cabin fever
If you become a serious homebody, your home-based business will suffer. We all poke fun at the standard office setting, but the truth is that having other people around provides opportunities for brainstorming, inspiration and the like. So make an effort to get outside & meet clients for lunch; meet friends for a post-work drink; or just go for a walk. It’ll help.
This is the most fun part of working from home – you can make it the space you’ve always wanted to work in. Love to work with an epic Hans Zimmer score playing in the background at 100dB? Do it up! Always felt the need to have a Ricky Martin Miley Cyrus Scarface poster for inspiration? Hang it up. The point here is, working from home IS fun. Sure, you have to be aware of certain issues and it’s important to find ways to work effectively, like I’ve mentioned above. But you got out of that office and cubicle for a reason, so enjoy it.
Me, I enjoy working with some instrumental music in the background (be it mellow like the Album Leaf or more aggressive like Pelican) in a nice, well-lit working space with my two cats running around like idiots.
So there you have it – 6 Tips for Working from Home. Hopefully the practical ones are ones you can put to use, and the others will get you thinking. Hope you enjoyed!