Working from Home: Tips from a Longtime Freelancer

I've worked primarily from home for much of my professional career, and I've learned how to cope with the loneliness and lack of structure. Here are some tips to help get you through your stay in place order.

Published On: April 11th, 2020

As much as we may deny it, we all wished for this: More time away from work. The opportunity for the world to “stop” so that we could spend time working on our home, our passion project, and ourselves.

Well, these certainly aren’t the circumstances we hoped for, but that time has come. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, people all over the world are forced to work from home. And while we may have romanticized the idea from the confines of our offices, working from home does come with it’s own unique obstacles. It can be a difficult adjustment for those not used to it, but for freelancers like myself, it has been our way of life for some time now.

Having been in this situation for some time, I’ve experienced and overcome a lot of the most common pitfalls, and have become happy with my work from home regimen. While I know these tips may not work for everyone, I hope they do provide some help adjusting to this new normal.

Structure. Structure. Structure.

My most important piece of advice is to maintain structure in your day. When working from home, it’s easy to sleep in, start at random times, take long breaks, and work on and off throughout the day. This is a recipe for failure as you will increasingly push the boundaries until your days are barely productive at all.

You’ll likely be returning to the same work routine you had before the pandemic, so keep with that routine during it. Wake up at the same time every morning and make sure you’re at your desk at a specific time. Make it like your office routine and you’ll get the most out of it.

Get Dressed

One of the most common responses I get when I tell people I work from home is: “How awesome is it to work in your pajamas!?” And my answer is never to do it. Pajamas are for relaxing and, if you are wearing them, you’re in a mindset of relaxation, not focused productivity. While casual clothes like jeans or shorts are fine, it’s important that you wake up every morning, shower (or get ready in some capacity), and put on clothes that you would be comfortable wearing outside of the house. It’s a small thing, but it really will trigger your mind to start the day on a more alert note.

Have Something Scheduled “First Thing”

Working from home involves setting your own schedule, which can be difficult without in-person oversight. I’ve found success in making sure that each day is begun with an obligation. If you have a phone call scheduled at 9am, you’ll be likely to get ready for it in the same way you would any morning meeting at the office. If you don’t have anything important to do until 2pm, you have more of an excuse to spend the morning in bed.

Interact with People Early

Working from home can be isolating. Even if you have family at home with you, you can’t really discuss the events of the day with them like you could your co-workers. When you’re forced to work away from an office, you realize how much of a social aspect is built into simply being there. So send an email, make a phone call, do a video conference – but make sure you’re interacting with other professionals outside of your home to feel more connected and less lonely. This also lets you see that others are working just like you, which can be a motivator.

Normal Lunch Break – and Don’t Cook!

In my early days of working from home, I developed a habit of cooking elaborate lunches often. I thought it a nice reward to break up the day and saved money by avoiding restaurants. I quickly found out that, if you have a big lunch and put a lot of effort into making it / cleaning up, you’ll be pretty run-down afterwards. You also might eat more than usual (when you cook at home for one, portions tend to be larger) which can lead to a productivity killing stomach ache.

If you want a special lunch, either have it delivered or go pick it up. You’re likely used to an office that has food delivered on occasion or that you have to leave to grab a bite, so this will feel more normal. Again, mimicking your in-office experiences helps convince your brain that you’re in a place of business, not your comfy home where you can spend three hours making a new, intricate, deconstructed veal parmesan recipe you saw Giada De Laurentiis make last night.

Use Free Time Wisely

When working from home, gone are moments lost to chatting with co-workers throughout the day, and you may find that you’re actually done with tasks earlier than you expected. In this case, make sure to use this time wisely. Prior to the pandemic, people often complained that there wasn’t enough time, but the silver lining of this awful situation is that we have time now. Spend it wisely doing the following:

  1. Learn New Skills

    We live in an age of unprecedented digital learning, and many online colleges and learning centers are offering discounts to encourage people to learn from home. Services such as Udemy, CodeAcademy, Khan Academy, and Lynda are good places to learn new skills. Want to advance your career by pursuing a higher education degree? Now is a great time to prepare for the GRE or other entrance exams.

  2. Digital Networking

    In the wake of the pandemic, many conferences, webinars with industry experts, and networking events are now available online. In Rochester, local companies such as Digital Hyve and EagleDream have hosted regular events to maintain engagement with the digital marketing community (and potential clients), while corporations including Adobe and HubSpot promote digital events on their social media pages often. LinkedIn can also be a great resource for learning about digital events, and is a great source for digital networking in general.

  3. Set Yourself Up for Future Success

    As a digital marketer, I constantly hear that business owners simply don’t have time to focus on digital marketing. Now, I’m sure a few of these people were using that as a way of saying they didn’t want to work with me, but, realistically, it is hard to keep up with your website, social media, and SEO when you have a business to run. So use this time to do those things for which you don’t normally have time. Update your website. Plan future social media campaigns so you’re ready to take advantage of the influx of customers when the economy re-opens.

    Do the things that you’ve been meaning to do in order to set yourself up for digital success. One thing we’re seeing during this pandemic is how brands have been able to use digital media to survive, and thrive, during a unprecedentedly difficult time. Now is the time to create a plan for the future so you’re ready when things return to normal. In the wake of this pandemic, the most successful organizations will be those who prepared and adapted, and you want to be part of that.

Do you have any tips for working from home? Send them my way and I’ll mention the best submissions here. And if you’d like to discuss ideas for helping your business survive (and thrive) during and after the pandemic, contact me today!

Photos provided courtesy of Unsplash
Web Design & Digital Marketing Services in Rochester, New York | Sean Patrick O'Leary