Freelancing can be great. The freedom! The flexibility! Being your own boss!
But the flipside is that you need to have plenty of self-discipline to get to your workspace every day, avoiding the lure of domestic chores, TV box sets, and long lunches with friends who have similar flexible working lifestyles.
How can you get yourself into a working mindset every morning?
Dress the part
That old woolly jumper and those worn-down slippers may be comfy, but chances are they do little to fool your brain into thinking it’s work time. As for pyjamas, sorry, but their mental association with curling up in a nice warm bed and having a snooze means they’re a no-no.
Nobody’s suggesting you don a suit every day, but it’s probably best if you at least make yourself as presentable as you would be for leaving the house. Pack the onesie away, put a brush or comb through your hair and wash your face!
‘Go’ to work
Ideally, you should have an area in your home that’s exclusively for your work, even if you can’t set aside a whole room. If you don’t, try to find somewhere where you can make space for yourself every day, so that area become associated with work. Have a clear idea of how much work you need to do every day and when you’ll be available to do it, and ensure you ‘go’ to work on time.
Go ‘out’ to work
You might find it helpful to go ‘out’ to work, whether that be in a library, coffee shop, café, pub, shared working space or rented office, and whether that’s every day or just occasionally. It can help prevent loneliness and boredom, provide company and stimulation, and motivate you to get out of that onesie and make yourself look respectable.
Sit comfortably—and properly
Working on your laptop on the settee is a bad choice for many reasons. Your laptop screen and keyboard won’t be at the right height for healthy, ergonomic working, and sitting in the place where you usually chill out, doesn’t really say ‘work time’. If you’re working at a computer, the angle at your elbow should be 90 degrees, and your screen should be at eye level. Yes, that’s right; laptops have many advantages, but they’re not suitable for long hours of use. Put your laptop on a table or desk, you could even get a separate screen and stand. A supportive chair is also a must.
Be a firm boss
Want to be productive? Pretend you work in an open-plan office and the desk of your boss is next to yours. Would you be looking at your phone, researching purchases for your home or flicking on to Facebook every fifteen minutes? No. Put your phone out of reach (but close enough so you can hear it ring if someone calls) and save those activities for your lunch break or the end of your work day.
If you really can’t discipline yourself, use software (usually browser add-ons) to block those distracting sites or turn off your Wi-Fi if you don’t need the internet for your current work.
Take breaks (but don’t let them stretch out)
Everyone needs breaks, not just for their sanity but to recharge their batteries, change position, get some exercise and get away from the screen if they’re computer users. Research has shown that prolonged periods of sitting are very bad for our health, even if we’re regular exercisers. It’s also shown that we’re more productive if we take breaks.
So, take breaks, get up from your desk, but don’t get distracted by household chores, social media, or messages on your phone that really don’t need an urgent reply. They may well end up making your break longer than intended, and won’t contribute to your feeling rested. Pop a timer on if you need to.
Get everyone else in your work mind set too
It’s important to make sure everyone around you treats your work as work, and appreciates that freelancing is the same as any other job. Yes, the location has changed and you have more flexibility; but you still need to get a certain amount of work done, there are still deadlines (often more!). You might not have a boss, per se, but there are still clients who have power over your pay.
Make it clear that friends and family should only contact you in the day if they would do so were you employed; you’re not available for a chat whenever they feel like it!
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