Sunday, 1 April 2018

10 things I wish I'd known before I quit my job to work for myself

working from homeFlickr / Luke Redmond
  • While it has never been easier to work successfully from home, 
  • there are a number of common pitfalls to avoid.
  • It is important to leave the house and integrate social contact 
  • into your day — otherwise, you may begin to feel reclusive.
  • By carefully scheduling your day, changing out of your 
  • pajamas, and creating a designated work area, it is possible
  •  to transform your living 
  • environment into a productive space.

After I graduated in 2010, I took an entry-level advertising sales assistant 
job at a well-known print magazine. For the next six years, I spent time 
bouncing from magazine to
 magazine across sales, marketing, and editorial, desperately trying to 
find my niche in order to rise 
the ranks.
Turns out, my niche is at home. For the last two years, I've worked for 
myself as an editorial and brand partnerships consultant for a variety of 
media companies. This position combines all of those jack-of-all-trades job
 functions into one lucrative role.
I used to dread going to the office, and now I love my career. Self-discovery
 and revelations aside, there's a roadmap to do it all right.
Here's what I wish I knew on Day One:

1. Everyone thinks you're at home watching daytime TV

Admittedly, my first day working from home was a little bit terrifying. 
My first concern was how I would build out my home cubicle environment. 
What were the rules? 
Could I turn on the TV? Was it legal? Who would stop me?
I realized I was my own boss, and I could do what works for me. I flop 
between daytime talk shows (no judgment please) and CNN, with the 
intermittent episode of whatever 
HGTV show happens to be on.
The background noise keeps me from going stir crazy, but it also helps me 
feel like I'm not living in a bubble.

2. No one thinks you're ever busy

Can you pick up a gift for me? Can you grab my dry cleaning? Do you mind
 taking care of dinner? I often receive these kinds of texts from friends and
 family. I usually say yes. Why? Not because I'm a pushover, but because 
I sometimes feel guilty that I have created a position where I'm my own 
boss and have my own freedom and schedule. There's no one tying me to 
desk or giving me a look when I take a long lunch or walk out 10 minutes 
before 5 p.m.
Even though it may be easier to do so, I've learned you can't always say yes.
 The only person I'm hurting is myself — by losing my potential income for 
that hour of work.
 Although I have significantly more freedom now than I did at my desk job,
 it still doesn't mean that I'm not busy. In fact, I'm busier than I ever have 
been. Sometimes you have to say no, and 
that's OK. They'll (hopefully) understand.

3. You have to set a schedule

My first months freelancing, I thought I'd never get off the ground. I 
was increasingly worried about my income, and though my supportive 
husband helped us figure
 out a way to get by in the meantime, it was still so challenging. I told 
myself I'd work traditional
 work hours. I would start my day at 9 a.m. and stop only when my
husband came home for the 
evening. Sometimes that was 6 p.m., but more often it was 9 p.m.
I must have sent off hundreds of emails, which created a runway for me 
to really get things going. Turns out that regimented schedule really 
 at the beginning, 
but it wasn't sustainable. These days, I typically work from 11 a.m. to 
7 p.m., which I find is my most 
productive part of the day. But, do you. Set your schedule.

4. The key to more free time is working more efficiently

At my desk job, about 50% of my time was spent gallivanting and avoiding
 work. There were multiple coffee runs, a long lunch, and during the time
 I actually spent 
at my desk, not much work really got done.
Maybe because the woman next to me was munching on popcorn too loud,
 the guy across from me was tapping profusely, and the new hire was 
listening to their headphones 
just loud enough so you could hear the bass. All of these things chipped 
away at my patience, 
productivity, and sanity.
I might wake up later now, and maybe I'll stop earlier, but in the time
 I'm working, I'm extremely motivated to do my job. I know that if I get 
my work done, I'm free later 
to enjoy the rest of my day. I don't just get to walk away without finishing it.
 Being freelance also 
helps keep me focused. That kind of "you eat what you kill" mantra really 
applies. No work-y? No money.

5. Designate a work space

The couch is not an office. I started working from our dining table, and 
while it served the purpose, it didn't make me feel like I was working.
 It was too casual, and it wasn't making me disciplined enough.
I ordered a $60 desk on Amazon and set myself up for success in the 
corner of our 800-square-foot apartment. I carved out a little nook that 
would become my office, and it 
totally worked.
That said, there are times when sweatpants and the couch totally suffice
 as a work day. Like when everyone else has a snow day, but your "office"
 isn't closed.

6. Make sure to leave the house

A friend of mine used to work from home and is really adamant that I
 leave the house. Whenever we see him, his first question is always,
 "Did you leave the apartment this week?" I feel really awkward when 
my response is no.
It's fine if things are crazy and you can't leave every day, but try and
 make it happen as best you can. Even if you just go around the corner to
 the coffee shop or take a
 walk around the block.

7. Interact with humans

My first couple months working from home was spent writing, so I had 
limited interaction with other people. My husband would come home 
and I would chew his ear 
off about anything and everything. He told me I needed to talk to humans 
during the day.
My current role has me on sales calls several times a week, and I have a 
standing call with my boss where I definitely talk more than I should. 
Every profession is different, 
so even if your job requires little human contact, try and find a way to
 fit it in.
Whether it's connecting with a co-worker over the phone, finding a 
 opportunity during lunch or after work, or just going to the local store 
and chatting up the guy
 in aisle 6 rearranging the canned goods, talk to someone so you don't 
become a hermit.

8. It's amazing how much you accomplish when you take

 out work drama

I never enjoyed the office. I hated the politics, had trouble being fake to 
coworkers I disliked, and frankly, there were just too many unnecessary 
hour-long meetings that 
kept me from being productive. Without those factors, my days are spent
 working fruitfully. 
It's also much less overwhelming when Sally isn't peeking her head over 
the cubicle asking you 
if you have time for a quick meeting all the time.

9. Don't be afraid to take a pay cut, because you'll save 

on expenses

When I decided to work from home, I had just turned down a really good 
 offer that was a major salary increase from my last job. It was a tough 
decision, but I knew having
 my freedom and dedicating myself to work I love was going to yield far 
better results down
 the road. My salary has now reached the level of that job offer, but it took 
a few years. That said,
 I've still come out ahead because of the amount of money I save on 
transportation, food, and clothing.
Before I started working from home, I got into the habit of taking taxis,
 Ubers, and Vias to work, due to my profound dislike of public transportation.
 I also routinely 
overspent on the aforementioned coffee runs and lunches.
The cost of my required transportation is pretty limited now, and those 
expensive must-get-to-work Uber rides have fallen off. Food and beverage 
are a fraction of the
 cost, since I make good use of being at home. Plus, I wear what's already 
in my closet since no one 
at my home office is paying attention to my outfits. These things have 
made a significant difference
 in my net income.

10. Get dressed every day

This might sound obvious, but it's so easy to get out of bed, roll to the couch,
 and start the workday. All the sudden, "Ellen" is on, and I'm still in my
 sweatpants looking

 like it's a lazy Saturday. Except it's Tuesday. And while this does 
happen on occasion,
 my most productive days are the ones when I dress for success. 
You don't have to go crazy, but 
upgrading from pajamas will totally shift your mindset.

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