One great benefit of being an independent contractor is the ability to work from home, or any other location for that matter. Unless it’s critical to a project to have you onsite, most clients don’t care where you perform your work and some may even prefer you work from a separate office. In addition, working off-site is another simple way to distinguish yourself as a contractor and not an employee.
When you first begin contracting and working remotely, being by yourself in your home office can present some challenges. Although nobody’s physically around to hold you accountable, you can be sure that your client is aware of your productivity and will be making sure that the hours you’re billing are actually going towards their project.
In a recent article for Entrepreneur.com, Jacqueline Whitmore shared her experiences and challenges when she started working from home, as well as six best practices she developed to overcome the obstacles. Here’s what Jacqueline suggests:
1. Set and keep regular office hours.
Most people who work from home find they work too much rather than too little. Other remote workers struggle to keep a regular schedule — working a few hours one day and pulling an all-nighter the next.
Some interruptions can’t be avoided. Client deadlines may unexpectedly require extra hours. Family obligations can interfere as well, especially if children are home during the day.
Do your best to set work hours and stick to them. Then try your best to leave work at the “office” and turn your phone on silent and enjoy the rest of your day. Give yourself some time to recharge so you can be as productive as possible.
2. Plan and structure your workday.
Structure your workday to maximize efficiency. Take advantage of your body’s natural rhythms and plan your work around your most productive hours.
If you know you focus best in the morning, resist the temptation to check email until 10 a.m. or later. A quick review of your calendar when you first start work can set you up for a productive workday.
Make a list of your most important tasks before you move on to less urgent business. If possible, shut your office door (if you have one) to signal to others that you’re working and don’t wish to be disturbed.
3. Dress to impress (even if it’s just for your dog).
As enticing as it is to stay in pajamas all day, this is not the best work habit. The way you dress affects you psychologically.
Taking the time to shower, have breakfast, brush the teeth and dress can make someone feel more confident. Maintain a casual (not sloppy) work wardrobe to help you transition smoothly between home and office — even if they’re in the same place.
4. Set aside a designated work area.
Consistency is an important aspect to working from home. Try to work at the same spot every day. It could be a spare bedroom that you’ve turned into a home office, a desk located in the corner of the living room or even the dining room table.
Make sure your workspace functions efficiently for you, your business and your style. Surround yourself with things that inspire you and make you happy including flowers, music and pictures. Make your workspace a place you enjoy going to each day, an area where you can focus and do your best work.
5. Take breaks.
Schedule time for frequent breaks throughout the day. Rise from your desk, stretch or walk around the house or down the street. Take a lunch break and enjoy a midday meal.
If you need a little socializing, go out to lunch with friends or clients. A major advantage to working from home is having flexibility. If fitness is important to you, a quick trip to the gym can reinvigorate you and make for a productive afternoon.
6. Avoid distractions.
One challenge of working from home is accountability. With no colleagues or partners nearby, it’s easy to become distracted. There are always errands to run and chores at home to do. Do your best to put off household tasks, like laundry and dishes, until you’ve gone “home” for the evening.
Stay focused on work throughout the day to maintain consistent productivity. Avoid online distractions as well. Limit the time spent on email, social media and websites unrelated to work.
Set a timer on your phone or computer if necessary. Don’t waste time or money on meetings or activities that are counterproductive to your success.