The freedom to work from home is one of the biggest perks of freelance life. I estimate that 7 out of 10 freelancers work from home, though I have no hard facts to back this up.
Others might work from a shared co-working space or from a “proper” office outside the house.
💡 This post was originally written in 2016, way before the hybrid model became a norm during the pandemic.
✅ While this post was written with freelancers in mind, the strategies here apply to anyone working from home.
Home office pros & cons
Working from home has many advantages:
- Easier to balance work and family life.
- More control over your time.
- No formal dress code.
- No commute to work.
- You save money.
- Less stress.
- It's yours.
Here’s an image of my previous home office, I loved working here.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. As you well know, when something sounds too good to be true, there’s often a downside to it.
Working from a home office is amazing, but you've got to be able to work to make it work...
And that’s where the challenge lies.
Challenges of working from home
Working from a home office has its perks. But because it's your home, you're also exposed to distractions you wouldn't have in an office.
Distractions can include:
- Sleeping in late.
- Doing your hobbies instead of working.
- Grabbing a snack, making coffee, grabbing another snack…
- Helping with household chores during work hours.
- Friends visiting your family members.
- Random household noises – TV, kids, vacuum…
You might think, "These sound like privileges, not distractions."
And you'd be right—to some extent.
But when you're trying to focus and get work done, having your kids play next to you with a ball can be distracting. It's okay to say it.
Working from home does have its challenges. If you've been doing this for a while, you know what I mean.
Bottom line – working from a home office is amazing, yet challenging too.
But I’m not here to dampen your spirits, on the contrary.
⚡ I've been living this lifestyle for many years and have found multiple tips, tricks, and mindset shifts to make the most out of working from home. That's what I want to share with you today.
If you want to be successful at working from your home office, keep reading.
7 Tips, tricks, and mindset shifts for effectively working from home
1. Have a dedicated office space
As a freelancer, you are the business owner and the employee.
So the same principle of providing the best working conditions to get the most value from each employee applies to you.
In fact, it’s even more important for freelancers because if you can’t focus and get work done, no one will do it for you.
So ideally, if your circumstances allow for it, you’ll want to have a room in the house that is dedicated to your office.
The benefit of having a proper room is that you can close the door, disconnect from immediate distractions, and set a clear barrier between your office space and your home space.
I can’t stress how important this is.
It's the key to successfully working from home.
It might sound cool to take your laptop and work from the couch, on the balcony, or in the backyard.
However, you can't be productive for long stretches of time in any of those places. This is especially true if you work in the creative field and need multiple displays or a good set of speakers.
In addition, by having a closed space you get the extra level of quiet that allows you to stay focused.
If you can’t allow yourself an entire room dedicated to your office, make sure to have a space in the house that is defined as your working area.
This can be a corner of a room with a desk or anything else you can come up with.
Just make sure that you’re in an area in the house that allows you to truly focus, make phone calls, and have the quiet you need for getting work done.
The key is to make sure this space is clearly defined as your office, and your household members know that when you’re there you’re at work and can’t be distracted.
2. Work vs. Home – Mindset Shift
Most freelancers don’t have defined (9-5) working hours. I don’t either.
And that’s fine. After all, that’s one of the main benefits of being your own boss. You work whenever you want to, as long as you keep your promises to your clients and meet your deadlines.
One of the biggest challenges for freelancers who work from home is not having defined working hours. You're physically at home but mentally you're at work.
Even if you do have dedicated office space in the house, you're still in the house. So sometimes it’s hard to make a clear distinction between work and home.
This can be especially confusing for your family members, because they may think “but you’re right here, why can’t you just come out of the office for a few minutes to help?”
This requires a shift in mindset, not only for you but for your entire family.
Even though you’re working from home, when you’re at work you're at work. Not at home.
It can also be confusing for your clients. If they need to talk to you, when is the best time? When will you be in the office?
There are a couple of options to solve this uncertainty:
Option 1: Define clear working hours.
For example, start working at 8:00 am, break for lunch at 1:00 pm, and then keep going until 5:00 pm.
During those times, your family knows you're busy at work, and clients know you are available to talk.
While this option might work great for some freelancers, it’s not the way I choose to go.
Option 2: Be flexible, but work for at least 2 hours each time.
I don’t have defined working hours.
I try to be in the office by 9 am, but my days vary all the time according to work, family, and events.
Does this mean I work less than other freelancers?
Not at all. But instead of working straight through from 9-5, I spread my working hours throughout the day.
But I do have one rule – when I go to work, I stay in the office for at least 2 hours each time.
I do this to maximize my productivity levels. It takes time to get into "the zone," so I work at least 2 hours straight each time.
When I go to my office I say goodbye to my wife and kids, and they know that I’m not available for the next 2 hours.
And my clients know that the best way to reach me is via email, and if we need to set a call we use tools like Calendly to fix a time.
3. Invest in your home office
You spend hours and hours in your office, so why not invest and make the most out of it?
You might not be able to get everything you want for your office at once, since money is involved.
But you can gradually add things and make your space better – both in terms of its appearance and its functionality.
With that said, there are a few things that I consider most important that you shouldn't wait to purchase. And don't forget – your office equipment is tax-deductible.
I explain in detail how I decide what to buy and when to buy it in this post: Must Have Tools for Creative Freelancers.
- Get a good computer.
You might not need the best computer out there, but you need a computer that can keep up with whatever you do.
I do video and animation work that requires heavy-duty computer resources.
I started my business in 2009 and got a powerful computer. I upgraded its components over the years to keep up with technology.
I've upgraded my workstation since then, but the concept remains the same: invest in your primary tools.
Bottom line: get a computer that allows you to get work done without holding you back.
- Have an excellent internet connection.
Nowadays, the internet is essential to us. We use it to communicate, connect, collaborate, and get work done.
In fact, the internet is one of the primary reasons for the global shift towards remote work, allowing freelancers to work from home with clients around the globe.
To stress my point – I’ve worked with clients from all over Europe, Canada, U.S., Australia, China, and the list goes on.
All from my humble home office in Israel.
Without the internet, I wouldn’t have met 80% of my clients. So a fast and reliable internet connection is essential for your business.
Technical tip: When it comes to your home office, I’d highly recommend connecting to the internet via a cable, and not via Wifi, as you’ll get much faster and more reliable speeds.
Since I need a lot of speed for sending large video files to clients, I have a connection of 500mbs which serves me well.
In general, I recommend having at least a 20mbs connection (but the more the better).
You can use SpeedTest to check your current internet speed.
- Get a good chair.
If you work in a creative field, you probably sit down during most of your work time.
This can cause back pain and bad posture over time.
If you're not comfortable sitting in your office, you'll find yourself getting up often to walk around and stretch your body.
The problem is that it is very difficult to get back into "the sweet zone" (the point in time when you are at your maximum focus and productivity) once you leave it.
When you get up and walk out of your office, you expose yourself to distractions. Invest in a good chair and you can sit comfortably for longer, gaining extra time in the zone.
- Sit right.
If you crouch in your chair, you’re not sitting right.
This too, can cause back pain and affect your productivity over time.
To train my posture, I used to use UpRight.
Since I got my hands on it (or actually, got it on my back), it helped improve my posture and increased my productivity.
However that tool alone did pass the test of time, and I still need to constantly remind myself to sit right.
4. Keep it organized
No matter what field you’re in, you will have documents, papers, binders, and so forth.
Instead of it all piling up on your desk and making it hard to work, get yourself a cabinet or any form of storage space, and organize everything nicely in there.
Walking into an organized office helps you focus and concentrate, plus it gives you a good feeling knowing that everything is in its place.
5. Make it yours
You spend hours in your office, so you should enjoy being there.
You can do things like paint the walls, get a carpet, put art on the walls, and get a few plants.
When you're planning your office, try to find a room with a window. You'll love being able to see the blue skies, and it also helps you know what time of day it is ;-)
Here's a full list of all the tools I use for my freelance business.
4. Be productive
Time is money, so you need to be productive when you're in your office.
I shared an extensive post with my Top 12 Freelance Productivity Hacks a while ago so I won’t go into detail here.
But as a reminder, here are a few of my favorites:
1. Start your day by writing down your tasks.
2. Keep an organized to-do list.
3. Use keyboard shortcuts.
4. Set your notifications to Do Not Disturb.
5. Apply the forced deadlines technique.
6. Handle emails in batches.
7. Block access to social media.
8. Track your time.
5. Noise vs. Focus
Noise is one of the most distracting things. It's hard to focus and concentrate in a noisy environment.
To help tackle this issue, try listening to music or ambient sounds with a pair of headphones.
My favorite tool for ambient sounds is Noisli.
I wrote about this in detail in my freelance time management post.
I’ve said this many times in the past – I strongly believe that if you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll find it much easier to get yourself to work.
When you work from home, it's hard to stay focused if you're not passionate about what you're doing. If you don't enjoy your work, you'll always look for shortcuts.
Even if you're passionate about your work, you'll still have to do projects you don't find interesting, plus handle the accounting, paperwork, and taxes.
Things that generally don't excite you and make you want to keep going.
That’s where self-discipline kicks in.
Remember – you’re your own boss. If you don’t do the work, no one will.
Even when you're not working on an exciting project, you need to get the work done.
7. Get out of your office.
I know what you’re thinking.
“What’s that?! Get your of your office? Didn’t you just go on and on about why it’s important to get in your office?”
You’re right, but here’s the thing.
Working alone at home can get lonely.
Working large amounts of time by yourself can lead to feeling isolated, even if you enjoy your work. This is because you communicate mostly over the internet.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Attend conferences and events.
- Have meetings over lunch in a restaurant.
- Work from a coffee shop.
- Meet with friends.
- Head out to the store to buy a few items on your grocery list.
I’ve previously worked hard on writing a book (which I never finished), but since I didn't need my super strong computer for writing, I was able to head out of the office and write in a cafe. It was great fun.
Bottom line: get out, breathe some fresh air, network, and socialize with people in real life.
Takeaways - keys to successfully working from home
To summarize, if you want to successfully be able to work from home, here’s what you need to do:
- Have a dedicated office space.
- Define clear rules for interruptions.
- Set working hours and a routine.
- Work at least 1-2 hours at a time.
- Make your home office productive and enjoyable.
- Develop self-discipline.
- Get out and have real contact with people.