Archives for posts with tag: self employed

cat at computer
I’ve been working as a fiction writer from home for the past two years, and many times, when I tell people what I do for a living, I get this reaction: “I could never work from home. I don’t have the discipline.” The truth is that successfully working from home does require discipline. It’s been my experience that this discipline doesn’t come naturally. It took me a year to get my priorities straight and to find an effective work rhythm. Below are some practices that have helped me along the way.

Please understand that everyone’s work experiences will vary. What works for me may not work for you, and you might come up with tips that I haven’t discovered yet. Feel free to leave those in the comments. Also, working from home isn’t for everyone. Some people enjoy going to a place of work, and they are better producers in that environment.

If you do work from home, then I hope you find these tips to be helpful:

1) Be social. One of the greatest challenges that I face at home is not having colleagues to interact with on a daily basis. For me, social media has been a great solution to this problem, specifically Twitter. I’ve formed and maintained relationships with several people through Twitter. I’ve found that mindfully communicating with about 100 users, as opposed to trying to reach out to all 1.3K of the folks I follow, has helped me to share information, stay informed, and improve my craft.

As great as social media can be, I also strongly suggest meeting up with friends in person. Over the past two years, I’ve identified other people in my life who have flexible schedules. I schedule at least two in-person lunches or coffee dates with these friends during the week. I’m always amazed by how these appointments energize me and push me to hustle to meet my work goals.

2) Break the silence. Some people like to listen to music when they work, and that’s fine. I, however, need silence in order to write effectively. As much as I appreciate and love silence, I find that I grow weary of it over time. To combat this silence overload, I sometimes listen to classical (or lyric-less) music while I work on less mentally demanding tasks, such as checking email or cooking a meal. I also listen to podcasts when I work out or take an extended break. My favorite podcasts are those that stimulate my thinking, such as The Accidental Creative, TED Radio Hour, and Ravi Zacharias’ “Just Thinking.” I also sometimes listen to audio books and short stories.

3) Set a daily work goal. First, determine what a full day’s work looks like for you. Take an 8 hour chunk of time and just work. During this stretch, take a 5-10 minute break every hour, and a 30-45 minute lunch. The work that you accomplish during these 8 hours is your work goal for an ideal day’s work. Going forward, if you meet this goal or can come within 80% of completion, then you’ve put in a full day’s work. If you meet half of this goal, then you’ve worked a half day. Sometimes, you will have other tasks and activities and will only be able to partially meet your goal, which is okay. If you worked at an office, you would sometimes work half or partial days on account of meetings and/or other scheduled events. In general, since you don’t work at an office, try to hold yourself to a full day’s work.

4) Periodically reassess your daily goal. The more time you spend working from home, the more effective you will–hopefully–become at accomplishing your work. Every few months or so, reassess how much work you’re capable of completing in 8 hours. You will probably find that you’ll be able to up your workload as time passes. Either that, or you’ll affirm where your limits are and strive to maintain them.

5) Exercise your body. Yes, get up and do something physical. Walk, jog, swim, dance, lift weights, train on the elliptical, take a Pilates class–whatever gets you moving. Do it! I like to workout for 45-60 minutes, 4-5 times per week. At minimum, aim for 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week. An oxygenated brain is sharper and healthier than one that doesn’t get oxygenated. Not to mention, the kinesthetic break helps your brain to reset for your work tasks.

6) Structure your day. Understand that even in an office setting, you probably wouldn’t be off in a corner working for 8 hours straight. Shape your day by incorporating short, regular breaks, and treating yourself to a longer lunch break when you need to refuel. The key to structure is balance. Don’t work for too long without taking a break, but also don’t break from your work for too long.

You might try breaking up your daily work goal into chunks that can be accomplished in 1-2 hour intervals, and take small breaks afar completing each chunk. Everyone will structure his or her day differently. Some people have a more freestyle approach to structure, knowing what tasks they need to accomplish and squeezing them in as they can. Do whatever works for you, but be sure that your structure fuels your work. Ineffective structure can create a false sense of accomplishment that will ultimately leave you short of your daily goal.

7) Exercise your mind. In addition to exercising my mind by listening to podcasts on breaks, I enjoy reading the news and following various blogs on a daily basis. I have found that taking 30-60 minutes to do this every morning refreshes and energizes my mind before setting out to hammer out my word count. I also like to always be reading a book, and I aim to complete one book ever 1-2 weeks.

8) Enjoy the perks. When you work from home, you lose the perks of working in the office, like having colleagues, attending work events, having a set schedule, and having a boss. Yes, having boss can be a perk, especially to people who thrive when someone holds them accountable for their tasks. When you work from home, however, you gain other benefits, like skipping the morning commute, working in your pajamas, having access to your kitchen, petting the cat, having a flexible schedule, being able to squeeze in domestic duties during breaks.

Don’t let the perks detract from your work, but rather appreciate these perks, and use them to nourish your work. For me, getting to work in my bathrobe is one of my favorite perks. My robe makes me feel warm and comfortable, and it settles my mind so I can create more effectively. On some days, however, I need to wear my regular clothes because the comfort of my robe can be too distracting, particularly if I’ve suffered from a poor night’s sleep.

9) Get out of the house. By the time my husband comes home from work, he just wants to sit on the couch and relax at home. I, having been in the house all day, sometimes want to get out. I’ve found that getting out during the day helps me to strike a balance here. I might go to the gym, rather than workout from home, or I might run out for groceries on one of my longer breaks. Physical distance from the workplace can be quite energizing, but when I’m out, I almost always have to fight the temptation to leave my work behind for too long. I like to stop and ask myself, if I had a boss, would she approve of me taking time from work to complete the task I’m doing?

10) Respect your workday. When I first started working from home, I dove into all kinds of volunteer work and offered myself freely to friends in need of personal favors. As important as it was for me to help others, I quickly realized that I wasn’t getting my work done. I was frustrated that others weren’t respecting my time, but the truth is that I wasn’t respecting my time. I’d ignored the schedule component of my flexible schedule.

Once I learned to respect my time, I began to schedule volunteer activities for evenings and weekends, just like I would if I were working at an office. I also began to limit my personal favors to emergency situations only. If a friend can hire someone else to complete the task she’s asking me to do, then she might just need to do that. Also, if my friend wouldn’t dream of asking someone who goes to a physical place of work to complete the same task, then why is she asking me? Yes, I work from home, but I do work. At first, it was difficult for me to not take offense to personal requests, but as I learned how to respond to these requests–kindly yet firmly–I became less frustrated.

As per emergency situations, I’ve come to define a true emergency as a special situation that can’t be planned for ahead of time. Emergencies happen, but not nearly as frequently as some might imagine. Exercise your best judgment when trying to distinguish between true emergencies and situations that can be managed without your assistance.

Basically, effectively working from home comes down to finding out what works for your work, and sticking to that. Producing good work from home is a struggle, that I can guarantee. I can also guarantee that the struggle is worthwhile. For me, it’s astoundingly rewarding to meet my daily mark, while also having a home cooked meal ready for my husband.

If you like this article, share it on Twitter:

Follow Alicia for more tips and insights:

Photo from http://www.morguefile.com/archive/#/?q=typing&sort=pop&photo_lib=morgueFile


Last week I did something that I think any writer, artist, or self-employed person should do–I made a business card. It took me all of ten minutes to create it on my home computer, cost $25.00 with tax (for 200), and was ready for pick-up in four hours. I used¬†Stapeles Copy and Print¬†services to make the card online, and I was able to pick it up at my local Staples right before I headed out to a networking event.

A business card has many uses. It reminds people who you are, broadcasts your contact information so you can save the precious minute that it takes to exchange emails/phone numbers, and it shows others in your field that you are serious about your business.

There are many services out there that help you to create business cards, and if you can spare the ink, you can even print some off at home. Whatever route you go, here are some suggestions that might help you with the creation of your own card:

1)Keep it Clean – Don’t clutter up the cared with too many visuals.

2)Keep it simple – Include ONE email address and ONE phone number.

3) Use active contact information – Make sure the email address is for an account that you check frequently and make sure that the phone number is one that reaches you–not your voicemail. (You may not want to not publish your personal phone number if you do not want to conduct busienss through it.)

4)Include a head shot of yourself and/or an image or icon that communicates what your business is about. If you are an actress, by all means, get a professional head shot and use that. If you sell homemade bath products, use your logo and/or an image that communicates the nature of your business.

5) Include the following information:
-Name
-Job Title – If you don’t have one, create one. Own it, gosh darn it!
-Phone Number
-Fax Number ( very optional, even if you have one. Again, keep it clean.)
-Email Address
-Website (if you have one)
-Mailing address or City and state in which you conduct your business. A major city is best, even if you do not live directly inside of it. For example, if you live in Decatur, GA, which is close to a major city (Atlanta, GA), put Atlanta, GA as your city/state because that is most likely where you will be conducting your business.