By October 8, 2013 Read More →

6 tips for new homeworkers

Helping new homeworkers get on track quickly

6 tips for new homeworkers - Nicola YeelesNicola Yeeles started working from home as a freelance writer only six months ago.

Her guest post is packed with valuable advice for new homeworkers, whatever your job or industry:

Six months ago I was a total beginner at working from home. When I started freelance writing, I used to dress up in heels and a suit for work – but now I realise it’s my mindset not my outfit that affects how well I communicate and am perceived. Here are some other changes I’ve made to keep me on track:

1. Keep a timesheet
This is my number one tip. From the very first day, when I sat down at my desk in the dining room (see above), wondering who to call first, I have logged every minute of my day. And how useful it’s been. On a day when I’m feeling unmotivated, the threat of the little boxes gleaming empty is a reminder in itself.

You can use it to see how much time you’ve spent on particular projects, to help you manage your time better and even quote for work more accurately if you’re self-employed. And of course, when it comes to taking a day off there’s no need to feel guilty if you’ve calculated how many home hours you’ve worked in the previous month.

2. Look at your hours, not your achievements
A key principle of time management, this, the idea that you should sit at your desk long enough to stay sane and fresh, not to achieve XYZ. So when I consider how well things are going, I balance my achievements with my effort and acknowledge the hours I’ve put in to pitching editors, say, even when there has been little immediate return.

3. Find some colleagues
However independent you are, at some point you’re going to need some colleagues, whether virtual or physical. For me, the solution was a gift from my significant other: five days of time in a flexible office space where I can come and go as I please, enjoy chat from other colleagues, and even a social life when I want it. Six months on and I’ve only just used up my five days, but they’ve been a welcome relief from the intensity of home working.

Twitter, Facebook and online communities are all options, but nothing beats someone making you a cuppa. Other places to look for likeminded people are on Gumtree, or MeetMe, where regular groups of homeworkers get together in person to motivate each other and share stories.

4. Make it beautiful
I’m still learning this: the art of balancing the home office with the living space, largely because my household are a particularly tolerant lot. But a dedicated working area is a must, and the more beautiful, stimulating and work-oriented you can make it, the better. To me, the joy is in having things I couldn’t have in an external office, so there are usually some flowers on my desk, a changing display of photos on the wall, and interesting books to distract when necessary.

5. Be clear with friends and family
To be fair, it must be confusing for them. On a quiet day I’ll phone my parents at lunchtime and even meet a friend for a quick coffee. Most other days, I won’t reply to non-urgent text messages until the evening and often work late. I used to feel that this needed justifying, that I had to explain to people the hours I was doing and when I worked. But as time as gone on, I’ve realised that people do understand as long as you’re clear what’s normal.

6. Set goals

Homeworkers can be isolated from the rest of the team; in my case, I am the team. So it’s been important for me to keep an eye on my own goals and check that I haven’t strayed off the path. Early on, I signed up for some free small business coaching (check your local job centre or chamber of commerce for similar opportunities).

Six months on and I’ve achieved many of my early goals – gaining new corporate clients, getting published in a national newspaper, developing a network of contacts around the world. Choose someone you trust and make yourself accountable to them. It’ll keep you on track and make sure that you’re climbing the right ladder against the right wall.

I’d love to hear from any other ‘new’ homeworkers so we can learn from one another – is there anything here you’ve tried? And what works for you that you think other homeworkers could benefit from?

Nicola Yeeles is a freelance writer and editor based in the UK. Her work has appeared in international publications Baltic Times and The; corporate publications like Jisc Inform; and local and national newspapers in the UK.

Posted in: Routine

6 Comments on "6 tips for new homeworkers"

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  1. Some excellent tips Nicky – I found working in a shared office space extremely helpful. It was an excellent way to separate business from work for me and in my case, chat to those in similar business to me and ‘sound out’ problems with people who understood my business.

    I really agree with point 2, it’s hard sometimes to realise when starting out that building relationships, generating fruitful quotations and client referrals all take time. Do not be disheartened!

    Also, I’d add that joining a business networking group helped me talk to people running small businesses outside my immediate circle / colleagues. It was useful when I needed the IT / Legal / Design support that I was used to being available in my old workplace.

  2. Great advice Charlotte – a business networking group is a good idea, especially if you’re B2B.

    • And a good way to try out working with other people before committing to a coworking space is to go to a Jelly, which is a casual event where home workers and small business owners meet up to work together. If there isn’t one already near you, it’s simple to start your own – just check out my How to start Your Own Jelly guide, which has been used by groups all over the world.

  3. That sounds great Judy! A fellow writer and I were planning to start a home working circle but I think it could benefit from some diversity!

  4. Carol B. says:

    Hey Nicola! Thanks for the tip… I’m not new to online work but this post will serve as a quick guide. Thanks!