Here are 9 tips that will encourage you to get some work done today
I am lazy, but I get paid, otherwise I never would have been able to leave my 9-5 office job. I’ll be honest, though. The first few months that I became a freelance writer, I went crazy. It was joyous.
My dogs became my co-workers. I watched The Office on repeat while I browsed Facebook and Reddit, with numerous Word documents open in the background, pretending like that somehow qualified as work. I wore pajamas five days a week. I rarely left the house even though I kept telling myself (and anyone who would listen) how much free time I was going to have to run errands and keep appointments when I started working from home.
But then Thursday would roll around and I would start freaking out because I was going to have to explain to my amazingly patient and unfailingly supportive husband that my paycheck was going to be “kind of small” this week.
And then I had to tell him that again the next week, and the next.
I kept telling myself that my happiness was worth a smaller paycheck, and making sacrifices. And it was! It still is! But eventually, my sheer laziness caught up with me. Our bills that used to be comfortably paid every month were rolling in fast and furious like a Vin Diesel franchise, and for the first time, I wasn’t sure how they were going to get paid.
And it was my fault.
Talk about a wake up call.
I chose this life, and this career, which means I put my family (read: my husband and three dogs) at the mercy of MY decision to either wake up in the morning and bring home:
- All the bacon
- Some of the bacon
- None of the bacon until we only have grass to eat and we starve
We don’t plan on becoming vegetarians, so the choice was clear. I needed to figure some shit out.
Here are some things I’ve had to figure out since I began working as a freelancer, but this is solid advice for anyone who works remotely.
1. Turn off the TV.
It’s soooo tempting to turn it on. It’s my equivalent of a warm, cozy blanket, smelling of home and freshly baked cupcakes. I am tempted every day to turn on Netflix with the promise that it will only be used as background noise. The problem is that is a dirty, filthy lie, and I should not lie to myself when I am trying to make money to pay bills. When the TV comes on, my attention is constantly redirected to Michael Scott’s most embarrassing moments or Leslie Knope’s best women-empowering pep talks.
On the other hand, if you are someone who thrives with the din of chatter or soft noise in the background while you work, go for it! Find your ideal channel, radio station, podcast, whatever, and get to work!
Eliminate your distractions, engage your calmness.
2. Leave the house.
At one point, about the third month into my freelancing career, I realized I had been wearing the same pair of pajama pants and top for five days.
And I sleep in the nude, which means I took them off four times and deliberately put them BACK ON. Not okay, guys.
Your house can start to feel like a prison if you let it.
- Make sure to pull back your curtains and say hello to the sun at the very least.
- Put clean clothes on once per day.
- Leave the house even if it’s only to go through a drive-thru for some coffee or a sandwich.
You will feel 1000% better just by doing those little things, which will lead to bigger things, which will ensure you do not wear the same clothing five days in a row and safeguard your gentle, still-beating heart against the beginnings of a jailbird state of mind.
Welcome the sun, diss the darkness, my lovely little doves. (See what too much Leslie Knope can do to a person?)
3. Do what you need to do to keep doing what you love.
This one is the hardest for me, and for a lot of people. Do you hate hearing nut up, buck up, man up, et al? Yeah, me too. Sometimes I just need to sulk, and whine, and get it out of my system before I get to the crappy stuff that needs to get done.
Sometimes the motivation just isn’t there, but it will happen. If you’re prepared for that, and you can be patient and continue working anyway, you’re golden. Eventually you will find your groove.
It took me six months before I figured out my ideal schedule, and it took me that long to realize for me to be productive, I need a lot of mini breaks throughout my workday. I’m talking like every 20 minutes or so, I should get up, walk around, get water, play around on my phone. It works for me. It took me a long time to understand there was no right or wrong. And, my Dear Readers, I must confess, I felt like such an absolute failure and complete fraud before that.
We’ve been conditioned to live and work in a society that punishes people who don’t conform to working eight or ten hours a day and who ask to take more than one or two 15-minute breaks. If that doesn’t work for you, don’t force it and certainly don’t feel any guilt over it.
BUT…you do have to work at some point during the day, even when you don’t feel motivated, so remind yourself of all the good things about working from home, and get yourself pumped to dive in, no excuses.
Here is a list of some of the good things about working from home, in case you need some help.
- You can bake cookies whenever you want.
- You can pet dogs all day.
- You can ignore your phone calls whenever you want.
- You can also ignore your texts all day and claim you were super busy with work even though you were really just playing Mario Kart.
- You can finally hit the Tuesday matinees and watch newly released movies for four bucks.
- In the winter, you’ll be home before it gets dark.
- In the summer, you can take a lunch break to sunbathe.
- Two words: Day Drinking.
4. Set some mini goals.
Speaking of getting yourself pumped up to work when you are not motivated, set yourself some mini goals…and I do mean mini. Start teeny tiny! Tell yourself that you will work for ten minutes and then take a cookie break. (Coffee break? Nap?) Just ten minutes of work and then freedom, Braveheart.
Keep doing little bits of work until you start doing 20 and 30 minutes, and so on until suddenly the work isn’t so bad and the motivation isn’t lacking. Then your mini goals will grow past working for XX minutes at a time, and move on to gaining one client per month, or making your first $1000 as a freelancer.
5. Remind yourself that you have flexibility.
I am a woman who is on the autism spectrum. Many women write about their experiences being female and having Asperger’s, but most remain anonymous. I am not ashamed to tell the world that this is who I am, and I am not some pandering Sheldon Cooper sex-hating genius caricature of autism. I’m just a regular person who deals with some extra quirks and hurdles, some of which my husband thinks are adorable, and some of which he finds infuriating. It’s something we navigate together.
I tell you this for two reasons. First, it’s one of the things that make me a great writer. Second, I constantly must remind myself that I can be flexible as a freelancer.
So, Give yourself permission to be adaptable and let go of the idea that your day is ruined if it is not rigidly scheduled.
I like waking up in the morning by 7 or 7:30am, and I like to start wrapping up my work by noon. Sometimes things come up. I have an appointment, I need to get groceries, I want to meet a friend for lunch, etc. These are not things I must do but they are things I remind myself that I can do because the joy of working for yourself is the joy of doing what you want, when you want, as long as you are appropriately sticking to deadlines.
Relax all you want, but never, ever miss a deadline. Your word is your livelihood.
6. Check in with yourself on a regular basis.
Sometimes I take on a client that has me working on one project for a long time. I do, or write, the same thing for so long, I start to forget what my personal goals are, or what I want to do next, or what I should be planning for when I complete that client’s project. That is the exact moment I need to refocus and ask myself some important questions.
- What are some things I want to accomplish this week/month/year?
- Who haven’t I reached out to lately?
- Have I been active enough on social media?
- What is the most important feature that I should consider for my next project?
- Fill in the blank with your own self-check-in questions to gauge where you are, where you are going, and where you want to be to ensure you are on the right track emotionally, mentally, and financially.
7. You need your own space.
This is assuming that you do not already have a home office. Confession: I have a home office, complete with a desk, corkboard, stapler, landline phone, the works. Do I use it? Of course not. I started keeping craft supplies in there, and then some clothes, and then some makeup and hair supplies, and here I sit at my kitchen table, imploring my furry children to please chew on each other quieter and go in the other room to fart.
For the most part, I like sitting at the kitchen table. If (or when) I find that it becomes difficult to create in this space, I will return my office to its former glory and use it for its intended purpose only.
If you need more illusion than that, turn on a TV or radio for background noise to mimic the sounds of an office, as I mentioned earlier. I prefer complete silence with a little white noise, personally, because I am an introvert that is easily distracted. My husband, on the other hand, can sit down and grade papers for six hours listening to death metal on his headphones.
One of the reasons I had so much trouble with concentration and productivity (and even a positive attitude) at my last office job was simply due to the open office environment that the entire company had adopted decades ago, worldwide.
I am sure some people loved it. The chatty Cathy’s and the extroverts and the travelers who so rarely used their desks that they didn’t even know they had one. But for me, and others like me, introverts who require silence and solitude to be productive, this sort of layout was a nightmare.
Let’s assume you have no space for a home office. Create a space that is just yours, where you are promised no interruptions when your partner/kids/roommate sees you working there. It should be a quiet space where you feel productive and mentally focused. It doesn’t have to be a large space. Literally one couch cushion will do, but it does have to be comfortable.
Creating space for yourself is about more than finding somewhere to work. It’s about unapologetically accepting what works for you and what doesn’t.
8. Stay Connected
If you’re working remotely for someone else, it’s important that you remain connected to others in your company via email and weekly Skype meetings. They are on your team, so it’s crucial to hear their feedback, and to give them yours. Just because you are working from your couch at 3am doesn’t make the work you are doing any less important.
If your co-workers or supervisors are not reaching out to you to make those connections, it will look impressive when you take the initiative to ask for feedback and request real time meetings.
Stay connected to others in your field. Networking is vital.
Clients will appreciate the day you can direct them to a trusted associate when your schedule is just too full. They will be thankful the day you tell them that you cannot lower your rates to accommodate their budget (GO YOU!) but you have a reliable colleague who is within their price range. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool you can hope for, and networking with others in your field is the first step in gaining those all-important connections.
Finding others in your field and connecting with them as friends makes it easier to break into a new business, as you can bounce ideas off them, work together to find the best websites, clients, classes, etc.
My husband introduced me to one of his co-workers who had just quit her teaching job to become a full-time freelancer just like me. We started at the same time, and we had so many interesting thoughts, ideas, and experiences to share with one another. Our friendship and working relationship is invaluable to the both of us. When her calendar books up faster than mine, she funnels work my way, and it was because of her that I booked my first client.
9. What to do when you’ve got nothing to do?
You should always be learning and researching something related to your business.
For example, if you are a content writer, you should know that SEO trends are always changing, and you’ll need to stay on top of those trends.
As a writer, I am not inspired all the time. When I’m not, I don’t force myself to write. Some writers go the free association route where they just start writing whatever comes to mind. My husband teaches his students to do that, and he does it too. It’s never really worked for me, but maybe it will for you.
I get up and walk away from my computer. I talk to my dogs about silly stuff for a bit, or sing them songs while they stare at me like I am a Disney princess. That usually eats up about five minutes of my time and gets me nowhere, but it does free up my mind from the congested writing process that has my brain blocked.
Then I’ll sit on the couch and browse Facebook or Reddit on my phone for a few minutes and…
Inspiration will strike and then I am just flooded with motivation and fresh ideas which typically drives me right back to my laptop.
Nearly 95% of the time, this is exactly what happens. The moment I stop forcing myself to feel inspired or to get the work done, I end up feeling inspired and getting my work done. Clearly, my brain thrives on reverse psychology!
While this is only a short list of little things I have learned that work for me, there are dozens (hundreds?) of other tips and tricks that other freelancers use. There are many freelancers who don’t work from home, like photographers or other artists who rent studio space (oh to dream!). I would love to continue to build upon this list through the coming years.
Comment below and tell me what kinds of things work for you. Or maybe you’re like a unicorn or leprechaun, and you’re not a lazy freelancer. Tell me what that’s like and how I can be more like you!
Do you need some help with the written word? Do you want to hire a freelance writer for your business? Do you want to talk about how annoying it is that twerk is not an accepted Scrabble word? Email me at Chandi@ChandiGilbert.com or subscribe to my bi-monthly newsletter for quick and simple tips on how to improve your writing.