It used to be that only frauds and charlatans worked from home. “Working from home” was a pathetic euphemism, showed up for what rot it was in Bridget Jones’ Diary, as an excuse to bugger about ineffectually and, in the end, depressingly, at home.
But now I think it’s less of a blatant bunk-off, more acceptable and considered mostly efficient to work from home. Work now is genuinely the more flexible concept we dreamed it might be ten or fifteen years ago.
For many years now we haven’t all been getting the 7.23 to the office in order to hang up our bowler hats and say “Morning Miss Jones” to our secretaries and then sit in our airless offices for eight hours, thinking up efficient ways to kill ourselves, before getting the 17.06 back home. But there has been a transition period recently, when the office didn’t quite work and home didn’t quite work either. But that’s shifting.
And that’s a good thing for everyone, because working in an office isn’t always ideal. When you work in a great, modern office with a ace team, there’s nothing better. But most of us work, or worked in The Office – and if you can avoid it, punch the air.
But when you work from home, how do you get stuff done? How do you not just roll about the place, staring out of the window, filing your nails and shopping online?
Here’s what I’ve learned in my nearly 7 years of using my house as my office:
1 Get a fucking grip. If you really can’t motivate yourself, maybe working from home isn’t for you and you actually need to be in an office.
2 If you’re having trouble getting this grip, but not quite ready to give up, set aside two hours in the day, whenever you feel most lively, for working. Do nothing else in that time but don’t worry if you don’t actually get any work done. Just keep returning to your designated work space for two hours a day, every day. Eventually you will produce something and there’s nothing more motivational than achievement.
3 Freelancing (if that’s what you’re doing) is a roller coaster, emotionally. Try not to get too down when things are quiet, unless your flat is literally about to get repossessed. We all have times when things are hot and times when your inbox is like the Sargasso Sea. Distract yourself with tidying up your work area a bit or making a list of all the admin you’ve been putting off. Then
put it to one side actually do it.
4 It’s okay to be happy. If you can make it work, freelancing is a very nice life. When you’ve got your work done, don’t pointlessly sit at your desk. Read a magazine, put your feet up, water your plants, go to the shops. It’s okay.
5 Stay on top of your invoicing and always ask what the pay is. This probably my husband’s most useful working tip. First, filing your invoices on time – or at all – will increase your likelihood of getting paid by 100%. And, when you are commissioned to do something, ask what the pay is. You don’t have to say “How much dosh is it then? Eh eh?” you can say “What’s the word rate over there these days?” They will always say “Oh well usually xx per word, but I can push it up to xx?” And then you say “Call it XXX and you’ve got a deal.” See? Perfectly easy and okay and not embarrassing. (I must admit, I don’t always do this, especially if it’s a big publication and I’m just fucking thrilled they’ve asked me. But I ought to.)
6 The Internet is the enemy of the freelancer. We all have things that we would rather do on the internet than work. But we’re not here to talk about my obsession with the songs of garden birds of the UK and Northern Europe; whatever it is out there that drags you away from your work, you are just going to have to compartmentalise it and use it as a treat. You will work for however many hours or minutes and then have a massive perv over the Baxter.it Chesterfield Moon sofa. Or do what I do and go on to Net a Porter and spend twenty minutes putting loads of things in my basket but then don’t check them out.
7 Whatever you are doing as a freelance, when you hand your work or project or whatever into your editor, or agency or client, never ever apologise – another gem from Giles. Never say “I hope this is alright” or “Re-write the whole thing if you want” or “It’s a bit patchy in the last third.” That is not confidence-inspiring. It will make your boss feel panicky and insecure. It will make them look for things for you to re-write or re-do. Don’t give them that option, just file it and they can fuck themselves if they don’t like it. You’re on to the next thing (i.e. your head in the biscuit tin).
If anyone else works from home and has helpful tips for making it work, please leave a comment in the handy box below.