I share some of the top struggles of freelancing and working from home along with my top tips for how to make it work for you!
If you haven’t already read my top 10 business tips for bloggers, freelancers and entrepreneurs, you’ve got to get on that ASAP here. 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 freelancing and working from home doesn’t come with serious struggles.
Guys, the struggle is REAL. It is definitely not as sexy as Fifth Harmony make it seem. So if you’re contemplating moving towards a freelancing or entrepreneurship lifestyle, and working from home is about to become your daily grind, here are some of the top realities you’ll likely face and some tips on what to do about it.
Struggles of Freelancing and 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 to the gym 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, mail 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 to the gym in my active wear, come home 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. Not hot.
My Fix: Take your work schedule seriously. Going out 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 go out on Friday and Saturday when I don’t have to work the next morning, and only make plans during the week if it’s a) early enough that it doesn’t impact my bedtime or b) an exception that I need to be flexible for. A wedding, birthday, shiva or work event is a legit exception, going out on a whim to a rando’s party with my friends, is not. You will have your own standards and values, 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) Fuck off.
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. This is especially the case for my Canadian entrepreneurs who have to struggle through the reality of below zero temperatures. These are the days you’re usually super grateful that you’re working from home. But after a few too many days landlocked, you can start to lose your shit. Trust me, it happens bi-weekly over here in Abbey’s Kitchen where the second my husband comes home, I literally pounce out of my office door into his arms like he just returned from war. He loves it, but I feel pretty damn pathetic.
My Fix: Make a point to leave the house (and yes, that means the entire building, pacing the hallways doesn’t count) at least once each day. No joke, working from home is the reason I am able to stay in shape because going to the gym becomes my “social hour”. It doesn’t have to be the gym, maybe try to plan at least one meeting in person rather than restricting yourself to back to back conference calls, or go to the bank, or take your lunch in the park or at a nearby café. My producer and I often also take monthly meetings at the spa and just sit in the pool and chat work on a Tuesday afternoon. While taking “me” time is always important, making “human-interaction” time is just as key to making this working from home stuff work.
You’re Working in a 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.
My Fix: 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.
My Fix: Celebrate with other freelancers or people you do work with often. This past Christmas, Abbey’s Kitchen had its first-holiday party. It was just me, my assistant Savannah, my producer Kyla and my screen-partner Matt, but it was really special. With the world now communicating almost solely on social media, take some time to get to know the people behind the avatar. Host an impromptu potluck or meet up at a local café or restaurant, and enjoy some time with likeminded (and maybe similarly lonely) folks.
See, working from home doesn’t have to be hard, lonely or unproductive. It may come with its challenges, but honestly, I could not imagine doing anything else. It’s cost effective, time-saving and honestly, just comfortable to me, so I hope these common challenges and tips help set you up well. 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, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.