I used to be glad I am a freelance writer, and work from home. That is no longer so novel any more – not after the coming of COVID.
Earlier, my friends used to say that I didn’t really work, but was skiving all the time – going to the gym, meeting people for coffee, lazing in the park with my laptop nearby. I’d laugh it off. In reality, I have a schedule, like being in the office. Actually it is the office; it is just ten seconds commute away from my bedroom. I am at my desk from about 8 am five days a week. Now it certainly is true that I often try to finish by about three or four, then go swimming or exercising. If I have too much work to complete, then those options are out.
Without such discipline I would have difficulty making a living as a freelancer. I love it, and I do have freedom to do things regular office workers cannot. I do work from the park when the weather is good. I have taken working breaks, toiling at my job from my hotel in the morning, then being at leisure the rest of the day.
If you have a family, then that goes double: You need a dedicated office in your home, where your spouse, children, grandchildren and others know not to tread while you are working. Probably the cat should also be banned – if it has that tendency to tromp all over your keyboard.
Uncertainty is part of freelancer life. I have built up a group of regular clients who are always giving me work. These are the backbone of my business. The bread-and-butter, if you like. Other clients, who come and go, are the jam on top.
Unfortunately there is the downside to self-regulated work – I follow Twitter threads, or read newspapers online. When deadlines loom, I fix things around the apartment until panic overcomes inertia and I type frantically to file the article in the last five minutes available.
Here are some tips I have picked up:
- Keep regular hours
- Reward yourself with breaks when you complete something
- Prioritize tasks – most important first
- Make a list of tomorrow’s things to do: tick them off
- Have an admin and marketing day
To repeat, freelancers need to do their admin, in particular, ensure that invoices are being paid. I try to put some marketing in my schedule each week, as it is important to find new clients. That goes double for now, as some businesses are cutting back on their budgets in these difficult times.
The importance of work-from-home networking
Zoom and Skype have become much more important ways of keeping in touch with clients and holding meetings in this “work from home” life. That calls for good equipment and bandwidth. I have noticed how people in rural areas drop out or freeze when we are online. Some people use a headset for speaking and hearing clarity, which may be important. It is best to opt for decent quality over the cheapest option.
Take breaks. After I have finished a piece of writing, it is nice to have tea and biscuits, and do a bit of online gabbing before getting on with the next assignment. Likewise, exercise. I do like to go on walks, to the gym and to swim. Otherwise you can end up spending the whole day in one chair – that is a recipe for a bad back at the least, with the promise of more serious health complications later.
Working at home requires discipline. That really is the bottom line. Whatever you are doing, you need to be able to focus on it and not be distracted by all the many things that can stop you working. I cannot say I have fully mastered it, as the lure of computer games or my herb garden are well-nigh irresistible at times, but most of the time I am a happy, satisfied home worker.
Not everything is bliss with the WFH life, check out this story on Work-From-Home Woes