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How To Work From Home Without Going Insane

Updated on March 28, 2012

Becoming A Freelancer

Like many, I was recently laid off from my job and am now trying my luck as a freelancer. But while working from home has many advantages, it's also been a shock to my system.

For the past 15 years, I've been getting up at the same time and going to the same office. I had a very set routine, destination, not to mention an identity. No, you shouldn't let your job define who you are, but it's still a very big part of your life. And now that I'm working at two very different jobs -- as a freelance writer and jewelry designer -- I don't even know what to call myself! A writer/jeweler? An artist/journalist?

Setting up my own schedule and dealing with time management has also been an adjustment. Since I no longer have to report to someone at a specific time, it's up to me to get up and do the work ... and that doesn't always happen when I plan it to. Take today,for instance; my husband had to get up at 5 and ended up waking me up, as well. I ended up taking a nap this afteroon when it was so not what I'd planned to do. Had I been in the office, I would've gulped down some more coffee and dealt with the fatigue.

The isolation is also disconcerting. Many of my co-workers were close friends. Now I have my cat to keep me company. I love her, but she can't really bounce around ideas with me.

Still, I enjoy having freedom and an making the adjustment to working at home and being a successful freelancer. Here are some tips for how you can work from home wthout going crazy.

How To Freelance And Have Freedom

Time Management Tips For Freelancers

Getting Respect As A Freelancer

Tips For Freelancers: Setting A Routine

Probably the most important thing to remember about freelancing is that it's a job, not a day off. Here are some tips to get into that mentality.

1. Get a routine going. Set your alarm for the same time every day and actually get out of bed at that time. Meanwhile, set up a calendar so that you can keep track of deadlines, phone calls and appointments. Stick to this routine, the same that you would if you were in an office.

2. Get dressed each day. It's easy to stay in your pajamas when you work from home and for some, that's definitely part of the appeal. But I've found that getting dressed and putting on makeup -- same as when I went to my office job -- makes me feel more like I'm working. I lounge around PJs on weekends, but Monday-Friday is work time ... and I like to dress the part.

3. Set up an office space. Pick a nice, quiet spot where you can concentrate and set it up as an office. Even better is if you actually have a room that can be turned into an office, but some of us, especially those of us who live in apartments, don't have that luxury. Still, get all of the supplies you'll need for your work -- a laptop, printer, pens, pads, in my case, my jewelry supplies -- and have them readily available. Don't leave them all over your home. Also, try not to use your bedroom as your office. It'll make it harder for you to sleep at night.

4. Pick a time to end the day. I'm still learning how to force myself to stop work in the evenings and weekends. But it's important to keep up a social life and to relax. You're still entitled to that, even if you are working at home. Let people know when your business hours are so they can call you during that time. You're entitled to sleep in on Sunday if you want; you shouldn't feel obligated to take a call. Make sure your clients know and respect this.

Freelancing Tips: Staying Social

Another issue that comes up when working from home is that you no longer have co-workers (unless you're starting a business with a partner). Because of this, it can get pretty lonely and isolating when you're at work. Here are some tips to deal with that isolation.

1. Work amongst people. While it's important to set up a professional office space (see above), it's also important to stay social. That said, try to work in an environment where there are other people around. In my case, I'm planning to spend a couple of days a week in my husband's office. If you don't have such an option, try getting some work done in a coffee shop or even at the park -- just someplace where you can see others and hear the chatter of voices.

2. Keep in touch. It's also important to maintain those friendships that you do have. When I worked in an office, I could count on seeing my buddies every day. Now I have to work a little harder to stay in touch with friends, but it's worth it because I'm getting that human contact. Most in-office jobs would frown upon this, but freelancers have the freedom to check in on Facebook or make a quick call to a friend. Plan more dinner meetings with friends. Not only will you feel less lonely, but you can share ideas with your pals. For instance, I went to dinner with a friend last night and she offered to design a Web site for my jewelry business. She had a lot of great suggestions and was very helpful. Friends are valuable for so many reasons -- make sure they're still in your life, even if they're no longer at your job.

3. Involve others. If you can, report to someone with your ideas. In my case, I ask my husband to read over my articles. If you have a willing and constructive friend or family member, show them your latest outline or plan for a Web site, jewelry design, article idea, etc. This way, you can get the same sort of feedback that you would at an in-office meeting.

Tips For Working At Home: Take Care Of Yourself

You should always make health a priority, but this become even more important when you're completely in charge of your business and career Yeah, you can take a sick day whenever you need one, but there's no one to cover. Here are some tips for staying healthy.

1. Eat well. I've always battled my weight and one of the most difficult things I'm dealing with is having food around me all day. At the office, I would have breakfast and lunch, but generally didn't have access to snacks between meals -- unless I went out and got something. But I have food right there at home. Plan your meals and keep plenty of healthy snacks handy. And make sure you take a lunch break, even if it's just for 15 minutes. That means, take a REAL break, where you put your work down and enjoy your food.

2. Get sleep. As I said above, don't work 20 hours a day. Make sure you get enough sleep to keep yourself going, especially since you're now handling EVERYTHING.

3. Get out if you can. If you have the time, get out and get some fresh air. Take a short walk. Do something to clear your head and get exercise. You'll be amazed by how much this can help you in terms of productivity.

4. Don't be too hard on yourself. Building up a successful freelance business can take time, so be patient. Do the necessary research, but also believe in your goal.

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