Does working from home ever mean nine to five?
The big plus to being freelance (mainly as a freelance copywriter) is that you can work just about anywhere and any time. But the big (and I mean BIG) downside is letting clients know when ‘any time’ starts and stops. Hang on, let me rephrase that to ‘letting potential clients know’.
My day working from home never ever starts at 9 and stops at 5. Sometimes, the best ideas come when I’m away from my desk, especially if sitting on the tube. It’s probably because I can’t be interrupted by phone or emails.
Should you answer out of hours enquiries?
I do sometimes receive emails and even calls in the evening or at weekends from prospective clients making an enquiry. I’m sorry, but I won’t answer these. As a freelance copywriter, you have to maintain professional integrity and keep to professional hours. Even if I’m beavering away on a project at 8.30pm, that’s my choice but to the rest of the world I’m what Skype terms ‘offline’.
Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of contacting a client between 1 and 2pm or after 6pm – unless asked to or if a deadline is looming.
‘Are there exceptions?’ you’re wondering
Of course, there have to be exceptions. Right now, I have a client in Oman (i.e. three hours ahead) and a client in New York (i.e five hours behind). The working week for my Omani client runs Sunday to Thursday. If either needs to get hold of me, of course they can – we’ve discussed and agreed this beforehand.
How late is late?
So, how late is late when working from home? After 6pm in my books if you’re not an existing client. But look at it this way: I won’t be ignoring you – I’ll just be giving you 15 hours extra thought until I get in touch at 9am the next day.
What’s the best way to spend your working day working from home?
Imagine a sunny day and no deadlines to meet. It’s all too easy to put off what can be done today until tomorrow.
If you’re the type who likes to spend all day in your jim-jams or whiling away the hours on eBay, then a freelancing life is definitely not for you.
Yes, of course it can be distracting sitting at a desk by yourself all day. There’s always washing to do, holidays to book and parcels to take to the post office. Yet, working from home can definitely be productive. Best of all, you’re a happier person because you don’t have to face a dull, dreary, sweaty commute.
A different way of working requires a different way of thinking. So, how can you make the most out of your 9 til 5 working day?
1. Learn to prioritise. Send out your invoices first thing and as soon as your copywriting project is signed off – you have to keep your cash flow turning over. Reply to client emails as soon as they come in – even if it’s to acknowledge them by saying “Let me read through your comments and get back to you later today.”
2. Make a list of what you need to achieve each day, especially deadlines. Tick them off as you get through them. So what if you haven’t managed to do them all – at least you’ve achieved some and, hey, tomorrow’s another day.
3. If you have a freelance project you really need to concentrate on, switch off your phone and quit your emails for a few hours.
4. Try not to sit at your desk for more than 60 minutes. Get some fresh air, do some exercise. Having short breaks can help your concentration.
5. Avoid feeling isolated. Go to networking events or courses to improve your skills. Suggest to clients that you’ll come in for regular meetings – it’s also a great way to net more work and get introduced to their colleagues in other departments who may need your skills.
6. If you really need to do some personal online tasks, avoid cutting into your precious 9 – 5 working day and leave them until the evening. Resist the urge to turn on the TV or go shopping.
7. Keep up with paperwork. If the thought of filling in those book-keeping columns is dull (personally, I’m a woman of words and hate anything to do with figures which is why I took the laughingly student-named ‘Maths for Morons’ subsidiary course during my degree at Keele University), then find a good accountant and never let them go.
8. Switch off and recharge your batteries. I’m a great advocate of a power nap and used to have a 10 minute lie down under my desk when working permanently in ad agencies as a copywriter.
9. Dress as if you’re going to the office. I recently arranged a Skype call the other morning, without even thinking my client would want a video call. All I can say is thank goodness I wasn’t still in my dressing gown. Being dressed as if you’re off to work (which you’re doing anyway) somehow makes you feel more professional and ready to deal with any client challenges.
10. Keep motivated. If you’re freelance or running your own business, it’s vital to remember the reasons why you started in the first place and use those to see you through any tough times.
11. Book lunch. Meet friends. Meet clients. It’s a lovely treat that beats the daily cheese on toast.
Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter (permanently) and lover of the joys of freelancing and working from home.
E: firstname.lastname@example.org. T: +44 (0) 7957 567766