In her recent blog, Rachel Summers showed how easy it is to start a career as a freelancer, leaving the daily grind of the nine-to-five behind and striking out on your own.
But working from home is not the effortless ideal that many people think it is. You have to be strict with your new freedoms if you are to have any chance of making them work for you.
Photo by Nazareth College CC BY
The myth of freelancing from home is that you can roll out of bed at lunchtime and work in your pajamas or sit under a tree in the park with your laptop, writing as you bask in the sunshine.
The reality is that many freelancers work longer hours than they ever did in a traditional job, taking fewer breaks throughout the day and fewer holidays through the year.
If you are not careful, work and home life can become blurred to the point when you never feel like you are off duty or finished for the day. And while the timewasting chit-chat of the office may have frustrated you in the past, you may now go the whole day with no one to talk to but the cat, which can be a lonely life.
Photo by R Charnock CC BY
So, how should you set up your new freelance business to create boundaries and keep yourself sane? The first step is to create your workplace. Just because you can work anywhere, doesn’t mean you should.
Ideally, you should set up a home office in a separate room where you can “go to work,” and just as importantly, leave work at the end of the day. This room needs to be respected by your family so that you have the uninterrupted peace and quiet you need to concentrate.
Even if you don’t have a spare room, make a space that is just for work, and only use it during working hours. Alternatively, try taking a desk at your local co-working space. You might find that being surrounded by other entrepreneurs and creatives is inspiring.
You also need to be strict about when you work. It’s great to have the freedom to choose your hours, especially if you are fitting work around kids, but don’t fall into the trap of working all hours of the day and night just because you can.
Decide when you are going to work, whether that’s normal office hours or your own time frame and stick to it. Obviously, there will be times when you work late, but make sure you pay yourself back with an afternoon off or sleep in the next day. Of course, the more you work, the more you will earn, but there is more to life than money.
Isolation is one of the biggest factors for freelancers working from home, especially if you are used to a more social office environment. You can’t chat over the coffee machine anymore, so you need to find other ways to interact with people.
Try joining local groups of creatives or freelancers who are in a similar situation or volunteer at your local charity shop one afternoon a week. Even socializing online can help break the silence, and your Facebook and LinkedIn pages will not only boost your day, they could boost your business, too.
Try to take a break every hour or two or you will quickly become stiff and stale. You need to find breaks that stimulate your brain in a different way while interacting with other people.
Playing competitive word games like Wordfeud or playing poker online and sharing your best moves via Twitch will make you feel less isolated and give you the chance to chat with others.
Photo by Aldo Carillo CC BY
Sitting still at your desk in a sedentary job has been shown to be as bad for your physical health as it is for your mental health, so try and get out every day, too. Buying a step counter watch, such as a Fitbit or a Diggro will show you just how inactive office work is and prompt you to move more.
You could even get a dog to encourage you to get out of the house and get some exercise. Ultimately, being your own boss means you have the freedom to choose how you work, so choose a way that keeps you healthy and sane as you pursue your goals.