It’s no secret that freelancing can offer tech workers a lucrative and flexible career, but remote employment can be a challenge for some. Working from home still requires a special blend of detached discipline and solo mental fortitude in order to stay productive. Keep your focus and stay sharp with these tips, and make the dream of creating your own schedule- or simply cutting out the commute- a reality.
Perfect Your Environment
First and foremost, a home office should be a dedicated space. Working from your couch with a laptop just doesn’t cut it. You’ll want to choose a room which can be closed off from the rest of the house and keep it presentable for remote conferencing or surprise video chat. Make sure there’s adequate room for you and your supplies and don’t skimp on equipment.
One of the great things about working from home is that you can choose your own office furniture, so don’t be afraid to invest in some quality pieces. You’ll be spending most of your time there, so be sure that it’s comfortable and functional. In addition to the obvious desk and chair, every office should have a whiteboard, a cork board, and a bookcase. Display some knick-knacks and cool gadgets just as you would in a corporate office, but keep the clutter to a minimum.
Obtain Reliable Tools
Make sure everything in your dedicated work space is reliable, and use the tools at your disposal to boost productivity. Buy a battery backup. Make sure the room has plenty outlets and chargers (you can never have too many). Get a good webcam with a noise-cancelling microphone for video chats and conference calls. Buy a high-end router. Take some time to implement quality of service (QoS) rules in your router and prioritize your work computer over the rest of the household.
Make sure your internet service provider is reliable and is fast enough. You might consider getting a second ISP as a redundant failover and to keep your work internet separate from your home internet. Keep a local and offsite backup of computer files and keep important documents in a fireproof flood resistant safe. These are all things you should be doing anyway, but it’s important to take some extra care if you’re working from home.
While working from home it’s important to protect yourself from the distractions which can sap your productivity. Keep your cellphone on silent/vibrate, just like you would in a normal office environment. Family and friends are not lounging around at a regular office interrupting people, and you should communicate that you have similar expectations for your home office. Don’t keep any distracting personal media on your work computer since TV, movies, and video games can be tempting. Use the internet from your home office in the same way you would use it from a regular office. Don’t get distracted by lolcats or Facebook.
Separate Work and Home
It can be difficult even under normal circumstances to separate work from your home life, but it’s even more of a challenge when you’re working from a home office. Making small changes to create a different environment while you’re focusing on personal tasks can help to manage that separation. Clear boundaries are essential.
For example, when you’re in work mode you might use a desktop computer from a standing desk with the curtains closed while using headphones. When you’re not working, you could use a tablet from a sitting desk with the curtains open while using speakers. You can do a similar thing with software, using different browsers for work and personal tasks to maintain separation. Little things like this will go a long way in keeping you productive during work hours.
Being in the same place too long can create some serious cabin fever. Try doing something extra between waking up and “going to” work, such as exercising or visiting a cafe. Don’t forget to take breaks while working, your eyes and your back will thank you.
It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re working alone, so set alarms for the start and end of your workday. After the day is over make sure to step outside for a while. Take a walk or go out to dinner to decompress and change the scenery. Being at home on weekdays makes it even more important to leave the house on weekends, so make time to head to the park, to the beach, or finally check out that brewpub in the next town over.
Just Another Day At The Office
While working from home provides some additional freedoms that a traditional office does not, you should still treat it much like a regular office. It takes a good toolset, professional environment, and discipline to stay productive and produce good work, whether or not you have a supervisor looking over your shoulder. Once your office optimized, bid on a few gigs, get to work, and test it out!