When I first became a freelance writer I couldn’t have been happier with the decision. The ability to be my own boss (to a certain extent), work with multiple clients and set my own schedule, was immensely appealing.
I discovered quickly, however, that if I wasn’t careful, the flexibility of my new career course could be my downfall. While it was tempting to take every friend up on their offer to join their vacation, or to take a half day to hit the beach or binge-watch Netflix, if I did that every time I felt the urge, I’d have no income.
Many employees dealing with a flexible schedule for the first time struggle with this type of work. Here’s what I’ve learned in my almost five years of freelancing that just might be able to help you.
1. Pretend You’re Still Going Into an Office
When I first started working from home I never got dressed. “Why bother?” I thought, as I pulled my computer into bed with me the moment my eyes opened in the morning. Things are different these days. I’ve learned that getting dressed (at least in jeans and a sweatshirt) each day and sitting at an actual desk helps motivate me to feel — and more importantly act — like a professional. Besides, when an editor asks for a last-second Skype call to discuss a story, I want to be prepared.
2. Find a Spot That’s Just for Work
Not everyone has enough space in their home for a dedicated office, but you can find a nook in a room that’s just for work. Resist the temptation to do anything else personal here. Pay bills, shop online and book social engagements elsewhere. The more you can separate your work life from your home life (even when you work in your home), the better off you’ll be. If you’re struggling, see if any co-work spaces are available in your area.
3. Have ‘Office Hours’
Depending on how your flexible schedule works, this might not be an option. If you work for a company and have a boss to report to each day, you’ll need to be available during her work hours. However, if you set up your own schedule and meetings and calls, I recommend trying to stick to office hours. Flexible work is fantastic, but it can become easy to start scheduling night or weekend meetings and calls to meet others’ schedules. Create the flexible work hours that work best for you — within reason, of course — and do your best to stick with them.
4. Try Every Resource Until You Find What Works for You
I’ve never struggled much with distractions, but I know plenty of freelance friends who have. Try out different forms of distraction management until you find what works. Perhaps you’d benefit from a website blocker during your work hours. StayFocusd for Google Chrome, for example, allows you to block distracting websites while you’re working. You could try working in a room that doesn’t have a television. Scheduling time for breaks will help you concentrate on the work at hand, too, since you’ll know you can stop for a bit and relax. (For reference, these are the biggest workplace productivity killers.)
5. Make the Occasional In-Person Meeting
If you work from home solely, it can be lonely. Even those of us whose jobs require constant computer interaction may miss the face-to-face stuff from time to time. As such, I’d recommend putting some personal interaction on your calendar when possible. Make meetings to catch up with old colleagues or current clients, or set up coffee meetings with people you’ve been meaning to approach about new projects. Attending networking events is also a great way to stay social while also doing something good for your career.
Still looking for flexible work? Make use of our guide to getting a better job. And, if you’re on the hunt for a full-time, be sure to check your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com before applying. Many employers will pull a version of your credit report as part of the hiring process.
This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.