For many, working from home as a freelance writer, designer, project manager or any other job is something of a dream. You can set your own hours, work your own schedule and, effectively, be your own boss. It’s a very attractive proposition. However, there are a number of obstacles to working from home as a freelancer that working within an office environment doesn’t possess.
Here we look at seven of the most common issues you might face when working freelance from home, and how you can overcome them.
1. Distinguish your home environment from your work environment
This is a very valuable tip, and one you won’t come across very often as you’ll only experience this issue once you have worked from home for a long period. It takes experience to recognise this issue. When you live and work at home, it becomes very difficult to switch off after your working day has finished. If you’re surrounded by your home office, your business phone and your laptop/PC while you’re trying to relax of an evening and unwind, it will be almost impossible to put your work out of your mind.
You need to create a clear distinction between your home life and your working life and, if possible, even have a ‘travel period’ to get to work. This can best be accomplished if you have a home-office in the garden, such as a converted garage or log cabin, where you can leave your house in order to get to. The distance, no matter how small, will act as a separator between your home and work. If this is not possible, then at the very least you should have a separate room of your house for your home office – one where you can shut the door on at the end of the working day, and not open it again until the next day (or until you’re next ready to work).Distinguish your home environment from your work environment #freelancetips Click To Tweet
Do not, under any circumstances, set up your working office in your living room. If you don’t keep your home and work life separate, you’ll become increasingly stressed and agitated about work while you’re relaxing. It will affect your health and your sleep.
2. Send your invoices on-time and include payment terms
This is the downfall of many freelancers and, indeed, many business owners. You can become too busy doing the work to send the invoices, as that’s not considered ‘real work’. Sending your invoices is perhaps the single most important thing you can do as a freelancer. You can guarantee any company you use won’t be slow with their invoices. Your gas and electric supplier isn’t going to dally, and your council tax demand appears within days of moving into a new home. You need to be this proactive. If you don’t send your invoices, you won’t get paid. If you don’t get paid, you’ll have no money. It’s that simple.Send your invoices on-time and include payment terms #freelancetips Click To Tweet
As soon as you’ve agreed your invoice will be sent (whether it’s upon completion of work, or up front when a contract has been signed), you need to send it. Many businesses are slow at paying invoices, with some larger businesses imposing 30-day or 60-day paying cycles (some are even longer!) so the quicker you send your invoice, the quicker you’ll get paid.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for payment
Equally, you shouldn’t feel afraid or embarrassed to ask for payment. Every business has late payers. Some accounts departments are encouraged to pay invoices late because the longer they can keep the funds in their account, the more interest they’ll earn. Additionally, and this is a sad truth, the longer they can withhold payment the more chance the company they owe will go out of business and they won’t have to pay at all.Don’t be afraid to ask for payment #freelancetips Click To Tweet
Always chase payment. Be polite, but be authoritative. It’s your money and you’re owed it. Don’t be afraid to chase, via email and phone, every day if your payment is late. If you’re really struggling with a debt, there are plenty of companies offering collection services that work on a percentage of the reclaimed debt, so you could consider that.
4. Don’t become too wrapped up in work to look for new work
This is one of the biggest problems of the freelance worker, especially the web designer or graphic designer. When a project is a meaty, lengthy one that takes several weeks or months, all of your time can be consumed on the project. You live and breathe it. Your day-to-day work becomes nothing but the project.Don’t become too wrapped up in work to look for new work #freelancetips Click To Tweet
What happens when it’s finished? Now you have no work, and bills to pay. You need to work on what is called a pipeline, which is a line of work you have on your schedule to last you for the foreseeable future. It’s no good looking for freelance work, getting some work, doing the work and then looking for work again. Businesses have salespeople and business development managers constantly building up the company’s pipeline for the creative staff to work on. As a freelancer, you need to do both roles and you need to do them simultaneously. Don’t spend every hour of every day working on a particular job – spend some of the time working on getting new business for when your current project is finished.
5. Get out. Meet people. Network
While working from home as a freelancer may seem very attractive, with perks such as ‘wear what you want’, ‘start when you want’ and ‘no travel time’, you’ll quickly realise one vital human need is missing: interaction. Working from home as a freelancer can be so very, very lonely. If you’ve worked in an office environment, you’ll know what it’s like having colleagues to bounce ideas off, to share a joke with and to talk about last night’s football or TV.
When you’re working from home, you have none of that, and you can very quickly start to talk to yourself and go all Jack Nicholson from The Shining. All work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy.Get out. Meet people. Network #freelancetips Click To Tweet
To avoid that happening you should make every effort to get out of the house and seek out new people. This will be necessary anyway to seek out new business, so it serves a double purpose. Look for local business networking groups where you can attend. There are many different types in most towns and cities across the UK and the USA, so you just need to look for them and go along. Some are free, some have a small charge and some are members only, but even these will allow you to go along as a visitor to see if you’ll enjoy it.
If you’re worried about walking into a room full of new faces, don’t be. Everyone’s there for the same purpose and that’s to make new business contacts and find new business. You could always get there early so that you’re not walking into a room full of people – you’re one of the first ones there!
6. Minimise distractions when working from home
I mentioned earlier about having a separate room for your home office, and this really is vital to avoid disturbances. When you’re working from home as a freelancer, it’s too easy to become distracted with bits and pieces around your house that you’d normally interact with if you were at home. For example, you may find yourself catching up on some laundry, reorganising the kitchen cupboards, doing a bit of weeding in the garden, dusting the bookcase, hoovering the lounge or watching the TV – all while you’re supposed to be working.Minimise distractions when working from home #freelancetips Click To Tweet
If you live with other people, this can be even worse, so…
7. Make sure friends and family know you’re ‘at work’
It’s far too easy for people to see you at home and think it’s OK to pop round for a chat, or to ask you something if they live with you. You need to create very clear boundaries so friends and family know you’re at work. You may be physically at home, but this is your ‘work time’ and you’re not available for chats, coffee hours or lunch – unless you set them a specific time they’re allowed to call. If you don’t do this, you could find your whole working day has disappeared.Make sure friends and family know you’re ‘at work’ #freelancetips Click To Tweet
It can be very difficult to tell a friend or family member they need to go because you’re at work. Make sure they know in advance so there’s no confusion, and no awkward conversations.
If you follow these seven tips, you’ll find working from home as a freelancer is a lot of fun. It’s scary, yes. It’s hard work, certainly. It’s definitely worth it though – so long as you go into it with your eyes open and don’t think it’s an easy life, you’ll do just fine.
If you have any questions or require any advice, you can always ask me. I’ve done it myself, for many years, and I’ve also employed freelancers and continue to do so.
Good luck with your new career.