I share some of the top struggles of freelancing and working from home for Coronavirus along with my top tips for how to make it work for you!
Today I wanted to pass along some tips and challenges for one of the most common elements of entrepreneurship and freelancing – working from home.
Now, I’ve always been a self-disciplined person. I’m good at putting my shoes out so I get up and go to the gym every day. I’m good at making my breakfast the night before so I won’t be tempted to grab a pastry. I’m good at taking my makeup off before bed even when I’m super drunk. So I am one of those unicorns who thrive while working from home, freelancing and working for myself. But that doesn’t mean that being a freelancer and working from home (with a kiddo now) doesn’t come with serious struggles.
Guys, the struggle is REAL. It is definitely not as sexy as that Fifth Harmony song make it seem. So if you’re moving into an entrepreneurial role or you’re stuck working from home because of social isolation and Coronavirus, here are some of the top realities you’ll likely face and some tips on what to do about it.
Common struggles and TIps for Working from Home
YOUR WORK HOURS ARE… ALWAYS?
Say buh bye to clocking in and clocking out at the end of the day- your work is with you all day err day. When you work for yourself, everything feels like its riding on your success and when you’re not working towards excellence, you’re failing. This is something I will probably always struggle with as a perfectionist type A personality but I have definitely made leaps and bounds advances from where I once was.
My Fix: Create structure and boundaries. You don’t need to make your hours 9 to 5, but try to determine ahead of time when you plan to work. Maybe you will decide to start at 10, take an hour break to go for a walk at 1 pm, then work until 7 pm. Whatever it is, make the decision ahead of time, and get away from your phone/computer. Turn off notifications on your phone (I put mine onto sleep mode) and don’t answer work emails, texts or calls (unless they’re super important).
PUTTING A BRA FEELS LIKE A HUGE WIN
Or putting on pants. Or washing your hair. Or applying lipstick (yeah.. like that never happens). When the only source of life that you see is your apartment security man, amazon delivery man, and (maybe) your hubby, it’s easy to just… let go.
My Fix: Get a routine. You don’t have to “dress up” every day if you don’t enjoy dressing up, but every day, make an effort to have a shower, and put on a fresh set of clothes. I literally go for a walk in my active wear, come inside and have a shower, then change into a new set of “active wear”. Yes, I sometimes look like death (my producer who bravely face times me can attest to that), and it’s okay to have those days, but I find I feel more productive and “on” when I look the part.
YOU’RE HUNGOVER AND YOUR PRODUCTIVITY SUCKS (AND IT’S ONLY TUESDAY)
Oh yeah, we’ve been there. The transition to freelance life and working from home is kinda like coming off a really strict diet or “cleanse”. You go hog wild with the amount of freedom you have, and often end up making decisions you’ll later regret. But soon, that novelty wears off and you have to deal with an ugly hangover while taking a conference call on a Tuesday morning while trying to wrangle your screaming toddler. Not hot.
My Fix: Take your work schedule seriously. Staying up late on a work night happens (so go ahead, be flexible), but try to make that the exception and not the rule. I find a lot of people think I don’t have a schedule because I work from home and that Monday night plays out the same as Saturday, but I find without some sense of structure, my whole life just falls apart. Instead, I make a huge effort to put some (flexible) rules in place. I may stay up later on Friday and Saturday when I don’t have to “work” the next morning, and try to keep a routine during the week. You will have your own standards and values on sleep and productivity though, so do you.
You Get Sucked into Facebook All Day Long
One of my pet peeves is when my husband walks into my office and claims I’m not working because he sees I’m on Facebook. HEY! I have two things to say about that – 1) I work in social media- Facebook is my work and 2) ugh, leave me alone.
My Fix: Just like in the workplace when you’re allowed a lunch break or cigarette break (but ew- please don’t), you’re allowed to take “mindless thinking breaks” when working from home. But if you find Facebook (or any other site) is distracting you from when you’re supposed to be “on”, you’ve got to put your big girl panties on and limit yourself. I find that it helps to have two browser windows while I’m in the office- one for all of my work-related sites and queries (ie. Scientific journals, nutrient data, my blog etc.) and then another for “fun”. I put the entire “fun” window down into the dock and only bring it up when I’m taking one of my breaks. If it helps you get your mind off of it, schedule in when you will take a 5-minute fun break so you know what to expect and when to expect it. Why not just exit the tabs, you ask? Well, I have a strange anxiety aversion to closing tabs and I find that I just end up wasting time trying to remember all of the “fun” sites I like to check out or read. If you’re not strange like me, then exit away.
You Haven’t Seen Another Human in DAYS
Ah yes. On a good day, this is especially the case for my Canadian entrepreneurs who have to struggle through the reality of below zero temperatures. But now that we’re all basically working from home thanks to social distancing and Coronavirus, this is ALL OF US. I mean, if you’re single, you’re really not seeing anyone. And if you have a family, that is IT. There’s no escape by going to the workplace.
My Fix: Make a point to get some fresh air at least once each day or take a break to FaceTime a friend. While taking “me” time is always important, making “human-interaction” time is just as key to making this working from home stuff work – especially when we can’t physically hang out together.
You’re Working in aÂ WAR ZONE
The irony of working from home is that everyone who lives with you just expects that the house should be spotless when you get home since you’ve just been there all day. However, when you’re working in a space that you’re also living in, it can be really easy to abuse it.
If you know me, I’m not the best person to give anyone advice on how to clean their home since I am probably the messiest person, but I do find that it helps to “contain” the madness. If you find yourself working on the couch one day, in bed the next, on the kitchen island later, and then in the office, you’ll quickly make a mindless mess of it all. Shit just spreads like a virus EV-ER-Y-WHERE. Choose one place to set up shop and stick to it. Then create a schedule for when and how often you’ll tidy up. This really depends on how messy you tend to be, but I find I like to take 10 minutes at the end of every workday before I start dinner to organize papers, file receipts, and papers and get my life back in order for the next day. As for the sentiment that you should be cleaning all day since you’re already home, um, yah, NO.
You Waste an Hour Every Day Trying to Figure Out What to Do
Having flexibility in your schedule and getting to set your own agenda sounds really empowering, but at times, it can be incredibly anxiety provoking. When I first started out, I would waste a ton of time just trying to decide what the F to do in my day- especially on Monday when the permutations and possibilities for which path to take or what to do seemed endless.
My Fix: Make a To-Do list! Guys, your to-do list is going to become your absolute BFF. It needs to be your life. I like to make a to-do list the week before (on Friday EOD) for the week ahead so I already feel organized and ready with a plan when I sit down on Monday morning.
You Don’t Get a Holiday Party or a Cake on Your birthday
Okay so this may seem pathetic, but sometimes I get really sad about this. There’s a convivial element to working with a team in an organization that you just really miss out on when you’re stuck working from home. You don’t have anyone to groan with about the turmoil of Monday mornings. You don’t get to feel like you’re “in this together” when you stay at work late on a Friday and order pizza. You don’t have a family to celebrate holidays, birthdays, retirements and other occasions. It can feel lonely. This is going to be particularly true while we’re all socially isolating.
My Fix: Celebrate with other freelancers or people you do work with often in little remote ways. Host a little skype conference lunch where everyone can chat and catch up. Or on a friday night, host a skype wine and cheese party (in your respective apartments, of course.)
YOU’RE TRYING TO JUGGLE PARENTHOOD AND YOUR WORKLOAD
I can totally relate to this one. If my son sees me on my computer at the breakfast bar, he will scream “mummy up!” until I eventually lift him onto my lap and pray he doesn’t delete any important files or cause my computer to crash mid-document.
My Fix: Okay, so all of you parents out there doing this work from home thing for the first time without any daycare or school for your kids need to know- THIS IS NOT EASY. This will not ever be easy and even for someone like me, who works from home ALL the time, the struggle is real. But I do have some suggestions. For one, lower your expectations. It’s okay if your kids get more screen time than normal during these unprecedented times. Two, Amazon your kids some age appropriate independent activities. For my 2-year old son, that was playdough, dinosaur stamps and lots of sticker books. They won’t keep them busy for ever, but you might get a few blocks of time to answer emails. Three, you’ve got to get your partner on board to help. I am so lucky I have a super supportive husband who is an AMAZING dad. He’s a better parent than I am (though his multi tasking leaves much to be desired). Every week we would share our calendar to determine who would need what hours blocked off. When he needed a morning to work, I would do mom duty, and then he would give me the afternoon or vice versa. And we would both get to take those glorious hours while my son napped. But if it IS your time to work, get the heck away from your kid so you can really be as productive as humanly possible. Even if that means you’re working in your bedroom or bathroom, you will probably be more productive there in quiet than at the dining table where your kid is also playing.
Listen, these next few crazy weeks are going to be tough. But I hope these tips from an experienced entrepreneur, freelancer and now social isolator gives you a little ease. Okay, now cue Fifth Harmony.
Now, I want to know, what are some of your biggest challenges for working from home?
What tips do you have that you have found helped you overcome some of these challenges? Leave me a comment below and don’t forget to share this with fellow freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian (RD), regulated by the Ontario College of Dietitians. She is a mom, YouTuber, Blogger, award winning cookbook author, media coach specializing in food and nutrition influencers, and a frequent contributor to national publications like Healthline and on national broadcast TV shows.