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Freelancing 101: How to Be Productive at Home (When You’d Rather Be Watching Netflix)

I’ve worked at home for several years now. When people find out, they always say: “Wow! I’d never be able to work at home. How do you get anything done?” I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to be productive at home. When you don’t have a supervisor watching your every move, it’s easy to say: “Eh, I’m not feeling it… let’s binge-watch Game of Thrones!” As nice as that sounds, it will put you in the poor-house fast. If you want to excel as a freelancer, you must focus. Read ahead and discover how to be productive at home (even when you’d rather be watching Netflix).

Structure is everything.

I used to work “whenever I felt like it.”

(Spoiler alert: You won’t feel like working most of the time, so this is a terrible mindset.)

As a result, I’d be lazy in the morning and end up having to hurry in the evening. The stress was so overwhelming that it became hard to fall asleep at night.

Don’t depend on motivation. It’s too unreliable. Stephen King put it nicely when he said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Freelancers don’t have a “boss.” They have to be their own boss. This requires self-awareness and the ability to be brutally honest with yourself. If you’re a delicate flower, freelancing is NOT for you.

To thrive as a freelancer, you need structure. Answer these three questions to give yourself clear boundaries:

  • What are my office hours?
  • Where is my work station or home office?
  • When will I respond to emails from clients?

You don’t want to be available 24/7. This is a total disaster for your work-life balance. You’ll never be able to relax. Create a set schedule and don’t deviate from it. Ask clients to only contact you during those hours whenever possible.

You need designated work areas. That could mean a home office (how professional!) or even a plush sofa (how comfortable!). Work in the same room every day. You’ll train your brain to associate that area with being productive. For the same reason, you shouldn’t let yourself work all over the place, or your home will stop feeling like “home.”

Sadly, every client’s schedule won’t match yours. Let’s assume your office hours are 8AM-5PM. Check your work-related emails in the evening. If a client makes a request that can be fulfilled in minutes or seconds, go ahead and get it done. If it’s more complicated than that, tell them you’ll take care of it during your office hours tomorrow morning. Click here to read and implement more email management tips that will help you be more efficient.

Create a morning routine.

Note: if you’d rather work later in the day, replace “morning” with “afternoon” or “evening.” You’re the boss!

I have a morning routine. I wake up, stretch, brew a pot of coffee, eat breakfast while watching an episode of Friends (laughter is good for you), and take my dog on a walk (so is exercise!).

The specifics of your routine? They don’t matter. The important thing is to have one. If you follow the same process before every workday, it won’t be as difficult to get started. You’ll just do it on autopilot.

Stay away from social media.

It’s crazy how you can tell yourself: “I’m just going to scroll through my feed for a minute;” and before you know it, an hour passes. This is especially true when you’re addicted to Facebook.

The same fact applies for any time-wasting website. If you don’t have enough self-control to resist the urge, block those websites during your office hours. Your productivity will skyrocket when you’re less distracted.

Take breaks at strategic times.

The human mind can only concentrate for so long. If you force yourself to work non-stop, you’ll eventually burn-out. Your brain is like a muscle. It needs time to rest and recover. Without that, the quality of your work will suffer.

Francesco Cirillo developed the Pomodoro Technique in the 1980’s. He recommends working in 25 minute chunks, which are separated by a 3-5 minute break. Conveniently, that’s enough time to stretch, go outside, use the restroom, check your text messages, and/or drink a glass of water.

Websites like TomatoTimer make it easy to implement the Pomodoro Technique. Simply click the “Start” button and work until the buzzer goes off. This sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes taking a break is the absolute best thing you can do for your productivity. I dare you to prove me wrong!

Do any of your friends freelance? If so, share this article on Facebook so they can learn how to be productive at home just like you. Are you aware of any more productivity tips or tactics that might be useful? Tell me in the comments! :)

READ MORE OF THE FREELANCING 101 SERIES BY DANIEL WALLEN:

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ben @ HomeWorkingClub

    12/06/2017 at 6:02 pm

    Hi there!

    There are so many articles about this subject nowadays, and as a long-term homeworker I really think that mindset is much more important than things like having a morning routine and a dedicated workspace.

    I really want to mow my lawn today – but I’ll do it when I finish because of my work ethic; I don’t turn on the TV during the day and even Spotify gets switched off if I feel it’s breaking my concentration.

    BUT – I’m not fussed if I’m still working in my PJs, or propped up in my bed – all the things these articles say we must never do.

    I have to say I wonder if people who need to implement such practices and structures simply aren’t disciplined enough for home working?

  2. Ahmad

    19/07/2017 at 2:58 pm

    Your article is a good one you have explained all the facts properly through which i can now focus on my work from home

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