By Catherine Lang-Cline
In brief, my career has consisted of working for a company, freelance, working for a company, freelance, working for a company, freelance, etc. While I was self-employed as a freelancer and even when we started our business, there were a few rules that had to be followed as far as setting up shop at home. These were put in place to make sure that I/we developed great work-from-home habits that turned into real business behavior.
Here are the 5 top things that worked:
Get dressed for work. You can keep it casual, but get dressed. No successful business person stayed in their pajamas all day. Getting dressed means that you have a purpose, you are ready for anything! While you are at it, make your bed, too.
Have an “open-for-business” start time. Pick a time that you think you will be ready to work and stick with it. In the beginning, I showed up at my business partner’s house at 9 AM, dressed and ready to work. Every day. Then do your best to work a “full day.” Time will go faster than you think, so when start time arrives, get to work!
Have a dedicated work space, separate from distraction. When working from home I have tried working at the kitchen counter but within my view was the television, the laundry room, and food! Just one show, one snack, or maybe throwing in that laundry slowly chips away at the time. Once I set up a desk in the guest bedroom did I actually stay in there for hours and conquered all of my tasks. If you don’t have a guest room that is okay, just set up a workspace that is void of or not facing any distractions. Also, try not to let your work take over your entire house. If possible, keep the work in the workspace. (I will admit when we started our business it did take up a lot of my business partner’s house...but she had a lot of space to do so.)
Set up a daily or weekly schedule of when you will work on things. A calendar on your computer is perfect to plan and set up reminders. Set aside times to work, set aside time to send out invoices, deposit checks, do some marketing, and of course, sales and networking. Map it all out and stick to it! If you need to save some time for working out or running errands, do so. This schedule is meant to be flexible and make time for you but also cover all of the basics of business. You will be surprised how quickly invoices can back up if it is not scheduled and you want to keep that cash flow coming in.
Have a stop time. Since work and home have now become one you need to be able to separate the two as well. You might find yourself working well into the night because you conveniently live at your office now. “I can get just one more thing done.” This may work for a few days when chasing a deadline, but you really need to unplug and refresh at the end of every day. Again, this is business, be aggressive, work hard, but know when you are done for the day.
The overall idea here is disciplining yourself in your “new” surroundings. Up to this point you have just lived in your house. It has been a place of safety, comfort, and rest. Working from home changes that overall feel and it does take some time to get into a rhythm. You can do it and you can enjoy the flexibility that you have worked so hard for.