Work-from-Home Tips for the Freelancer

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People often ask me how I stay focused or productive when I work from home, and the truth is, I've worked remotely way longer than I’ve ever worked in a physical office.

Outside of college, I got an eight-to-five copywriter and editor job at a literary consultancy that forced me to learn how to manage my time well. I had to pump out a certain amount of content every day, so I quickly learned (1) I couldn’t wait for creativity to strike and (2) I had to take advantage of every hour to complete my daily tasks.

After launching my editorial business now going on five years, I’d say I’ve become pretty comfortable working from home. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it—after all, I struggle with productivity from time to time, too—but these are the things I’ve learned to make working from home a wonderful and efficient experience.

  1. Time batching is your friend.

    I plan to go into this concept in more detail in another post, but I’ve found I’m much more productive as a freelancer when I batch similar tasks together rather than try to tackle several different smaller things within an hour or a day. As a freelancer, you wear many hats, and it’s not always easy to switch gears from creative tasks to invoicing or admin work, for example. Setting aside a day a week or a month to do certain tasks ensures you don’t leave them on the back burner!

  2. Set regular hours for yourself.

    This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people I talk to who say, “Oh, I wish I could be a freelancer—then I could work whenever I want!” That’s not really how it works, friends. “Working whenever you want” usually ends in burnout, and you probably won’t easily allow yourself to have “break” times. Even if you aren’t physically working on something, it’s hard to turn off your freelancer brain, but rest time is so important. It doesn’t have to be M–F, eight to five, but if you consistently show up at your desk around the same time, you’ll be able to get into a good flow faster.

  3. Find jobs like it’s your job.

    Freelancing is a feast-or-famine career path, and while you may feel comfortable with one gig for a time or a few projects on your schedule at the moment, it’s always a good idea to keep looking for work. This is more of a general freelance tip, but I’ll also say that I like to look for work at coffee shops instead of working at home. I just find I’m able to apply to more/pitch more projects when I’m outside of the house, and that’s ok. Remember what I said about batching? Try to set aside time to look for work, even if you’re working full-time on other things. When you get to the point where you’re scheduling out projects several months in advance, you won’t need to focus on this as much, but for the most part, freelancers succeed by having multiple eggs in multiple baskets. ;)

  4. Make your home office pleasant to be in.

    When I made my office cozy, I actually didn’t mind spending several hours working in there, because I was inspired, comfortable, and just downright happy to be home. It goes without saying I don’t recommend working from your bed (though I do it from time to time when my projects don’t take as much creative energy!). And if you set aside an actual room for your office, maybe you can create a cozy corner. However you create this space, make sure it’s organized, clutter-free, and full of inspiration.

  5. Create boundaries.

    This goes hand in hand with my tip to keep regular hours, but creating boundaries means communicating those hours to your family and friends. It means being specific about what that time looks like. Maybe Netflix on your lunch break isn’t a great idea, but taking a walk for twenty minutes is. How can you create rules for yourself—and other friends, family, and clients—and stick to them? Perhaps you communicate to clients that you don’t check your email until after 10 a.m. Find what works for you, and get creative.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more tips on the blog as I think of them.