Full disclosure: when I tell people that I work from home, I usually get the same sort of response.
“Oh, that’s so cool,” might be one. “I wish I could work from home,” might be another. Or I’ve even had a “wow, you’re so lucky” before.
(Hey, it’s not about luck! I’m a big believer that you can do anything you set your mind to if you work hard enough. Right?)
Either way, remote working is often thought of as one of the most amazing things in the world. And the reality of working from home can actually be very different. Trust me, I’ve been freelancing for over two years now.
Here are 7 common expectations versus the truth of what it’s ACTUALLY like, plus some tips on how to work from home efficiently.
Firstly, yes, you have the choice of what you’re going to wear to work every day. Sure, you can leave your pyjamas on from the night before.
But do you want to know a trade secret? You get NOTHING done if you do this.
Pyjamas equal sleep mode. And so if you wear your pyjamas all day when you’re trying to work, you’re not going to want to work. You’re going to want to sleep.
Pro tip: In my experience, it helps to get dressed every working day. Act like you mean business and you’ll get more stuff done. Fact.
Another expectation is that you don’t really do much work or have a “real job” as a remote worker.
The reality? Since I started my business, I’ve worked harder than I ever did in a 9-5 office job. You are responsible for your income and paying your bills every month. Therefore, if you don’t work hard like everybody else, you’re not going to earn enough to make ends meet.
And who wants to have to cancel Netflix because they can’t afford their subscription? Exactly – nobody.
Pro tip: Set up a working schedule that works for you and try to stick to it. Personally, I do all my hard work in the mornings and then easier tasks in the afternoon because I’m more productive in the mornings. I avoid working at night because my brain is fried from the day’s events and I just can’t get it to function past six o’clock.
You don’t have to deal with frustrating co-workers as a freelancer, correct, but you do have to deal with frustrating clients at times.
Another reality of working from home is that you can get quite lonely. It’s difficult to adjust from being in a 9-5 where you’re used to having office banter and being around people all the time, to then having no one but your cat to talk to. Or the wall, if you don’t have a cat.
(Guilty as charged.)
In fact, I can quite easily go for two or three days at a time only speaking to my partner. And he gets quite boring after a while. (JK boo, love you really.)
Pro tip: Even if you can’t socialise in person every day, try to call a friend or family member. Or nip out on your lunch break so that you can be around people. You could even find fellow freelancers on Twitter, befriend them and meet up with them or Skype them when you’re both missing human interaction.
Being your own boss, you do have the freedom to choose your own hours. This means you can also have more holidays if you so wish.
Having said that, you won’t be paid for any time off you take. You don’t get sick or holiday pay. And can you imagine the pinch if you tried to take multiple weeks off at a time? No, it’s not happening.
The reality of working from home is that you have to work hard to earn money and then have some savings behind you for when you want to take a holiday. And it can be rather tough to save when you’re just starting out, let me tell you.
Pro tip: Try to put at least 25% of your monthly income in your savings account to cover you for the time you want to take off.
Another expectation of freelancers is that they work from the most amazing office space that they created themselves in their homes.
Why yes, some people do this. But some people don’t. And I can’t tell you how tempting it is to abandon said office space for the comfort of the sofa sometimes (or even your bed).
That said, it’s important to be disciplined. Even if you can’t set aside a room solely for your office, you should at least have a desk or chair in a section of a room where you can knuckle down.
And make sure that the chair is comfortable to work on and supports you. Otherwise, you can say goodbye productivity and hello to constant back problems.
Pro tip: Good lighting is also everything. Do you have a conservatory with an aluminium lantern roof that you can work from? Or a table that faces the window in a room that gets a lot of sunlight? Perfect. Do it. Take it from me, it does wonders for your mindset.
Because you work from home, you must have fewer chores to do at the weekend, right? Wrong.
One big reality of working from home is that all your other life admin gets pushed aside (like it would if you were physically going to a workplace). In actual fact, you have MORE chores to do.
Like the dishes, for example. Working from home means that you make lunch at home, hence an increase in dishes to clean and put away. And for me, these often get left until the end of the day once work is over and I have the mental capacity to think about them.
Pro tip: If you want to make the most of the freedom that comes with remote working, put aside a time in the week or day where you can focus on some life admin. For instance, I do all of my financial tracking on a Friday afternoon so that I have the weekends free to have fun and let loose.
Because you’re able to go to a doctor’s appointment at 11am or pick your kids up after school, naturally this means that you have more of a work-life balance as a freelancer.
However, this is a common myth.
The reality of working from home is that everything and ANYTHING distracts you. I’m talking about online shopping deliveries, your neighbour Glen’s movements and reaction videos on YouTube.
In actuality, you often feel like you’re being pulled in different directions. And it’s very exhausting trying to establish work-life boundaries.
I mean, at least when you’re at work, you know you’re at work and it helps separate your two lives. Being at home blurs the line and, needless to say, it takes some getting used to.
Pro tip: Have set hours where you work and set hours where you can relax. Even though it can be tempting, don’t check your work emails after hours. And give yourself regular time off, even if this is only a day here and there. Otherwise, you run the risk of developing burnout, which isn’t fun. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Don’t get me wrong, being a freelancer is wonderful and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else but writing for a living.
That said, the reality of working from home is that it’s not without its challenges, just like anything in this world. In fact, anyone who says otherwise is telling porkies.
My top tip for fellow remote workers is to mix up your environment. Work in cafes, go for walks on your breaks or even head to a co-working space. Either way, just do what’s right for you and your business – and there’s no reason why you can’t nail this whole working from home thing.
Does the reality of working from home surprise you? Fellow freelancers, what are your top working from home tips? Let me know in the comments!
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