The thought of working for yourself and from home is understandably something that's very appealing to many and it certainly has its perks and benefits. However being on your own schedule all the time, as freeing and exciting as it may seem, can be a tricky thing to manage. Motivation, lack of camaraderie, difficulty in switching off, being but a few of the obstacles to overcome.
Inspired by some recent posts that I've read myself on the subject whilst looking for ideas to help me in my own 'working at home life', I felt it might be nice to share some of the tips and resources that I've come across here today for anyone else faced with, or thinking of going into a similar situation.
1. Set Boundaries Both For Yourself And For Family And Friends:
When you have what might seem like a flexible schedule and you work for yourself, it's easy to get carried away with that flexibility and forget to get to the point of actually tackling your workload!
As tempting as it may be to drop everything and go out with a friend in the middle of the day, and as nice as it is to have the option to do this every now and again, ultimately you need to be clear that you have a workload to get through just as anyone else would do, working for a company or organisation in an office.
This was something I found quite tricky at first. It was nice to be able to say yes to things that I would previously have to miss because of the boundaries of the 9 to 5. However after a while all play and no work actually starts to get you down and of course has a very negative impact on whatever you're trying to achieve. You need to try and stick to socialising outside of office hours just as you would in any other job. If you need to, set actual official working hours for your week so that people know when you're free and when you're not. Stick to these boundaries, as hard as it sometimes might seem, and don't feel guilty that you have to say no to things during your set working week.
MORE: For some interesting further reading and tips check out this article here: How To Set Boundaries When You Work From Home via Talented Ladies Club.
2. Seek Out Support And Camaraderie:
Now I'm quite happy working away by myself getting things done and pottering away! Yet I never really anticipated just how lonely working for yourself can be if you don't make the effort to make it otherwise.
Online communities, fellow bloggers and writers (or people in your given industry) are fantastic and that's one great way to feel a little less isolated, but I still miss actual human interaction and this can be hard to manage when your job doesn't really involve an awful lot of phone calls or face to face meetings. Of course you can put yourself out there to go to events, network and meet people but there's only so much of that you can do in one week because again, this interferes with the actual sat at your desk, focused office time that you need in order to get stuff done.
These days though, with the benefit of wifi pretty much everywhere you go, you can get out of the house, be around other human beings and still get your work on!
One thing I like to do is to pop my notebook and laptop into my bag and make my way down to my nearest coffee shop. This is a great way to get a little bit of hustle and bustle and interactivity happening around you whilst you nurse a cup of tea or coffee and sit and tap out a few emails or tackle whatever is on your to do list. Even just an hour or so out of the house at the start of your day can have a great impact by getting your brain switched on and in gear, giving you a change of scenery and actually getting you dressed instead of sitting typing away in your pyjamas all day - not good people but yes sometimes it happens!
It's also important to make sure you do make plans to see friends (after your working day has finished, remember point one!) and keep yourself sociable rather than becoming something of a hermit. Make sure you put some effort into making some simple plans each week, even if that's just meeting someone for a quick drink or bite to eat. It's all too easy to get lost in what you're doing and forget to make any arrangements until it's too late. So set aside a little time to make sure you're still getting some socialising into your life. Point one might be about setting boundaries for the working day but when that day ends you need to switch off, get out and be with people who you can relax and enjoy spending time with, taking your mind off of the work.
3. Keep Fit And Healthy:
Even if you don't consider yourself to be someone who gets much exercise, it's amazing how much healthier and fitter you tend to be when you have to physically 'go' to work. At home it's all too easy to stay stuck at the computer from morning till night, eat badly partly I suppose because of the loneliness factor and a little boredom and partly because you can get into a spiral of not taking care of yourself in the same way when you're hiding away from the rest of the world. Mentally it can be very difficult too, lending itself to moments of great insecurity and self doubt, without a boss or colleagues around you to give you the boost that you sometimes need to keep you going.
So you really need to make a conscious effort to take a break and exercise, eat well and do things to help keep you in a positive mindset. This can take some planning, willpower and motivation but it's really worth it. It really will make your working life, and your health, much better. Trust me I speak from experience!
If you're struggling to find the drive and determination to get going then start small. Every little helps in my opinion and I really believe that doing something is far better than doing nothing at all. A while ago I wrote a couple of posts that might help to inspire you with some unique ways to get a little more movement into your life: Work Out For Progress Not Just Perfection and Keep On Moving: Time To Photocise may just spark some ideas and helpful interest.
When it comes to what you eat then take a visit over to Laura at the blog Wholeheartedly Healthy and sign up to her newsletter to get sent regular, realistic and actionable advice for maintaining healthier eating patterns and a better lifestyle.
MORE: Take a look at Staying Healthy as a Freelancer: 9 Important Self-Care Strategies via TheWriteLife.com.
4. Create A Proper Working Space:
Don't feel that you aren't entitled to a proper workspace and have to be confined to the sofa and your laptop if you work from home. Firstly you need a proper space to be able to keep well and healthy, take care of your back and so on and so forth. Secondly having a space to call your own, a space to specifically go to and start your official working day, is incredibly important for your mindset.
Now this doesn't mean having to have a large office and loads of extra space with all of the latest gadgets, technology and trimmings. Few of us can actually achieve this. It just means creating a little space of your own, with the basics to hand that you need and with a little happy inspiration around you.
This is where our trusty friend Pinterest can really offer up some great ideas! Try searching these pins to get yourself inspired: Small Home Office Spaces and think about what's important to you for motivation and how you can incorporate that into a space that will work for you.
MORE: Need more ideas? This article has some great tips to get you started: 7 Tips For Creating A Functional Home Workspace via Mashable.
5. Don't Worry About What Other People Are Thinking:
When you decide to work for yourself, and especially if you're choosing to do something a little unusual and perhaps outside of the 'norm', then it's likely I'm afraid that you will come across some people who find it hard to understand your choices. This can be tricky to handle, especially when you're already finding it hard to manage all of the other stuff going on as mentioned above.
I guess that there's a tendency for people to think you're kind of just sitting around at home on the sofa and not really doing very much. Often people don't mean to come across in a potentially negative way, all they're doing is trying to understand a process that they haven't experienced for themselves. People can never really see exactly what goes on behind the scenes and it's exhausting and a waste of time worrying about trying to explain it.
Switch off from any potential doubters, stick to your belief in what you're doing and work hard to make it work. Try as you might you will never be able to fully explain what it is you do and how you do it. So just concentrate on what's important to you, get your head down, do the work and trust that all will come good in the end.
Oh and if things don't work out and you have to find another plan then that's no problem either. Think of all of the lessons that you learn on daily basis especially when you work for yourself. When you're boss, admin, finance, PR, creative, photographer, writer, IT guru and everything else that's required all rolled into one. Invaluable and never ever a wasted moment.
MORE: For some further help in this area I will turn to my favourite positive thinking guru Marie Forleo and her post entitled: How To Get Over The Fear Of Being Judged By Others.
6. Know When It's Time To Switch Off:
Now this is something that takes real determination and it applies to everyone not just people who work from home. We all have our work at our fingertips these days with smart phones, tablets, laptops, email access and social media. I guess when you're kind of in charge of it all and it's your passion, idea and ultimately reputation on the line it can become that little bit more all-consuming.
This is one of those areas where I'm kind of in the 'do as I say but not as I do' category. Switching off is hard. The normal constraints of the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 (ish) hours, and structured annual leave go well out of the window. Late nights, early hours of the morning, weekends and your holidays all suddenly come up for grabs by the working bug unless you work very hard not to let them. Plus when you go away you don't have a colleague to hand over your work too and switch off for a few days.
Even though I'm lucky enough to go away a fair bit, we love to travel and we do so whenever we get the chance, suddenly my laptop now goes wherever I go. My camera comes out at every meal, at every unique spot or interesting landmark that might be something worth writing about. It's hard to stop checking Twitter, Instagram and all the other stuff that now sits merrily on the phone at the touch of a button, making sure I'm still having an 'online presence!' etc, etc, etc - you know the drill!
I think this is something that takes time to handle. At first you don't want to stop because your heart and soul are so engaged with what you're doing. Then you get exhausted and realise that perhaps you're going to have to stop. Then eventually you learn that you have to be strict and set your own boundaries in order to keep yourself sane!
MORE: Here are some interesting reads to help you further on this subject: How To Switch Off From Work When You Go On Holiday via The Telegraph and How To Switch Off When You Work At Home via Kim Lawler Creative.
Do you work for yourself from home? What are your top tips for survival?!