7 Hacks For Home-Based Freelancers To Stay Sane And Productive

Being a freelancer and working from your home office sounds ideal right? You get up when you want. Your commute to the ‘office’ takes seconds. You can do business wearing your pyjamas…The reality is a little different. Most home-based freelancers work long hours to get their business off the ground. Rather than chilling out in front of day time TV, most freelancers worry they spend too much time working, lose out on their social life, and some even risk burning out.

Without proper planning, the work-from-home dream can become a work-from-home nightmare.

Let’s look at 7 simple hacks you can use to avoid the bad side and boost the good side of freelancing.

1. Set up a proper office

First off, create an office which is not in your bedroom. Your office space should have a good quality chair, enough lighting to stop your eyes from hurting and should be customized to your requirements – get a second monitor, or a laptop stand if that makes things more comfortable
Avoid: trying and do your work in your bed – keep it for sleeping!

2. Dress professionally

As a rule of thumb, wear professional clothes that fit your sector. If you’re a management consultant, wear a suit or office outfit. If you’re a graphic designer, it’s OK to keep to jeans and a t-shirt. In any case, dress like you would if you were going to a ‘real’ office – it will put you in the right frame of mind.
Avoid: wearing your pyjamas – once again, keep them for sleeping in!

3. Get out the house and ‘walk to work’

Many home-base freelancers make a ritual of ‘walking to work’ every day – even if that’s just a five minute stroll round the block. The simple act of getting up, putting on your clothes and getting out there to face the day will get you into the mentality that your working day has begun.
Avoid: rolling out of bed and starting to work straight away

4. Keep to normal office hours

Freelancers should aim to stick to regular office hours – and you should put limits on how long you work for each day. This will help you avoid burnout
Avoid: the temptation to work all hours – in the end it will exhaust you

5. Organize your day

It’s great not having a manager looking over your shoulder, right? Uh, not really – because now you’re the manager. Set yourself a list of tasks you will do each day and prioritize them.
Avoid: losing focus and spending too little time on tasks you don’t like, but which are essential

6. Take regular breaks throughout the day and eat healthily

You should try and get at least some exercise each day and keep your kitchen stocked with healthy foods. Also, take regular breaks like you would in a normal office
Avoid: sitting for hours at a desk for hours and grazing on junk food

7. Avoid distractions

You should allocate yourself some time each day to read the news and check social media – just like when you were a regular employee. But, set yourself time limits for this kind of procrastination
Avoid: having social media, the radio or even the TV on in the background – you’ll get distracted and waste time

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Len is a tech and business writer who covers small business and startup advice and has appeared in many print and digital publications. He lives in London, UK, where he's also a sub editor on a national newspaper. He loves to travel and has lived in France, Spain, Senegal and Rwanda.

Mindfully Upset

No, the title of this article is not a mistake. It is possible to feel upset – or a range of other emotions – and yet remain mindful, just the same. The working world can sometimes leave us feeling unhappy, defensive, blue, or otherwise in low spirits. We don’t have to automatically discount those emotions, nor do we have to pretend that we don’t feel the way we do.

It is said that our true potential is best demonstrated by what we do when we are required to handle difficult situations or people. When feeling upset, we might do any number of perfectly understandable things. We may lash out…choose to give up…or react with anger.

There is an alternative. It’s possible to be mindful while dealing with unwanted emotions. Here are the steps involved:

1. We can start by acknowledging that we feel bad. We have a tendency not to want to feel unpleasant emotions. We are taught that “big boys and girls don’t cry”, or that we should just “suck it up, buttercup”. While we do have to sometimes carry on in the face of whatever is going on, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that we are feeling something we don’t want to feel.

2. Next, name that feeling. Is it sadness, confusion, disappointment, frustration…? This might be harder to do than it seems. After years of pushing our emotions aside, as we are taught to do, we may have become somewhat disengaged with them. Take a minute or two to wait this out. Sit with the slight discomfort of actually FEELING something, in order to name it.

3. Once we name it, we can be mindful about our emotion. We can silently repeat a mantra of “I am feeling (blank).” This mantra isn’t a judgment. It’s just a statement of fact. It’s a deliberate way to accept the emotion, without reacting in a rash way, or compounding negative feelings with self-blame.

4. After naming the emotion, we can check in with the body, to see where we can physically sense it, and exactly what it feels like. Does this feeling create a heaviness, a burning sensation, a tension, or something else? We can listen to the interior monologue of what the emotion is telling us.

5. As time permits, we can spend a little while sitting in silence, and waiting to hear what the emotion has to say. This can often yield a surprising bit of information. A quietly mindful approach to emotions and feelings can provide us with a successful tool to receive whatever message needs to be transmitted.
It may also be that, given a few moments for mindful reflection, we can recognize the baseline reasons why we have this feeling. It may be other than what we have initially thought was the cause.

6. Once we’ve finished being mindful of the emotion, we can take several deep breaths. When possible, we can journal anything that arises from this mindfulness exercise.
These steps don’t need to take too long to fit into your workday, and can be immensely helpful in terms of self- awareness, regulating your reactions, and staying present. All of these skills can make us better co-workers, managers, or leaders.

Don’t Be A Freelancer

Here’s my list of the top three most disposable things in an office.

1) Last week’s leftovers in the fridge
2) Loose staples
3) Freelancers

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, designer, or programmer. You’re there because you’re cheaper than a full time employee. You’re also easily replaceable by some other freelancer.

The upshot of it is, because you are completely dispensable, it’s easy to get bullied into accepting less than you think you’re worth.

Now, let’s flip it around, because here is my list of three most indispensable things in a business.

1) Today’s lunch
2) Great team
3) Trusted partners/vendors

That’s right. When businesses find the right partners and vendors, it allows them to focus on growing their business, while the vendors and partners play a critical supporting role.

So here comes the million dollar question. What’s the difference between a freelancer and a trusted partner?

What Are You?

A few weeks ago I ran a completely unscientific survey asking people in my Freelance Writers Facebook group if they considered themselves freelancers or B2B service providers. For those who responded, there were follow-up questions about rates and income.

By and large, this is a group that creates marketing content for business clients. They aren’t writing magazine articles for Atlantic Monthly, or proofreading academic papers for individuals.

I expected that people who viewed themselves as B2B service providers would have higher hourly rates and incomes than freelancers. What I didn’t expect was the of the 23 people who responded, only 2 (plus me) viewed themselves as service providers. 92% of my respondents viewed themselves as freelancers.

Clearly, there wasn’t enough data to compare income levels between the two groups, but it was telling that so many freelancers never really stopped to consider the job they do within the business ecosystem.

Simply put, they are a business, even if they are a one-man show. Their clients are businesses. They provide a writing service. By definition, they are business-to-business service providers. But they’ve told themselves they are freelancers.

Becoming a B2B Service Provider

So how do you break out of the freelancer mold, and become the valued service provider your clients can’t live without? Here are a few steps to get you started.

Change Your Mindset – The biggest thing holding you back is probably the idea that you are a freelancer. Until you understand and internalize that you are providing valuable services to your customers, your customers won’t understand it either.

Change Your View of the Project – Stop looking at freelance projects as standalone pieces. Find out where the project stands in your client’s scope of work, and see how you can expand into larger areas of the project. This might mean contributing something outside the scope of your engagement, but if you do it, you’ll find your client starts to look at you differently. And you could find yourself brought into other areas of the project.

Market Yourself Like a Company – This doesn’t mean go beyond your budget, but it does mean stop using generic URLs like www.wordpress.com/I-write-for-you, and start promoting yourself as a business. Invest in a URL, website, and logo. Write quality blogs, and create infographics or brochures (or go to Fiver and hire someone to do it for you) for your marketing efforts.