Congratulations on starting a work from home business. You’ve avoided the common work at home scams, you’ve set up a professional business structure, and you’ve even gone out an got some good paying clients. Whether its a professional freelance writing business, or something else, take a moment to bask in the glory of your accomplishments and pat yourself on the back. Things are going great, and there is nothing that can go wrong now, right?
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. As many other freelance business advice writers have pointed out, one of the perils of working from home is implementing proper time management and avoiding interruptions. All too often, however, these articles make it sound as if the only people you need to guard your time against are the inconsiderate and naive people in your life who either don’t understand what working from home means, or who don’t care. If only it were that simple. If we were only talking about your drinking buddy showing up in shorts and a T-shirt asking you to take off for a day at the beach, preventing work day disruptions would be easy. After all, your days of crumpling under peer pressure like wet tissue paper are over. The true difficulties are much harder to resist. As far as your own distractions like television, PlayStation, and goofing off in the sun, hopefully you love being a freelance writer enough to get in plenty of work in the face of those things.
When you have an office job, there are certain barriers that both you, and everyone else in your life, instinctually respect. You have a boss, who requires certain things from you. You have an office that you have to go to and stay at during certain hours. These things are not negotiable under normal circumstances. Sure, you can take vacation days, and sick days off, but everything else is on the no list, no matter how big of a disappointment or imposition that is on other people.
When you work out of a home office, things look a little bit different. The boss, is you, so if you want to cut yourself a little slack, you can, and everyone knows it. While most people will graciously understand that you have to work a certain number of hours in order to succeed as an entrepreneur, they know that when those hours occur can have some flexibility. In other words, while the regular office worker has to work from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm with a 1 hour lunch, and not much flexibility for anything, no matter how important, the freelancer can, theoretically, work from 7:00 am to 11:00 am then from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm and then again from 9:30 pm to 10:30 pm, which adds up to an 8 hour work day.
If you’ve been working for yourself for a while, you are already cringing.
The fact is that not all hours are as productive as other hours. We’re not talking about whether or not you are more productive during the morning, noon, or night, but rather that getting into the flow of a work day or doing certain tasks at the same time every day, or other activities back to back makes them faster, easier, or more beneficial. For example, writing up a transcript of a conference call might be easier to do right after the call when it is still fresh in your mind. Taking off for three hours to run an "important" errand could cause the same task to take double the amount of time. These factors add up all too quickly for freelancers.
Important People, Important Things, Important Business
It should be pretty easy for most people who were strong enough to become entrepreneurs in the first place to tell a friend that you can’t pick them up at the hair salon because you have to work. What is much, much, tougher is to guard your time against people and activities that are just as important, or more important, than your work.
Consider, the freelancer typing away furiously in the home office while the baby screams in the other room because the spouse is busy with the other child. If you were at the office, there would be no question about whether or not you could help, or if it would be appropriate for you to do so, but when you are working at home, things are different. Should you stop for five minutes to help out while things are crazy? If you don’t, will that cause issues later?
What about the freelancer on a tight deadline when the spouse needs to work late, or go in early or switch days?
What about entrepreneurs with a home office taking part in football practice, school plays, running forgotten items to school and so on?
These are the real issues that everyone who works from home must face, and they are difficult to deal with. Often, the answer should be different than if one works at an office. After all, isn’t the whole point of working from home that it is better than being stuck in an office all day where you can’t do any of these things?
How do you choose between what much be put aside for the business and what the business should be placed on temporary hold for? More importantly, how can you and those critically important people in your life understand each other well enough for the choices that are made to be both understood and accepted without hard feelings? The answers aren’t easy.
Fortunately, there are some work from home rules and freelancing time management tips that can make things run more smoothly. We’ll cover those next.