Whether you're new to the bliss of the commute-free lifestyle or a seasoned pro, you're not alone. According to Statistics Canada, the number of self-employed people who work from home increased from 54 to 60 percent between 2006 and 2008, and "1,842,000 self-employed persons worked at home in 2008". More recent information suggests the workforce is increasingly mobile and interested in working from home, especially younger generations. For self-employed people, working from home comes with the territory, and if you used to travel to an office every day, the absence of commuting and office distractions could boost productivity, as long as you know how to be organized and productive at home. Read on to find out how.
Let's face it, working from home can be one of the terrific benefits of being self-employed if you're efficient. That takes discipline, determination, patience and the right tools. Often you come across general common sense advice about working from home that various media bring up time and time again such as "find a routine that works and stick to it", "don't work in your bathrobe all day", or "unplug from email and phone during your resting time". But there is a lot more than the obvious. Here are a few specific productivity tips to get you moving along the path to self-employment Nirvana.
If you work full-time from home and nobody else is around, it's easy to spend 8 to 10 hours in front of a computer without budging or even eating. Don't! Keep track of time.
You don't need a trove of tools to work effectively from home, but you do need the right ones:
Stay in touch or hold virtual meetings for free. Skype, Facetime, Google Duo, WhatsApp, and Zoom are just a few of the dozens of apps for calling, online meetings or webinars. Write faster with dictation. Do you write a lot? Your phone is a fantastic and very accurate portable dictation machine. Dictate text into a message and then send it to yourself. Or use Windows 10 to dictate anywhere on your PC. Make "to do" lists and notes on the fly. Again, dictate or grab your keyboard and type anywhere - email, text editor, or use a note tool like OneNote, in which you centralize and keep track of all your ideas, lists and Web research. Accounting and expense tracking. Stay organized with accounting software and mileage tracking, and make tax payments on time to avoid penalties.
Remember to back up your data regularly! It's easier than ever and crucial when you work from home. You are your own IT Manager, so do your job! Don't wait until you lose that report you've been working on for weeks, or worse, witness years of data vanish if your hard drive crashes. The pain of data loss is devastating and costly to your business and productivity. Use OneDrive in Windows, Google, Apple, or any cloud service to back up your valuable files yourself, or automatically. Keep the kids away from your work tools. Your computer is your livelihood. Imagine your high-performance work laptop slowing to a crawl after your teenager starts using it for homework every day, and then spending hours on research and calling support to bring it back to life (true story). Bottom line: get the kids an affordable laptop for school work.
Ideally, you have a dedicated space at home for work, such as a home office that's away from the action (basement, bedroom upstairs, remote corner of the living room). You'll be more productive if your space isn't too hot, cold, noisy, bright, humid or dry. If it is, there are (relatively) cheap fixes: a dehumidifier, portable AC, a fan, blinds, and earplugs!
When you're self-employed and you work from home, one of the hardest things to do is "manage your pipeline" (that is, find your next project or client). Work can come in clusters at the best of times and then slow to a crawl in the summer and around holidays. Business development should always be on your mind. Ask happy clients to refer you to people they know who might need your services, use social media to build your brand (let people know what you do), update customers or collect testimonials.
To stay alert and focused, move your eyes away from the monitor every 20 minutes to focus on the back of the room. Get up and move around and take short breaks or tackle a personal task to switch gears (besides raiding the fridge), go for a short walk outside or exercise, and don't forget to stay well hydrated. Some people work better nights and weekends so that they can do personal things during the day. Being productive at home means setting a routine that works for you and having enough balance in your life to avoid neglecting other obligations or your health. If you feel out of whack every day because of 80-hour work weeks, your workload could lead to health problems. Maybe it's time to form a partnership with peers whose work you trust so you can help each other with some basic tasks when things get crazy? What if you're sick? Do you have supplemental health and disability insurance to protect your income and your health? Use a virtual assistant to help with simple tasks like answering emails and calls from suppliers or managing your schedule. If you just started working from home, you'll have to decide what works best for you over time, but bad habits can die hard. Here is another great list of expert tips compiled by freelancer coach Ed Gangia that's worth a read.