Working from home seems like one of those magical jobs we picture ourselves doing as children – you sit around the house, get some work done, take as many breaks as you want, save money on transport, you don’t have to stress out about clean shirts or being late, etc. This is true to some extent and being your own boss can be a very enjoyable experience, but working from home is far from the idealized fantasy most people picture in their mind. Not having any direct supervision carries its unique set of problems that you will need to be prepared for. Some of these things don’t get mentioned very often, and although they are not necessarily deal breakers or meant to dissuade people from considering a career in freelancing, it is important to understand what you are getting into. Here are the five biggest points you’ll need to take into account.
You’ll need to have some money in the bank before starting a freelance career
Being a freelancer isn’t exactly a sure thing, nor can you expect to start making some serious money straight away. It takes time to set up accounts, look for clients, hone your skills and build up a reputation for yourself. Networking is also a big part of the picture. The point here is that it can take several months to start getting clients regularly, establish a decent reputation and earn enough money on a monthly basis to get by. It may even take a year to get to where you can pay the bills, feed your family and still have some money left over for a bit of luxury, all on your freelance wages. This is why it is important to treat the whole thing like a startup, rather than a career change or a nine to five job. Having enough start-up capital will enable you to support your family during the initial stages and invest in things like premium accounts and connections on major online freelance platforms.
It’s very easy to get lazy and out of shape
Not having to commute has its benefits like saving money on transportation and food and wasting less time on getting ready and traveling to and from the office. The negative side of it is that you won’t have any real need to leave the house much, if at all. Because you will be working and relaxing at the computer, you are at great risk of becoming a lazy couch potato. Once ordering takeout, walking around in your pajamas, beers during work hours and spending several hours at a time in a chair become a regular thing you can kiss your health and fitness goodbye. The only way to avoid becoming out of shape and having aching joints is to schedule regular workouts throughout the week, set up alarms to remind you to get up and stretch out every hour or so and to be very careful about what you eat. It’s incredibly easy to trick yourself into believing that you don’t rally eat that much, so having a salad or some fruit instead of a sugary snack or pack of potato chips and looking at a few nutritional labels here and there is very important.
You need to set up an effective work environment
If you just put your laptop on the table in front of the couch and call it your work station, you will soon lose all focus. You need a professional work environment, a home office that you can step into and clearly separate your work hours from leisure time. It doesn’t have to be much – a functional desk with a few drawers, a few notebooks and pens lying around, your computer and printer set up comfortably, a sturdy and ergonomic office chair and a lamp are enough. You can set up in a corner of a room, preferably near a window for some natural light, and add some decoration, perhaps a plant, so that it feels like an office desk, rather than a teenage gamer’s desk with a few work-related notes scattered around.
Being your own boss means constantly finding ways of staying productive and motivated
Even if you take all the precautions and create a truly professional-looking work environment, there will still be plenty of distractions – the internet you are using to look for new clients or do research being one of the biggest. You’re never more than one click away from Procrastination City, and you’ll need to work hard to stay motivated and keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Taking regular breaks to clear your head can help, and so can making coffee and remembering to eat regularly. Plastering reminders and motivational posters around your home office is another viable tactic, but ultimately, you will have to learn how to deal with distractions and have a short and stern talk with yourself at least 3-4 times a day in order to stay on track.
Getting organized and managing your projects efficiently is the key to success
Getting distracted, forgetting about a deadline, mixing up clients and miscommunication can all happen to any one of us, but when you’re working at home it’s much easier to get sidetracked or let your schedule become a chaotic mess. Start with the room you work in – keep it clean, spotless even, and make sure that everything has its place. Next, make sure that your desk and immediate work area are organized and that you know where to find everything, the most important things being within reach and easily accessible. Then get your work schedule in order. Get a big calendar, a whiteboard and sticky notes and make sure you have all the essential information about your current projects clear in sight when you sit at the desk, making sure to mark deadlines and have reminders and alerts. Being able to stay organized and juggle different projects effectively is the key to success for anyone working at home.
Working at home isn’t a walk in the park like some would imagine, and neither is it a one way ticket to a land of procrastination and broken dreams – you can earn a good living without ever living your house, but you’ll need to stay focused and deal with a few issues before you can become successful.