When you’ve put in a few years working in the rat race, the lure of working at home can be the very definition of temptation: No more boss breathing down your neck, no more rush-hour traffic jams, no more wearing a tie for literally not reason at all.
But making the transition from corporate life to freelance work at home isn’t as easy as one might think. In fact, if you envision doing graphic design, coding, or writing for a myriad of clients while kicked back on the couch watching TV or lazing around in a hammock, you’re probably going to be quite disappointed and rapidly without clients.
Making the transition from a traditional job to a home office environment takes some fairly rigorous self-control on our parts. It’s not the breezy “in and out” lifestyle that is often depicted on websites promoting work-from-home opportunities. You might be in your house, but you’re also still a working professional, and with that designation comes certain expectation levels from both your clients and yourself.
Here’s a checklist of elements to assemble to make your house into a home office and give yourself the best chance of success as your transition into doing freelance work at home as your new career path:
Make your freelance home office a work-friendly environment
Whether you have a beautiful study or you’re simply putting your laptop on the kitchen table, your home office needs to be real and have real parameters with it. Pick a location that is as quiet as your home will allow and that gives you a straight-back or office chair and solid surface for your work station. There have been many times where I’ve tried to convert my wife’s recliner into my “work station” for watching the NFL or late-night talk shows and quickly found myself asleep with work undone. Not a good choice.
Dress the part
There is no doubt in my mind that no longer wearing collared, tucked-in business shirts and slacks is one of the best parts of working from home; but you don’t want to over-indulge either. It’s hard to write inspiring copy if you’re wearing a bathing suit and muscle shirt. My ambition is to still wear collared shirts every work day, just the short-sleeve knit variety. Thus, if I have to jump on a Skype call or some other conference, I’m not scrambling to avoid a wardrobe malfunction.
When you worked in the corporate office, did you watch Jerry Springer reruns at your desk? Of course not, and you shouldn’t do it while working from home either. Same goes for playing video/computer games or blaring loud music. Things that draw more attention than the work at hand are a big no-no. Your clients are expecting your focus on their projects, that’s why they’re giving you the dough! If you find yourself having trouble, consider downloading a distraction reducing app like Freedom.
Take real, scheduled breaks
One of my biggest bad habits is wandering the house, and more honestly, wandering the refrigerator. If you’re not on a schedule, you’re going to find yourself eating a pancake breakfast with bacon and eggs at 2:30 p.m. or up on the rooftop trying to figure out what’s making that squeaking sound instead of focusing on the job. Designate a time for breaks and really step away from your workstation and do something else, even if it’s sitting with your eyes closed on the couch, for 15 minutes. When lunchtime comes, leave the workstation and sit and eat and relax for 20 minutes or so. The breaks truly are refreshing.
Establish barriers with the rest of your family
This is easily the most difficult for me to accomplish, as I work a lot when my wife and 4-year-old daughters are home. Outside of your working hours, you have to establish with everyone that you need quiet and as few interruptions as possible to do your work effectively. You should only be interrupted for emergencies and anything that they would normally communicate with you via phone or text if you were working outside the home – things like: ‘What do you want for dinner?’ or ‘Can you pick up the dry cleaning later?’ This can be a really sticky area. I hate feeling like the bad guy when one of my girls races up to show me a picture she’s drawn and I have to automatically tell her to go back to the living room, but it’s a necessary evil for the family’s overall welfare.
Remember, freelancers need Sleep!
In general, the later you work at night, the lousier your work will be. Because of my family dynamic, I find myself working an evening shift a lot, but once I’ve reached a certain threshold, I’m doing both myself and my clients a disservice by continuing on. Sometimes it feels like you can get by on less sleep than everyone else because your home all day, but your body still desperately needs that rejuvenation period to make you your best as you continue to do freelance work from home.
What are your secrets to successfully making the transition from office life to a home office? What has set you back and what have been the keys to keeping focused everyday? We’d love to hear from you on your experiences.