How to stay sane when freelancing from home
Freelancing from home can be a lonesome job fraught with a multitude of interruptions and distractions but with the right setup and a bit of discipline it can be a very enjoyable and fun environment to work in. Here are some of my top tips to help keep yourself sane and help you be the best work from home freelancers around.
The all important setup
By far the most important part of a freelancers repertoire is their setup. Studies have shown that using a single desk for working on and only working on massively improves productivity due to the mind being in the right zone at the right time. You shouldn’t eat at your work desk, play computer games, watch movies or anything that isn’t work – keep it strictly business.
Make sure you have a solid desk at a good height, a proper chair with good support and for goodness sake make sure that you are sitting comfortably. You will likely be spending the majority of your day sitting there, it is so very easy to do long term damage by sitting to high or low, with your eyes not at the right level with your monitor or having bent wrists. Take care of yourself, get your sitting position sorted.
Make sure your working environment is distraction free, turn off the house phone and doorbell if you can – cold callers are a nightmare. Just because you are at home all day does not mean you should be booking in repairs or central heating checks to be made – sure, it’s convenient but it’ll do nothing for your productivity.
Exercise, get off your ass
I quickly found out that I would spend days after days locked up inside my house rarely venturing outside. Some top tips include walking around the block before and after work, walking home in the opposite direction can have a great psychological effect likewise putting your shoes on in the morning and taking them off again in the evening. Getting dressed up for work is known to work well although I find it much more comfortable to wear casual clothes.
Regular breaks are also a must, once an hour get up and have a wonder around – averting your gaze from your screen focusing at close and long distances also helps reduce eye fatigue. I try and head to the gym several times a week to help stay fit and active, it’s all too easy to sit around and be lazy.
Structure your day
One of the big perks of working for yourself and from home is the freedom to work where you want, when you want. You must however match that with some structure that works for you, I split my day up into 2 sizeable chunks, morning and afternoon with a lengthy break for lunch in between.
I often have several projects on-going at the same time, that’s what works best for me. I split my day into two, working morning and afternoon on different projects which really helps if you get stuck with a particular design problem, moving onto a new and completely different project is beneficial and you will often come back with a fresh perspective.
Checking your email every 5 or 10 minutes is a proper productivity killer, I have mine set to check once an hour which is normally when I take a short break which works nicely. That’s not to say you can’t manually check it during the hour if you are waiting for something specific. My top productivity tip? Turn off Twitter when you’re working. ;)
Increase your rates yearly
With every year that passes you become a year more experienced at what you do, just like in big corporations that offer pay rises and incentives to people that work hard you should to. Not to mention the increases in cost of living that you must account for. Your rate is not a particularly easy number to work out and it will take a fair bit of time and quoting to get right, but once you do be sure to up them every year by a fair amount.
Meet-ups and conferences
Being part of a community is a truly worthwhile thing when you are a solo freelancer working from home, there is no denying it can be lonely and getting out of the house to meet real human beings is a treat!
I regularly attend Refresh Edinburgh and as many conferences as I can through-out the year meeting up with many new and old faces. These events are a great way to interact with others in our industry and is also a great source of potential new business.
Being active on social networking sites isn’t something to be scoffed at either, Twitter or forums dedicated to particular products or topics you are interested in are always full of interesting and informative people. Just make sure to manage your time on these sites as they can quickly sap a day away.
The personal project
Everyone talks about this one and I shall too, it really is super important to be working on something other than client work, be it in your spare time or as a dedicated portion of your work week. I probably spend around about 20% of my time working on several personal projects, several have been quite successful earning myself a little recurring revenue allowing me to spend this time during the working week on them.
These side projects give you a great distraction from working with clients and also allow you to try out new styles or techniques that you might not be able to use in your every day work. This could even be working on a realign of your own website or portfolio, a blog or theme for a particular CMS, even wallpapers and icons are a great way to work your magic in a no nonsense, stress free way.
2010 is shaping up to be a great year and I plan to continue working from home and enjoying my days as much as possible working with some truly great clients and on some really exciting personal projects. I wish you all the best at doing the same.