Archive for the ‘Working from Home’ Category

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

multi-task-mom-stress-400x400Ever wonder what it’s like to be a freelance writer? Naturally, most of it involves lounging by the pool with a cool, refreshing drink in one hand and a laptop by the other, idly typing away on assignments you’re really excited about while the money just pours into your bank account—or maybe not.

Here’s a look at a real day in the life of one freelance writer who doesn’t currently own a pool and hasn’t started drinking by breakfast (yet). Working from anywhere has its perks, but it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds…

5:30 a.m. Before I’m truly awake, I lace up and head out for a quick five-mile run. My body must move first before my mind will follow suit.

6:00 a.m. Mornings start the same way as any other family—get everybody up, fed, dressed, and ready for their respective days. Kids to school, adults to work. The big difference for me: “going to work” does not involve any driving. I can just walk across the hall into my office. Hooray!

8:00 a.m. Consider a shower, but that’s preempted by some early work. First order of business is to check my — oh, wait, the school’s calling. Someone’s forgotten a lunch, and someone else may or may not have lice. Good thing the school’s only five minutes away. BRB

8:36 a.m. The workday begins (seriously this time). First order of business is to check my email. I’ve set a rule in the interests of productivity: email is checked only three times a day. Morning, lunch, end of day. I respond to everything and feel very productive. No more email until noon—on to checking today’s calendar and getting things done.

9:00 a.m. Finish up an article I started yesterday that’s due today, and send it off to the client. Now everything I have is new work, so I pick the most complex one and start researching. It’s easier to write about a topic if I’ve read up and let it simmer in my brain awhile before I get started. Get a little sidetracked and lose 15 minutes following random links, but I’m back on track soon.

10:00 a.m. Thinking about that shower again… it’s okay, it’s not like there’s anyone around to smell me. Still plenty of time to shower before school’s out.

10:27 a.m. Broke my email checking rule (it was an accident) and found an emergency request from a long-term client, sent three minutes after I signed out earlier. They really need this press release to jump on an opportunity due to breaking news, and could I possibly have something for them by 2 p.m.? Fire off a reply—of course I can, I’m super freelance writer!—and start on the press release.

12:00 noon: Supposed to break for lunch right now but I’m almost done with this press release. I’ll grab a sandwich and eat at my desk. Take a break later.

1:47 p.m. Press release done, three assignments researched, one article outlined, one intro written. I could really use a nap right now. But the bus is going to be here soon, and that shower is still calling me… maybe I’ll just grab a Diet Coke and see if there are any Kit-Kats left in the kids’ Halloween baskets…

2:45 p.m. Heard all about the kids’ days at school, reviewed homework, got everyone a snack, and now they’re watching a movie while I get back to work. Must finish at least one of these assignments today. Background noise and the afternoon blahs break up the concentration a little, but I’m still making progress.

4:08 p.m. Wrapped up a blog post and made headway on a case study. Had to stop when one of the cats chased a squirrel up a tree and got stuck 10,000 feet in the air, promptly sending the kids into panic mode. After an hour of balancing precariously on a 12-foot ladder and plying Skippy with treats, he rolled his eyes and calmly climbed back down all on his own. Back to work.

5:00 p.m. The workday is over! Now to close the office door and spend quality time with the family, and relax for the rest of the night… just kidding! It sounded good, anyway.

6:00 p.m. Making lunches for tomorrow, battling homework wars, signing tests and permission slips, letting the husband vent about his hectic day in the corporate grind, cleaning the kitchen, navigating the rough terrain of prepubescent girl drama…

6:30 p.m. Dinner? A simple phone call puts an end to that dilemma.

9:00 p.m. Now that the kids are fed, (somewhat) clean, and in bed, it’s time to wrap up that case study I almost finished earlier, write the intro for the assignment that’s due first thing tomorrow, set up the next day’s calendar, update the website, check messages, reply to a few clients, and get that query out I meant to send three days ago. Oh, and maybe I’ll manage to scrape up half an hour to work on that novel that’s been mocking me from the taskbar for weeks…

10:45 p.m. Just remembered that shower… oh well, too late now. There’s always tomorrow.

11:48 p.m. Finally going to bed. Tomorrow I’m going to have everything done by 5, I swear. Okay, I’m at least going to finish everything by 5 on Friday and take the weekend off. All right, maybe just Sunday…

Want to Be More Successful? Paint Your Home Office

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelance writer, or telecommuter, working from home means spending a lot of time in your home office. You probably make sure that it’s organized and quiet, but aesthetics are often put on the backburner for many home office workers—so it might surprise you to learn that a fresh coat of paint can improve your productivity.

Why wall color matters

The colors that surround you affect your mood, energy levels, and job performance. According to interior designer and therapist Christa O’Leary, “Our bodies react to color on a physiological level. The color red stimulates our appetite and increases our heart rate. The color blue has a calming effect on the nervous system.”

In addition to these human-wide reactions, colors also have a personal effect. You may consciously or subconsciously associate a color with a certain person, location, or event—and that, in turn, affects your work habits.

Choosing the right color for your home office

The color you paint your office walls should be based on the effect you need on your work. As a basic guide:

  • Blue colors and shades affect your mind
  • Yellow colors influence your emotions, ego, and self-confidence
  • Red stimulates your body
  • Green colors and shades affect your essential balance (mind, body, emotions)

The intensity of the color also has a strong influence on your state of mind. Bright, strong colors serve to stimulate the areas they effect, while paler shades with lower saturation produce a soothing effect.

So, for example, if your work involves stimulating your mind (such as accounting), you might choose to paint your office blue. However, it’s a common misconception that blue is best for creativity—yellow works better, as it can make you more optimistic.

Red can be a counterproductive color for a home office, as it stimulates your body to do something physical. And finally, if you paint your home office green, you’re likely to enjoy a calming and reassuring sense of balance—so if your work is stressful, such as customer service, this may be the color for you.

Bonus tips for painting your home office

Paint color is important, and using the right accent colors can be even more beneficial. While red is a poor choice for the main color, red accents can help you stay bold and confident—a good selection for salespeople or negotiators. Placing yellow accents in a primarily blue room can produce an overall calming effect with energizing focal points.

The type of paint can also matter. Glossy paint tends to generate higher energy, while flat paint can create a soothing environment. It’s a good idea to use environmentally friendly, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, especially in a room where you’ll be spending a significant portion of time.

How long has it been since you’ve painted your home office? What colors would you choose?

Solving the Biggest Work-From-Home Challenge: How to Stop Working

Monday, September 16th, 2013

For anyone who works from home, or wants to make the transition, there’s plenty of information out there about how great it is. No more commuting! Work in your pajamas! Follow your passion! It’s true—working from home is undeniably awesome.

Except when it’s not.

If you’ve been working from home for a while, you probably roll your eyes whenever someone tells you how lucky you are. There are definite advantages. But there are also pitfalls, and one of them is figuring out how to stop working. Preferably before your family forgets who you are, and then calls the police the next time you sit down at the dinner table because they don’t recognize you.

So how do you leave work when you’re living with it? These tips will help you occasionally take the office out of home, so you can remember what it’s like to sit on your couch without your laptop and a pile of projects, wondering who brought the cat to work with them.

  • Define your space and stick to it (that goes for everybody). If you don’t already have one, you absolutely need a home office. You might not have a spare room, or a closet you can transform. If that’s the case, stake out a corner of a room and declare it your office. Explain to your family that when you’re there, you’re working (and when they stop laughing, tell them you’re serious).
  • Give yourself a schedule. Yes, one of the benefits of working from home is scheduling freedom. You’re flexible and you know it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least plan on working certain times of the day—because it makes it that much easier to quit when your “day” is done. If you have to stop for an emergency, you can always tack on hours later. That’s flexibility.
  • At the end of the day, quit. You’re done. Turn off the computer and don’t look at it until you start work the next day. This takes practice, but it can be done. If you have to, you can let clients or supervisors know to text or call after a certain time with emergencies. But only real emergencies.
  • Schedule an activity to reinforce quitting time. Your willpower might not be enough to keep you out of your home office at the end of the day. To combat this, give yourself an appointment after work. Use that dusty gym membership or go for a nightly walk, catch the next episode of the show you’ve been diligently not watching during work hours, or just make a date with your family for dinner.

Make a habit of separating your work from the rest of your home, and watch your stress levels drop!

 

The Productive Home Office Checklist

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

If you work from home as a freelance writer, entrepreneur, or small business owner, you probably already know that having a dedicated work area—separate from your home life—is crucial to getting things done. But is your home office truly set up for productivity, or is it just another place in your house?

Here are some quick essentials for making your home office a more productive place to work.

  • Have a door that closes. If at all possible, your home office should be located in a separate room with a door. Having a closed door not only lets family members know that you’re working, but it also helps you get into work mode, which makes it easier to stop thinking about the laundry or the dishes crying out for your attention.
  • Evict the television. If you have a TV in your home office, move it out. The temptation to stop working and turn on that show you keep missing can be tough to resist. Not watching television in your office also helps to reinforce the separation between work and home.
  • Get a comfortable chair. You may be using a folding chair or a wooden one from the kitchen set, either to save money or to avoid getting comfortable so you’ll keep working. The problem is, you’re likely spending eight hours a day or more in that chair—and potentially doing long-term damage to your back. Invest in comfortable seating for your home office.
  • Have a place for all your things. It’s too easy to simply set a pile of papers down in your home office and then start piling more things on top. Disorganization can quickly lead to clutter. Invest in shelves, filing cabinets, or whatever else you need to stay neat and organized. Clutter is distracting and costs you valuable time when you have to search for what you need.
  • Check your lighting levels. Insufficient light decreases productivity, especially over the winter months. Make sure your home office has windows to let the sunlight in—or if windows aren’t possible, enhance the lighting with strategically placed lamps.
  • Get the right tools for the job. Don’t deny yourself the latest advances or gadgets if they’ll help increase your productivity. Could you benefit from a second monitor, a wireless mouse and keyboard, or a faster Internet connection? Upgrade when necessary to make your home office life easier.

Finally, don’t forget that you’re allowed to place your personal mark on your home office. It should feel like a workspace, but you also want to be comfortable and happy while you’re there—because that helps to increase productivity, too.

Can Freelancers Really Work from Anywhere?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Writer

Every freelancer dreams about working on some sun-drenched tropical beach, free from the constraints of a typical office job, or maybe poolside with a drink in one hand and a laptop near the other. It’s the perfect scenario for those who work from home—but is it really a good idea?

It’s important to remember that “work” is the key word in “work from home.” If you try to set up shop in a distracting environment, and the part of your job that brings in money—the actual work—will suffer.

So where should a freelancer get down to business? Here’s a look at some common work-from-home environments, with pros and cons for each.

The beach

PROS: It’s the beach. A nice breeze, refreshing surf (hopefully, not where it can reach your laptop), and the joy of doing your job while you sit in the sunshine.

CONS: Unless you’re lucky enough to own a private beach, there are probably other people around. Chances are, it’s noisy and crowded. Oh, and that comfortable sand? Your laptop doesn’t like it—and it will get everywhere. Plus, there’s no place to recharge your batteries.

The coffee shop

PROS: When you leave your house to go to work, it feels more like an actual job. If there’s a friendly coffee shop nearby that doesn’t mind you camping out for hours, you’ll have a short commute. Plus, there’s coffee and snacks that you don’t have to fix yourself, and outlets to recharge your laptop.

CONS: Like the beach, it may be crowded and noisy—though most coffee shops have lulls. There could be distracting music playing. And working long-term at a coffee shop can get expensive when you keep buying all that java.

The library

PROS: A quiet atmosphere, power for your laptop, and all the research material you’ll ever need at your fingertips. Many libraries also offer free Wi-Fi, making email and online research easily accessible.

CONS: You have to be quiet. If you’re the type who can’t sit still for long periods of time and needs to get up and move around, or you have a tendency to talk to yourself when you’re really into the work, the library might not be for you. And with fewer libraries around these days, you could end up with a long commute.

At home

PROS: No commute. Work in your pajamas. Access to the comforts of home. Privacy and the freedom to do anything, even if you do your best work while performing jumping jacks and singing show tunes.

CONS: In a word: Distraction. If you have family, you’ll need a separate room with a door for your office, so everyone knows that when you’re in there, you’re working. You also have to fight the urge to abandon a tough project and tackle the laundry or the dishes—because you’re right there, and they need doing. It takes a colossal amount of discipline to successfully work from home.

So, where do you work—and how’s that working for you?