Freelancing doesn’t have to mean rolling out of bed and working out of your pajamas. (But hey, if that’s how you groove, that’s cool too). Remote working can be way more than that today, thanks to advances in technology and shifting societal attitudes (by which we mean you’re less likely to invite a raised eyebrow when you announce how you spend your days). Here are ten key tips to enhance your remote working experience.
Tip 1 – Create An Awesome Personal Work Space, Wherever You Are
Most office environments are generic, tacky and/or just plain boring. And if you don’t like something, you don’t really get to have much input. Those glaring white lights making you squint at the screen? Yeah, that’s what we’re talking about. But if you’ve been assigned a desk for the duration of a project, there’s no harm in letting your personality shine. Make the environment work for you, so you can do your best work. It might be a case of bringing your favourite mug or potted plant to work, a whiteboard on which to project your creative process…some agencies will even appreciate you adding a bit of creative flair to your temporary space and it’s a good way of creating a talking point with the rest of the staff.
Of course, if you’re freelancing from the comfort of your own home you're completely control of your surroundings! Bring on those mood lights…I love trawling through Ikea’s small spaces blog for inspiration. Hidden spaces and furniture that does more than one thing are just some of the ingenious ways people have transformed their abodes. Try and design your space to be comfortable, inspiring and conducive to work. If budget is an issue you can find ways to repurpose or upcycle what you already have.
Tip 2 – Draw Boundaries Between Your Personal And Business Life
"I know it’s not sexy, but I found it’s the only way I can get stuff done" – Christoph Niemann
Like something out of a Robin Thicke song – when you’re working out of your bed, you’re only creating ‘blurred lines’ between your private life and your professional one. And trust me, that’s never a good idea. So what can you do?
- Set your working hours and explain the deal to your friends, family and flatmates, letting them know you’re unavailable during this time. In this amazing and humorous CreativeMornings talk, illustrator Christoph Niemann discusses his creative process, the struggles of being an independent creative and forcing himself to “go to work” from 8:45am to 5:45pm every day: “I know it’s not sexy, but I found it’s the only way I can get stuff done.”
- Avoid distractions. Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones and if you’re wondering what to vibe to, check out any one of our awesome playlists. If social media is more your temptress...use Freedom to lock your computer off the Internet for as long as you need.
- Don’t use the same passwords for your personal computer and work one. It’s a really basic piece of advice, but you’ll be amazed at how many people tend to ignore it. Spread the risk but using different and complex passwords for your different accounts and aspects of life! Get more tips on safety and security when working remotely here.
Tip 3 – Establish A Routine – And Stick To It
I am completely and unapologetically a morning person. This means I work best at the crack of dawn when everyone else is asleep and my only distractions are the birds chirping outside. Figure out when you work best and you’ll automatically be more productive.
Set some schedules and deadlines. If you’re working with WorkflowMax, you can set milestones to hold yourself accountable. Even if they’re only arbitrary, they’ll ensure you have something to work towards and hold you accountable.
But don’t forget to take regular breaks. Stretch your legs, go for a run. Even if an “urgent” request comes in super late – deal with it the next day. (By the way – everyone labels their requests urgent. Learn to read between the lines!)
Know when to stop. It’s tempting to constantly check your emails. Don’t do it. If you use your allocated hours right, you’ll be amazed how much you can actually accomplish. Need help sticking to a work/play schedule? Find out more about the Pomodoro Technique.
Tip 4 – Beat The Blues
Sometimes working remotely can be a lonely affair that even the best Spotify playlist can’t cure. If you find yourself in this situation try:
- Staying in touch with your team throughout the day. If you’re in the office, never under-estimate the power of communicating face to face! Go out for lunch or coffee and keep the conversation going. If you’re on the road or at home, tap into an awesome communication tool like Skype, Slack or Google Hangouts and check in with each other on the regular.
- Touching base with other freelancers or contractors in a similar position.
- Getting a cat (they’re less needy than dogs, allowing you to get more work done, but are good furry company nonetheless).
- Renting a co-working desk once a week to get some human contact.
Tip 5 – Don’t Go Missing In Action
I get that you’re a creative and when you’re in the zone you’re 200% in it. But it’s important to resurface regularly, share what you’re working on and keep stakeholders, clients and/or your wider team in the loop. See Tip 6 below for ideas on great communication apps.
Tip 6 – Manage Your Jobs With The Right Tools
Here at WorkflowMax we love apps that make our job that much easier. Luckily there are a plethora of tools you can use to stay connected, collaborate more and manage your projects. Some of our favourites include:
- Communication: Skype and Google Hangouts are great for chats and video calls, while tools like Yammer work for informal discussion threads.
- Collaboration: We use Google Drive to share and collaborate on files and Trello to keep abreast of project priorities.
- Project management: WorkflowMax is a cloud-based end-to-end project management software which provides visibility across every stage of a project, from managing leads, quoting, time tracking and timesheet management right through to invoicing. And the latter is even easier with the new WorkflowMax iPhone app, so you can literally work from wherever you are!
Tip 7 – Try Not To Consume the Contents of The Pantry In One Go
The kitchen can be an enormous distraction when you’re working from home. Before you know it you’re getting up to make a cup of tea, brewing your next coffee, picking up a snack, cooking lunch...and suddenly the day has slipped by. I’m a big fan of meal prepping in advance. That way I can keep an eye on portion sizes as well, instead of eating just because it’s there.
Tip 8 – Find Your Favourite Secret Spots
Maybe your internet’s just crashed ahead of a pressing deadline or you just need a change of scene...whatever the case, having some alternative work spots scattered around town is always a good idea. And now that you’re no longer confined to the stereotype of Working-From-Your-Bedroom, you can take advantage of the cafe down the road with the really really ridiculously good coffee, or the library corner with the most comfortable beanbag or even the patch of grass in the park that gets a superb wifi connection from the neighbours (um, we won’t tell anyone).
Tip 9 – Take It Seriously
How do you expect anyone else to take what you do seriously if you don’t yourself?
- Get dressed. You might not be physically meeting clients, but changing into something presentable will enormously impact how you feel and get you in the right mindset.
- Practice your elevator pitch. Saying things like “Oh I’m just contracting” or “I’m just doing a bit of work on the side” isn’t very helpful to your self-esteem, nor does it inspire any confidence from outsiders. Know your unique selling points and don’t be afraid to tell people about them – loudly and proudly.
Tip 10 – Nuisance Or Nice: You Decide
It takes discipline and focus to make the whole remote working shabang run smoothly.
- Know what you’re getting yourself into before you jump in – the good and the bad.
- Be prepared to sometimes miss out; the flexibility and convenience of working remotely might mean you have to miss out on occasional fun social events, team building and inside jokes.
Ultimately the experience is entirely in your control. What are some of your tips for working beyond the bedroom?
Further reading: We love helping you find the right working vibe – read more about working from anywhere on the WorkflowMax blog.