I hate being categorized. I’m not a mommy blogger. I’m not even a mom who blogs. I’m a blogger who happens to be a woman and wife and mother and that trickles into my writing simply because that’s who I am. And I do it all from home.
So when I fill out surveys, I get confused when it asks for my employment status: stay at home, work from home, unemployed, employed part time. It’s really more of a fluid question these days, isn’t it?
I spend most of my days at home. I have two freelance jobs that are pretty steady contract jobs and I make a little money from my blog (mainly from the occasional sponsored post). And during that time, I’ve learned a couple of important lessons that I thought I’d share in case you happen to be in the same predicament (or are considering it).
1. Get dressed every day.
Sure, plenty of bloggers joke about wearing their yoga pants all day. Lord knows I have plenty of yoga pants that I sometimes wear on days when I not even going to yoga. But most days, I get up, get dressed in what I would call casual (not sloppy, just nicely casual) clothes, put on a little makeup, and at the very least, pull my hair back in a ponytail. If I feel put together, it makes it easier to work. True story.
2. Make lists. A lot of lists.
When I’m working for two clients/employers and myself (which includes some clients on my personal blog), it’s tough to keep track of everything that’s going on. I usually create lists for each stakeholder and then try to prioritize those lists. I don’t get too detailed. I just make big bullet points like “write post about dog treats.” I know in my mind that means gathering photos, editing a video, creating a post, and promoting on my social channels. I don’t want to make my lists too long but I do want them to keep me on track.
3. Use time blocks and rewards.
I can’t say I’m awesome at this but I’m getting better. In college, my biggest burden was reading chapters of Organic Chemistry. And being the poor college student that I was, I would reward myself every 3 or so pages with a few Doritos. Yes, Doritos got me through college.
Same thing in working from home (minus the Doritos). In a multi-tasking world like social media, it’s easy to get scatter-brained. So I try to turn everything off (even Facebook) when I’m focusing on client work (unless it’s directly relevant). When you have so many tasks, it’s important to have a sense of accomplishment. And then I reward myself. Usually with lunch, a cup of tea, or a little bit of Candy Crush.
4. Take a lunch hour.
I’ve worked in so many environments where the idea of a lunch break is so foreign that I feel guilty if I’m not microwaving some leftovers and eating them at my desk. And that same philosophy has carried through to working from home. If I’m eating, I’m doing it at my desk because as a freelancer, time is money, right?
NOT TRUE. When you work in a creative field, you need a mental break. You need time to stop, regroup, and refocus. I love to go outside and get some fresh air. Or simply watch some TV. I rarely watch TV in the evenings because my young son stays up late and by the time he goes to bed, I’m too tired to watch anything. Some days, if I take a lunch hour, I’ll actually sit down and catch up on the latest episode of “House of Cards.” All by myself.
5. Have a designated work space.
I’m lucky enough to have room in my house for my very own office, with a closet full of blogging “stuff.” Realizing that not everyone is as fortunate, you still need to carve out your own space. It can be your side of the bedroom, or a corner of the kitchen table, or a sunny spot on the deck. But there should be a place where you can work and it give a clear signal to everyone in the house that you are working. I especially love working where there is a door. I’m sure you can figure out why.
6. End your work day.
It’s not easy to have office hours if you’re in social media. I mean, it’s pretty much a 24/7 job, right? But it is good to have an end to your work day. My end usually comes at 4pm. That doesn’t mean my work is finished but I usually step out of my office, away from my computer, when my son gets home from school.
7. Be flexible.
If I haven’t finished everything, I might take it up later, maybe while my son is taking his bath or after he goes to bed. But the joy of working from home is that you can move things around. If I’m feeling particularly lousy (like today, thanks Fall cold), I might rest in the afternoon for a bit while I have a little solitude and then do a little more work when my son gets home and goes out to ride bikes with his friends. There’s no set formula, for better and for worse. Try to embrace the better.
Those are the big rules I’ve kind of set for myself. I know, I know. It feels wrong to stop a list at a number like seven. But I’m not going to make up three more things just to have a list of ten. Even though I really want to.
I’m certainly not perfect but these are some of the lessons I’ve learned and I’m continuing to learn every day as I continue on my quest to avoid a desk job. Thanks for your support.
If you are working from home, share what works for you. Maybe I CAN come up with a list of ten with your help!