No commutes, no noisy offices and no sad desk salads – there are many benefits of freelancing from home. For working families, it also offers the flexibility to work around children’s schedules and family commitments. Working solo, however, can bring its own challenges - it can be a lonely business. If you are a freelancer working from home, here are a few tips on how to make your working environment happier, healthier and more productive.
Create your freelance office space
You don’t need to set aside a whole room in your house as your freelance home office, especially when you’re just starting out, but creating a dedicated workspace is crucial for successful home working.
For Annie Ridout, author of The Freelance Mum: a flexible career guide for better work-life balance, her workspace is the end of her kitchen table. “We’ve got a very long table and I’m set up at the end of it,” she says. “However, I’m starting to feel a bit claustrophobic working, eating lunch and hanging out with the kids in the kitchen so the plan is to build a studio.
Annie also emphasises the importance of getting into the right headspace when you work from home. "In terms of mindset, it’s important to shower and get dressed," she says. “Making a bit of an effort as you would if you’re going into an office just helps to get you in the right mind frame.”
And if your workspace is in a shared home, be that with a partner, relative or housemate, it’s important to ensure they respect your working hours and dedicated office space, even if that’s the kitchen table.
Working from home top tip: sit properly
Another consideration freelancers need to make when they set up their home workspace is body posture, especially for the back and spine.
“Workers may not realise that their home environments, while perhaps seemingly more comfortable, could be putting a serious strain on their back," Tim Hutchful a member of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) says. “Whilst it may be tempting to work slumped on the sofa or lying in bed when given the opportunity, workers need to realise that they could be doing damage to their spine."
To prevent back pain when sitting, the BCA recommends that the top of your screen should be level with your eyebrows and if you are working from a laptop, that you are not hunching over it. A laptop is all you need to start freelancing from home, but investing in an inexpensive stand (or using books), a keyboard and mouse will protect your spine in the long run.
Use the flexibility of working from home to your advantage – see phone calls as an opportunity to walk and talk and embrace the privacy of being at home by doing regular stretches. The BCA has a list of recommended stretches for back pain on its website.
Advantages and disadvantages of freelancing
One of the joys of freelancing is working for lots of different clients and having a variety of projects going at once. However, juggling all those different deadlines can be stressful, especially if you’re used to having a single boss setting your targets or workload.
“It sounds really obvious, but have a to-do list before you sit down to work,” Annie says. “And put it in order of priority - what work needs to be done first.”
Annie also advises that when you’re starting out, it’s important to set achievable goals each day. “Be realistic so that you don’t constantly feel like you’re not being productive enough or not achieving anything,” she says.
It’s also equally important to set boundaries, as tempting as it might be to work until midnight every night, that’s a recipe for burnout. Take advantage of the fact you can work whenever you want and go for that bike ride next time you need to clear your head.
Join a freelance community
Many freelancers report struggling with feelings of isolation when they work for themselves. Annie recommends finding a freelance community to join - be that in real life or online. Not only do these groups offer support and a way to combat loneliness, but they can also be a great productivity boost as well.
One such online group is Leapers, which offers a community of support to freelancers and independent workers, and has a focus on mental health. For real-life networking, the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed (IPSE) has an extensive list of events for freelancers across the country.
As Annie says: "When you’re working for yourself, there isn’t a boss checking in. If you can get that accountability through an online community, that can be really helpful."