I’d wanted to try freelance life for a while when I was laid off in 2011. I gave myself one year to make it work. Five years later, I’m earning more than I did as a full-time staffer. Plus, my wardrobe is primarily athleisure and my office is in my house.
Have a set schedule, and show up to work on time, just as you would if you were going into a physical office. Have a “quitting time” and try to stick to it to keep work restricted to business hours. Brush your hair, because you never know when the boss will want to Skype.
I’m a freelancer, but I’ve spent most of my career working for companies that allow people to work from home. That said, if you’re having trouble convincing the boss to let you join our ranks, I’d mention that people who work from home tend to work more hours than those who work in an office. Employers get more out of (responsible) workers who work from home.
Less wasted time. In an office, I was always getting dragged into meetings that weren’t really necessary, or fending off interruptions. When I’m working from home, I’m really working.
People who don’t work remotely don’t really get it, which means that I’ve found myself having to fend off well-meaning friends and family who think I’m unemployed and therefore able to hang out, do errands or favors, etc. I can’t say I blame them. The uniform looks a little unemployed. (I am wearing sweatpants as I fill out this survey.)
I work from about 9 to 6, every weekday. I might put in extra time in the evenings or on weekends, as needed, but I try to keep that down to occasional overtime. Otherwise, as a remote worker, it’s too easy to start working all the time, and then my productivity and sanity suffer.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having a separate space for work. I close the door to my office, shut down social media, and hunker down.
Distraction is probably the biggest problem. I try to be honest with myself about whether I have my head in the game or not, and get rid of the distractions. Sometimes, it means logging out of Twitter or turning off the phone. Sometimes it means moving to another location (the library, a coffee shop) so that people can’t find me. And sometimes it means that it’s a bad workday, and then I concentrate on paperwork or other housekeeping matters related to my business.
When I lived in Brooklyn, I loved BrooklynWorks at 159. Now that I’m in Westchester, I lean on the public library pretty heavily.
- Various ergonomic keyboards, mice, etc.
- An old-fashioned notebook for to-do lists
- A yoga block (yes, really)
- Google Docs
My office is in the basement of our house. I call it my basement lair. It’s basically just my desk, a chair, my computer/phone setup … and about a thousand books. You never know what you might need for reference for a piece, right?
Mostly email and Gchat, although I suspect that Slack et. al. will soon eclipse both.
Working remotely is automatically a money saver! I go to the dry cleaners about twice a year. I eat lunch at home. I make my own coffee.
It’s easy to forget to keep one another in the loop. The only solution is to be scrupulous about including teammates on communications and to take responsibility for staying informed.
Social media is both an incredible time-suck and the best way to network as a remote worker. My advice to other remote workers is not to force themselves to use social media they don’t love, and to stick to the networks that appeal to them. For example, I spend way more time on Facebook than LinkedIn, so naturally most of my gigs have come through Facebook. That might seem a bit backwards, like using LinkedIn to see pictures of your friends’ babies and dogs and home renovations, but it’s worked for me.
Say yes. Go to that holiday party. Man a table at the craft fair. Run a marathon. Help your neighbor move. If you’re like me, and you don’t love the forced-fun corporate cocktail party scenario, just being part of your community will help you keep developing your network.
I’m a lot happier, which has improved my life in immeasurable ways. Working at home has also made it easier for me to manage life stuff, even simple things like having someone here when the cable guy comes or being able to run out and get groceries on my lunch break. To be honest, I don’t really remember how I made life work before I worked remotely.
That’s the trickiest part. I’m lucky that I have an office with a door. When I first started freelancing, I worked in an alcove in the living room in our old apartment. It was a separate space, but way too close to the TV and fridge. Being able to keep my work and life physically separate has been a big help.
I try to do some form of exercise every day. Most days, that means going to the gym. If I’m crazed with deadlines, I’ll do yoga at home or go for a long walk.
I eat much better at home, not least because I have time to deliberately plan my meals. When I worked in an office, I’d wind up scarfing down sandwiches from platters that were leftover from meetings. Not great.
Isolation is definitely a risk with working remotely. When I start to feel isolated, I work at the library for a day or two or make plans to see friends.