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Tales from a Home Office: Tips for Working from Home

Home Office Sweet Home Office

I love being able to work from home.  I have been doing it for many years and have really gotten the hang of it.  From what I’ve been told, not everyone could stand it, wouldn’t be disciplined enough to get the work done, couldn’t tolerate the quietness, or would have a hard time separating work/home life.  Others say they would love to work from home, but don’t know how to go about it.

Here are some observations, tips, advice and other thoughts about working from home based on my experience as a freelance writer.

Have a Honed Skill and Workplace Experience

I didn’t start working freelance until I had some good solid workplace experience.  As a newspaper reporter, a public relations agency associate, and a business marketing coordinator, I not only honed my writing skills, but I also learned how media companies, PR agencies, and business organizations in general function, as well as other important business skills.

I personally do not believe someone should try to be a freelance writer before being a non-freelance writer (i.e., working for a publication, PR or ad agency, or some other business that requires writing every day).  You need to get “seasoned” first.  You need some direction, mentors, and feedback as you to learn about writing on deadline, working with others, and how to be businesslike.

Know What You’re Selling

In additional to having well-honed skills and experience, be clear on what you’ll be doing.  You will want to do some planning. Who will be your clients?  How will you reach them?  Will you specialize in a certain area, field, type of service?  For example, if you’re a photographer, will you specialize in weddings?  Maybe, children’s photos?  Take some time to think about exactly what services you will offer, how you will provide them, how long processes take, and so on.  Remember, details, details, details.

Be Prepared for Moments of Silence and a Different Kind of Chaos

Working from home isn’t for everyone.  It can get pretty quiet at times.  I find this conducive to concentrating on my work.  The quieter the workspace, the more productive the worker (me).  I find that I don’t have time to get lonely.

On the other hand, depending on where you live, who you live with, or how active your home is, there are times when you have to deal with distractions not encountered at other offices.  It’s not the typical office hustle and bustle, but it has its own chaotic moments.  For me, that includes a barking dog, a husband with varied work days/hours, a child (when she’s not at preschool), the occasional visit from a neighbor, friends, relatives, gardener, laundry, the treadmill in my office, house keeper, nagging voice telling me I should go to the gym, invitations to go off and do non-work things, and so on.

Set Up Your Workspace

Depending on the type of business you’re in, you’ll need the basic office equipment to get started.  This includes the obvious things (office space, work area, computer, supplies, etc.).  I won’t go into it; everyone knows what an office contains.  What I have found helpful is to have quick access to specialists who do what is more difficult for you.  For me, that includes a great computer techie, and a variety of resources and contacts.

Be Handy

When you work from home, it’s all you.  You are the receptionist, tech support (to some extent), sales and marketing department, accountant, purchasing department, CEO, errand runner, production team, etc.  I like this fact.  I find the variety of duties to be a fun challenge.  Be prepared to learn how to do all kinds of things.

Practice Good Time Management

Even though you don’t have to be at work at a certain time, it’s a good idea to pretend that you do.  I keep regular business hours as much as possible.  That means on week days I’m “on the clock” at 9 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. (minus a few breaks for things like lunch, and getting more coffee, and more coffee).

How I allocate my work time varies according to my work load/specific projects.  I prioritize according to deadline.  If I don’t have deadlines for projects, I set my own.  In between projects, I market, organize, do billing, filing and other administrative stuff, blog, Tweet, and work on my own personal writing projects.

It’s a Business So Treat it Like One

You have to give it your all, be professional, and make informed decisions.  It’s a good idea to start with a business plan.  I didn’t start out with one, but I have since created one.  I have found this to be an excellent tool for honing in on exactly what I offer, my pricing, my marketing, etc.  It has made me more focused, organized, and effective.

Other business tips include: stay organized; market your business smartly and on an ongoing basis; know when to delegate and outsource; keep
up with technology and industry changes and developments; network; make customer service a priority; be available; know your worth; value what you do; be committed to constantly improving your product or service; and always learn, fine tune, hone and grow.  Work hard, and you will see results.  Finally, love what you do and do what you love, but always realize that it is work.

Please feel free to share your tips and observations about working from home.  I would love to hear from you.

Lori Granieri


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