How individual freelancers and developers working from home can create a schedule and more importantly stick to it to be productive.
When you are working from home, there are no clear boundaries on when to start and when to end the day. New Freelancers are even tempted to sleep all day and work whole nights as they handle foreign clients. It may sound exciting to read but ask who have such a schedule and you will know how boring it is.
As a freelancer working from home, it is more important to plan the allocation of time to clients as well as other things you want to be doing that may even include time to read, blog, socializing or even focus on learning something new.
If you don’t plan and try to work as planned, your work will become a reaction to the events as they happen in the course of the day. You got an email and did that but in the process missed an important client delivery and so now you have to work extra to get that delivered.
1. Create a Schedule
When I started working from home, I had no schedule at all. I was working in a reactive mode. I had forums and a few clients from Elance. Slowly the overflow of clients made sure I focused more on them and the forums took the backseat.
If I look back now, it was a counterproductive move by me because it meant I didn’t focus on forums or blog back then because of lack of planning.
As I was making a decent amount of money doing freelancing and from the websites, I purchased a flat and then invested a goodish bit of amount in an office. As the income from my websites started to decline I had to make sure freelancing made up for the lower income from websites to fulfill the commitments I had for the payment for my office.
It was tough for me to decrease the amount of time I was allocating to clients but over time, as my financial commitments start to get sorted. So I started working my way back into blogging and allocate more time to blogging.
Working from home for a decade now, I make sure I stick to my schedule to help me focus on things that can help me grow as a freelancer.
Initially, I was working most of the time, but I wasn’t as productive as I am now working a lot less. If something needed my attention, I used to do it then and there. As an example if I had to visit my bank or if someone wanted to meet me I was allocating time for it as soon as I can to get those tasks out of my way. So I can focus more on my work in the future. Slowly I learned to say no or at least delay it and do at some later point in time.
As of now, my schedule is as follows:
- Early morning before morning walk and for about an hour I write an overview of the blog topic I will be writing for the day. This is one of the best time for my writing where I let my words flow into the editor.
- Then I go for a morning walk. After the walk, I spend some time with friends over a tea where I carry my phone to catch up with on social media.
- When I am back, I put on the business news channel and along with it complete the basic morning stuff.
- After the breakfast I blog.
- Once I have completed writing, depending on the blog topic, typically it is close to lunchtime. This is when I open up my emails to reply to my blog readers and plan my client work. I don’t start working for clients but just plan based on the priority of emails.
- I take my lunch, take a small nap after which I start working for my clients from around 4 PM till around 9 PM. If on any day, we are going out for dinner, I stop working for clients early.
The above routine helps me take needed breaks and tells me when I am doing what.
2. Let the Family Know Your Schedule
The most important aspect to be able to work from home is to let your family know your schedule. When you are working and when you aren’t.
If you don’t let them know, it is impossible for them to know.
My wife is fully aware of my schedule. Even my kids know how to approach me when I am working.
The way I like to be approached when I am working is to stop nearby my working table and allow me some time to be able to reply to them before they start bombarding to me what they want to tell. Now they know if I am working, I will need time before I can reply to them.
This wasn’t easy to communicate but over time, they have managed to get it.
3. Allocate Enough Time To Each Task
When I tried a programming class in Surat, the main issue was my timing. I wasn’t able to allocate enough time for the business needed. So it failed miserably.
It is important to divide the time you have between each of the client or each of the business you do.
As of today even when I am blogging, Saturdays are meant for blogging for my investment blog and other days I am mainly writing for IMTips.
I like to write in details and often the time I am allocating to write for the topics that I want to be writing isn’t enough for me to get things done in that time but that way I am making sure my productivity is high in whatever I am doing maintaining the quality.
Allocating the right amount of time to each work is important. When you have too much time at hand, you can be distracted to leave it too late and if you have too little time, you may compromise on quality to finish it within the time.
When I am allocating time to write a blog post for IMTips, I have to make sure I allocate enough time for a longer form of articles and research. Some articles are 2000 words with a lot of research material whereas others won’t be more than 500 words. If I allocate too little time, I won’t end up writing those solid content for the blog and if I allocate more time, 500 words will leave too much time at hand.
The way I do it is, I allocate the time for 1000 word write-ups because often it is 1000 word write-ups that are more frequent than either 500 words or 2000 words. If I have an article that takes longer than I intend to, I complete it the next day but then allow to have a small article in between to be able to deliver both the next day.
With this current blogging schedule, this is what I managed to deliver over the past 6 months.
A couple of weeks around Eid when I didn’t publish on IMTips.
4. Natural Notifications
There are many ways one can be notified to switch between tasks. Mobile phones, alarms or calendar notifications but I prefer a slightly more natural way of being notified.
As an example:
- Lunch break as a notification to allows me to break from a blogging mode and move to client work.
- Morning walk and tea time with friends to break out of writing in the morning.
- When working for clients after each task I leave the computer and restart again to make sure I am working as per my initial plan.
Make sure you have a notification system to switch between tasks as planned and don’t get into the reactive mode of work.
5. Handle Email With Care
Emails can easily make you work in reactive mode. So for a work from home freelancer, having the right strategy to handle emails is important.
I have separate email addresses for my blog, clients and other social media stuff. So when I am working for clients, I take up clients email notifications only and when it is blogging time, I don’t have email notification from clients.
After the blogging and before making a move to working for clients, it is time for email and I respond to blog readers email.
When I start working for clients, I start by checking clients email and plan accordingly.
The third email is for those that I prefer reading and is mainly handled on my mobile. I never get client or blog email notification on my mobile because that can be a way to get distracted.
Once you can organize your emails well enough, you will be able to stick to the schedule easily.
6. Identify the Time Killers
Make sure you do what it takes to spend less time on things that don’t improve your business.
For me, market news used to take up a lot of my time. So I made sure it doesn’t take more than 30 minutes of my time on any day. For others, it can be the social media or WhatsApp that may be the time killers.
So anything that you doesn’t help too much with the business can take a backseat. So you can work less and achieve more.
If you are an introvert person, it can be a good option working from home but if you are an extrovert person it can be tough for you to be able to work from home and still remain productive. Socializing is a part of productivity for extrovert people.
The best way to know what works for you is to experiment what works for you and not rely on others to tell you what will work for you.
If you are starting to work from home, it can be an exciting as well as challenging. Be prepared to experiment and see if it is exciting for you or is more of a challenge for you.
If you aren’t able to work from home, there is no harm in moving out to a different place to work. If things don’t work out the way you want it to be or if you think you can be a lot more productive being working from some other place, it is never too late. If you want to keep a check on the expenses, don’t take a complete office space but just look for only a tablespace.
Even if things are working as expected, it isn’t a bad idea to try working from a different place to see if things can be improved further. One can always get back to working from home.
When I started a few partnerships, I tried working from offices but things did not work out as expected. The main reason being, I was dragged to things I should have avoided. So my personal productivity wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. So I reverted back to working from home.
8. Ready to Outsource
If you want to be working from home, you may not be able to hire people. So if you plan to get the job done by others, you should be ready to take the outsourcing route.
I love outsourcing and it is of the main reason I have been able to work from home for a decade but often with a time-critical delivery schedule, outsourcing model doesn’t work out as good as one would like it to be. So be prepared for it.
9. Build Healthy Habits
As a developer working from home who spends most of his time in front of the computer needs to have the right posture.
When working from home, you can be tempted to work from your bed or from the couch. I have done it before and my home office was from my couch for a very long time.
I started to have issues with my neck and this is when I read about the right postures.
I stopped using my MacBook and moved over to an iMac. From couch to a desk along with a chair to avoid back pain. Positioned iMac at the right eye level. Made sure my hands are in the right position to avoid pain in the shoulder.
It helped me maintain my work from home schedule.
If you aren’t healthy enough doing what you are doing, it can be tough to continue doing it for a long time.
Further Reading …