At 37 years old, I was fired from my job. So after nearly 15 years of working in a conventional office, my wife and I made the decision to launch into a freelance career working from home. The transition wasn’t easy. Suddenly I didn’t have access to the copy machine, the office phone system, the conference room, and all the other resources a company makes available to employees. As a result, I needed to switch to guerilla mode and switch fast. Here’s a few of the key changes I made that not only allowed me to increase my productivity, but helped me eventually build my own business:
1) Designate a full time space in your home for “the office.” Unless you have no other alternative, do your best to create a space solely dedicated to work. Don’t mix it with watching TV, eating, playing with the kids, or anything else. Train your brain to switch to “work” mode when you walk into that space and you won’t believe the productivity difference it will make.
2) Develop a routine. It’s too easy to sit around in pajamas, watch a little TV, crank up the video games, and waste an entire day. So you need to set the alarm, get dressed, and show up. Map out the local post office, copy store, coffee shop, or any other place you need to function, and begin a routine for running errands, delivering mail, and meeting people. We are creatures of habit, and setting up routines keeps us on point, and focused.
3) Get out and meet people. Too many people work from home, and the only human contact they experience is through a computer screen or mobile device. Before long, you become a hermit, and begin losing skills for interacting with real people. That’s when productivity takes a dive. Don’t forget the importance of connecting with living human beings – both for work and social reasons. Take a walk with your kids, shoot some baskets with a friend, or schedule a meeting for coffee.
4) Make sure your family understands the difference between working at the office and working from home. Too often we don’t set boundaries. The wonderful thing about working from home is that it allowed me to be there for my kids. But at the same time, they understood that when daddy was working he needed his privacy. Even spouses have trouble making the transition, because since you’re home all day, they forget you’re working. Sit down with the family, and help them realize how important what you’re doing is, and how they can help. It will make a dramatic difference in your productivity – and your guilt.
5) Finally – realize that you can’t do everything, so develop a team. Now that you’re on your own, you don’t have access to in-house graphic designers, sales staff, writers, and others. Now’s the time to develop your own list of experts in web design, advertising, IT, and more. Your productivity and the quality of your work will shoot through the roof if you can leverage a team to make your dream happen. They might be other freelancers, outside companies, or small vendors. Whoever they may be, they can really extend the capabilities for a single person working from home.
Do you have other tips that made a difference for you?