How to work from home

evening landscape with houses and birds

I swapped the office cubicle for the spare room two years ago and I’ve never looked back. However, working from home isn’t as simple or as easy as it sounds. It certainly helped that I’d spent two years “easing myself in” – working at home temporarily whilst freelancing at other offices part time.

Exercise

exercise

Dog-owners walk their dogs everyday and yet you never hear of people who take themselves out for a walk. If it’s good enough for our pets, it’s good enough for us!

I used to take public transport to work which involved a fair amount of walking – not great physical exercise but physical exercise none the less. After exclusively working from home for a few months I was literally piling on the pounds. Not good!

So, my first advice to home workers is to … get out of your home! Spend 30-60 minutes of the day exercising. You should at least enjoy the benefits of this amazing lifestyle revolution as there will be days where the benefits won’t be so apparent.

Sir Richard Branson (the British entrepreneur, best known for his Virgin Group of over 400 companies) always says that the single most important trick to increasing productivity is exercise.

Getting work

clients

Maybe the most important thing about working from home is to make money. Of course, we can all dream of earning a passive income (like The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss) but this takes time to set up and in the meantime you need to pay the bills.

I would always advocate having a certain amount of income already planned before you give up your 9-5. This is why I found it so useful to do a bit of freelancing for other companies part time while I made the switch to home working. You can always take your personal work to your job with you and work on it during downtime!

The best work comes from personal relationships. The closer these relationships are the better the work. Let me explain. If a top executive at a top company knows you and recommends you to work for a colleague it will be 100 times better and more profitable work than if you get a job from a 3rd party site such as Elance or PeoplePerHour.

So focus on your business relationships. Good clients will get you more good clients. Avoid bad clients like the plague.

How do you get good clients like the top executive at a top company? It’s much better to write about what you do in your blog and get good clients to contact you rather than to look for them.

Outsourcing

outsourcing

“Focus on what you do best and outsource the rest”. Why spend hours on a fiddly bit of JavaScript, PHP or CSS, when someone can do it for you for $5 or $10. I have had incredibly good experiences offshoring some technical work to Asia. Use Elance, oDesk and crowdSPRING. Easy to set up an account and set maximums to ensure you never pay more than a few dollars.

Self-discipline

chocolates

This is a difficult one because everybody’s different.

Personally, I don’t have an alarm clock – I can usually rely on myself to wake up and start working before 9.30am but I know that is too lax for some people. I know one person who needs to wake up at a certain time and dress into their suit in order to “go” to work at home.

That may be important for them but for me it is more important to avoid distractions at certain periods of the day to concentrate on the most taxing jobs. These are key client tasks (designing, coding or preparing a document for a client) or other work that takes a similar amount of brain power (writing blog posts and newsletters). Similarly, there are times in the day when I’m less able to concentrate, at these times I do less demanding work such as social media, invoicing, accounting and certain email tasks.

So if I had a normal day – which I never do but if I did – it would go something like this:

9.00 – 9.30Tea. Check Analytics, Twitter, email, resolve what to do in the morning
9.30 – 11.30This is the most productive part of the day and therefore distractions must be kept to a minimum whilst the most taxing work is completed. Whether or not the task or tasks are completed they will not actually be sent off to the client (or, in the case of a blog post, published) at this stage.
11.30 – 12.00Tea. Check email, Twitter, answer blog comments.
12.00 – 1.00Exercise
1.00 – 2.00Lunch, check Analytics, Twitter, email, resolve what to do in the afternoon
2.00 – 4.00This is the second most productive time of the day after the lethargy from the lunch has subsided. If important client work has been completed, I’ll send it off to the client after a review with an appropriately worded email and continue with any other taxing work that needs doing.
4.00 – 5.00Tea. Check email, Twitter, forum, LinkedIn conversations.
5.00 – 6.00This will either be taxing work or sending off work to client that was completed earlier in the afternoon after a review.
6.00 – 8.30Sometimes quick run to the shops to purchase groceries or preparation and eating of dinner and watching TV.
8.30 – 10.00After dinner lethargy has subsided this is another productive time of the day where I can do taxing work if I have to.

So, you can see, even though I’m a naturally disorganised and spontaneous person, I have identified and isolated times in the day where I’m at my most productive.

However, I do stray from my self-imposed rules. Another thing I do is to flit between two client jobs. No book on productivity would ever recommend that but it works for me!

Family life

family

I hardly need to say that the family is the most important thing and the reason why you are doing all this. For this reason it is always necessary to have slack and time in your routine for family time both planned and emergency!

Increased quality time with your loved ones will, like exercise, increase your productivity.

Equipment

tools

Your chosen profession will obviously dictate the sort of equipment you will need to buy in for your home office. So all I will say here is don’t buy anything until there comes a day when you actually need it.

You wouldn’t believe how many home workers say to themselves: “Right, I’m running a business from home, I simply must go out and buy a fax machine!” It may well turn out, once you start working, that you don’t need a fax machine. Wait before making purchases!

Charging

dollars

I’m not a fan of charging clients per hour. But in order to get an hourly rate, calculate what you need to make if you were only working for 4 hours a day. In order words, make sure that you charge at least two times more than would like to earn if you’d had a traditional job.

Conclusion

I believe that working from home and pursuing a “DIY Career” provides an incredible opportunity to improve your health, carbon footprint, quality of life and can have a positive effect on the world! After a period of travelling to work and being told what to do I have found staying at home and pursuing my own dreams incredibly empowering.

Here are a couple of books that may help you on your way:

Do you work from home either part time or all the time? What problems and solutions do you have? I am really interested in this subject and I would be incredibly grateful for any tips you could give me.

As always, if you enjoyed this article, you could register you thanks by Tweeting, Liking or voting for it using any of the links below. :)

Comments

  1. says

    Great outline of what you need to do. I especially agree with the exercise part. Research shows it is not only good for your heart, immune system and body in general, it really does help boost brain power.

    Great post!

  2. says

    Hi Rob,
    These are some great tips. I’d add fine affordable health insurance to the mix, too, especially if you have children. It’s one of the things I forgot about and well, let’s just say, I’ve got an extra expense that could’ve been reduced.
    But anyway, getting out away from the computer is probably some of the best advice you have here. For whatever reason, my best advice always hit me when I’m NOT in front of the computer. :)

  3. says

    Good article Rob! I tend to produce my better design work around 11pm till 3am my son is asleep the “day stuff” is sorted my mind is more relaxed. Then do the coding the next day :)

  4. says

    Great article Rob!! The exercise tip is a fantastic one! I was told this a couple of months ago and it has really helped me>

    Thanks Again

  5. says

    Hello Yolanda, thank you, and those extra reasons for exercising are all great motivations!

    Hello Kiesha, thanks for that affordable health insurance tip. Actually, here in the UK we’re meant to have free healthcare for life (but it’s not very good sometimes!) and it pays to take out some insurance against injury that would stop you earning, etc. Yes, it’s good to drag yourself away from the computer for a period of time every day.

    Hello Rob, OK after the third cup of normal tea I move onto the herbal variety otherwise I get caffeine related teeth grinding – you heard it here first! Thanks, buddy, and best of luck for the New Year too!

    Hello Derek, interesting you’re a middle of the day person whereas I’m a first thing person but we’re both fitting it around the family!

    Hello Mike, thank you. It’s one to keep at – too many people recommend it for it not to be true!

  6. says

    Good discussion! Discipline re: Dedicated “design hours” without interruption is the key. Exercise: Have a pup so noontime is it.
    Personally, I work P/T job out of the home 2 days/week. At-home work days = 8am-8pm for the most part.
    I also try to stay away from the computer Saturday afternoons & Sundays, unless project timeline demands prevail.

  7. says

    re: You can always take your personal work to your job with you and work on it during downtime!

    Wow! Okay, I’ve never seen anyone actually write that before. Have your employer pay you while you build your own business so you can leave your employer.

    Yes, we all do it, but “shhhhhh”

    I take it you are the honest-to-a-fault type of guy? *chuckle* :-)

  8. says

    Hello Andrea, we have a dog too (one year old so still puppy-ish). It’s good you have computer free times at the weekend. I didn’t talk about the weekend much as I’m afraid I probably work too much during it! Thank you for your comments.

    Hello Eliza, ah, yes, I was actually advocating doing something a bit naughty. But I always used to turn up to work and they’d have nothing for me to do and expect me to surf the web or something – they didn’t know what I was doing, although I guess they wouldn’t have been too happy if they knew. Anyway, I’ll keep quiet about it next time. We’ll keep this between ourselves ;)

  9. Riccardo says

    i’ve worked at home for several months and i definitely agree with the exercise need… cause i didn’t… and the problem isn’t the weight but it is alienation…
    now i’m working in an openspace but it’s so noisy… will i find a good middle solution?!?!?! :)

    working at home is not possible when children run around even if you close yourself alone in a room… and teamworking lacks… actually i think that homeworking should be a part of the week/month/project, depends by the kind of the engagement (regardless the children ehehe)

    bye

  10. says

    I try to follow a similar schedule, although I’m way more productive during the night (which is hardly achievable with family and the other part of the world).

    However, it’s hard for me to concentrate early in the morning and I’m usually doing communication and meetings before lunch and work longer (not to lose concentration and speed) after 2pm. Also, my workout (which I started recently) is done in the morning.

    Your equipment tricks are something I definitely not follow. I bought a 3in1 scanner, printer and copier at home and some other necessary gadgets. First of all, they increase my productivity and I don’t panic when I need to send something or do require a backup of some document. I also have a backup power supply for the notebook, as well as an old notebook for emergency (it happens).

    I’m interested in the tea part – when I have less work, I do water/coca-cola drinking, when it’s a rush time – coffee and energy drinks. I’m trying to reduce the sugar drinks (because of weight problems) but I haven’t found something brain stimulating with no ‘fat’ impact.

  11. says

    Everybody always says they’d like to work from home and would be more productive if they could but the truth is that distractions really can add up when your at home. Self discipline is key if you are actually able to have a productive work day at home. Another thing to seriously consider is the equipment that you will need and the investment it takes up front to get a good home office working.

  12. says

    “If it’s good enough for our pets, it’s good enough for us!”

    Well said. That does for naps as well.

    Some good reality checks here for people making the transition from working in an office, especially re: equipment.

  13. says

    Hi Rob, again a really inspiring post. As I’m planning to do what you have done this gives me lots of ideas on how to do it. Good tip about the exercise – it’s very easy to tuck into the biscuits and not go out of the house for days. Keep up the excellent work.

  14. says

    Hello Riccardo, you make a good point about children. I think this all probably dependent on your home situation. I’m married but we don’t have kids. I couldn’t work from home if I lived alone either, as I would go crazy! So you make an excellent point. I hope you find some quieter offices and soon the kids will grow up and not run around so much. (But you never know!) :)

    Hello Mario, interesting that you’re not a morning person. Sometimes I love to work at night as well, if I’m not too tired! I agree with you about equipment as well. I had a 3in1 printer copier scanner already (as well as a computer) before I started working from home so I thought of that as standard but I should have made that more clear. I going to try to drink more water, apparently that’s good for productivity as well. Coca-cola would put my caffeine levels too high together with the tea! Thanks for the comment!

    Hello Michael, I think it takes practice, like most things, to be able to deal with distractions and concentrate at home. As for equipment, it’s different for everyone, but I just need at computer, back-up and, occasionally, printer. Cheers.

    Hello Andy, thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoyed the article.

    Hello Mark, thanks again for popping by. Best of luck this year trying to do your own thing. If you need any help please ask!

  15. says

    Got to this entry after reading your epub!

    well worth looking at IP phones. cheaper calls and you can use a dialing code that is different from where you live.

    also turn off as many notifications that tell you that some piece of information has arrived! This has helped me with productivity.

  16. Ali says

    Everybody always says they’d like to work from home and would be more productive if they could but the truth is that distractions really can add up when your at home. Self discipline is key if you are actually able to have a productive work day at home. Another thing to seriously consider is the equipment that you will need and the investment it takes up front to get a good home office working.

    • says

      Hello Ali, working from home is very definitely not for everybody. However, it works for me. And to start my business all I needed was a computer, broadband internet and a printer – all of which I had anyway. Depends on the business though.

  17. says

    I can relate to “piling on the pounds”. I’ve packed on a few myself these past months sitting in this chair. I have been out walking, but my problem is sticking with it on a regular schedule.

    I’m not sure how this work from home thing is going to turn out. I started doing it a few months ago mainly because I have no other choice. I’ve been unemployed since 2008 and my unemployment ran out a couple months ago. So I’ve been plugging away on the Web marketing myself like crazy to see if I can drum up some business.

    The one thing I can say from my own short experience is that being totally dependent on freelance income is a scary thing. You have no guarantees if you’re going to even get any clients, let alone make any money to pay your rent and bills.

    For those who do have regular daytime jobs would highly recommend not quitting those until you have a firm dependable source of income to fuel your freelance career.

    • says

      Hello again Doug! Working from home is definitely not for everybody. And I would never recommend somebody gives up a regular wage just to try it. I was working freelance whilst building up my company from home. I did those two things in tandem for a while which was a help. It can be a scary thing, for sure, but the benefits are much greater than what you get for working for someone else, I think.

      Best of luck with the web marketing. If you have any questions, you can ask them here!

  18. says

    I am full time freelancer i have started freelance 2 years back for the first year i fully working in the home and didn’t care about the body.. but from last 6 months i caring about the physic and working in gym for 2 hours a day. and regarding the work time you mentioned is awesome. from today i too going to follow this timing only. hope this will help me to manage the projects. My freelancing for last 3 months are not good as i didn’t get much projects in hand. hope i will get some projects soon as i am going to use your strategies. thanks for your article it helped me a lot.

  19. says

    Hi Bobby, well done for doing what you have done! I know it’s difficult when you aren’t getting as much work as you would like but, don’t worry, I’m sure the work will come in soon and you’ll have too much to do!

  20. says

    Hi Rob,

    Very interesting post containing such valuable information that will certainly impact people in a positive way. This is certainly inspiring and motivating.

  21. says

    Great stuff Rob. I especially agree with the exercise. My job is quite a physical one and i’ve noticed that when I have a busy week, I am more motivated to do more and more work. In the weeks that I don’t have much work coming in, I take a walk to the shops which is about an hours walk and it clears your head and gets you thinking straight. Thanks for all the neat advise. I’ll share it.
    Craig

  22. says

    Great blog post, I got a lot of value from it, the key to success online is have a daily to do list and completing it and trying to minimize any distractions.

    Keep up the good work

    Shaun

  23. Gary Durant says

    Hi Rob,

    What advice would you have for someone starting out fresh, I have done some work through ODesk but stuck on ideas on how to move forward.

    I am a freelance journalist/writer and any of your advice would be great.

    Gary Durant

    • says

      Hello Gary, welcome to my site. The best piece of advice I could give anyone is to start up a WordPress.org self-hosted blog and start writing about what you do.

      The best way to start is to download my free e-books and take things from there. I’m here if you have any questions.

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.