As I prepare to take my leave of the daily 9 to 5 of the corporate world in just two short weeks, I’ve been thinking about what working for myself – specifically from my home office – will look like for me.
Obviously, I’m beyond exhilarated to become my own boss for the first time. Since I’ve never done it before, though, I imagine there’ll be a pretty big learning curve. It’s probably going to take me awhile to get my sea legs under me.
In addition to doing some mad business development during the past six months, I’ve made it a point to pick the brains of other successful freelancers and home-based solo practitioners, in the hopes that I can learn from mistakes they have already made.
They’ve shared some great advice, including:
Make it clear to your family that you are working during normal business hours so they don’t expect you to drop everything to pick up their dry cleaning. Or: don’t tell yourself things like, “I’ll just mow the yard real quick before lunch” or “I’m gonna swing by Lowe’s for a minute to check out the sale on washing machines.” That kind of thinking can (and will) derail the productivity of your entire day.
Another: make sure you allow time during the work week for bookkeeping tasks like formal time tracking, invoicing and banking, or you’ll find yourself scrambling to get paid once the actual work is done. And possibly the most important: schedule ample downtime. It will be easy to get burned out, and then you’ll be right back where you started – killing yourself for a paycheck.
One of my favorite nuggets of wisdom came from writer Robyn Sekula, who told me when I commented about how much I was looking forward to sleeping in on a random Wednesday if I felt like it: “Sure, once you work for yourself, you can sleep late. But you won’t want to. You’ll want to jump out of bed and go kick ass.”
I think she’s right – I will work harder for myself than I ever would for someone else.
Anyhoo, I think I’ve got the necessary qualities to make this home-based business stuff work, once I get the hang of it. I am naturally organized, regimented and tenacious. But I can already see some pitfalls I will need to avoid, based on how I have managed my freelance work time prior to this transition.
Anyone who knows my penchant for list-making won’t be surprised that I am using this as a perfect opportunity to compile one. Yeah, it will probably end up taped to my fridge.
Five reminders to keep me alive, healthy and sane as a home-based business owner:
1. Get up. This sounds obvious, but it definitely needs to be at the top of the list. I absolutely have to remember to start my day like regular a workday – with an alarm. Putting myself on a schedule is tantamount to keeping me on task.
2. Make my bed. I’ve been doing this religiously for the past year or so for a couple reasons. One, I bought a really nice comforter set (shams, dust ruffle, the whole nine yards) that “really ties the room together,” Lebowski-style. The ritual began in earnest after my marriage ended. Without interjecting too much unnecessary bitterness, my ex slept in when I left for work in the mornings, so I never could make the bed. (And he certainly never did it when he finally got up.)
After he was gone, it was SO refreshing to have the room to myself again that making the bed became a joyous task. Once I am working from home full time, I need to make it a point to keep it up. The few times I have forgotten because I did not pass go and went straight to my desk, I was surprisingly disappointed to come upstairs that night, only to see a tangled mess of sheets and blankets instead of my usual crisp, impeccable sanctuary.
3. Get dressed. The long, intense weekend days I have spent working on my business up to this point have shown me that it’s easy for me to immediately sit down in front of my computer and not get up again until the sun goes down.
As a result, I am in my pajamas all day. That’s been a nice luxury on the one hand, but I can see how making a habit of sitting around in ratty yoga pants with no makeup and stinky breath could become an unhealthy habit. Even if I just brush my teeth, run a comb through my hair and put on CLEAN yoga pants, that’s a start toward looking and feeling human. I can tell you from experience that there is a direct correlation between my appearance and my confidence and productivity levels.
4. Eat something. This goes along with No. 3. If I get up, go straight to my desk and don’t move again for eight hours, I forget to eat. Really. That’s happened a few times, and by the end of the day I am a jittery, cranky mess.
You would think that with the kitchen only a few feet away (for God’s sake I can SEE the counter top from my desk), I would be more likely to eat, both a lot and often. Not so much. It’s looking like I may have to set an alarm for lunch. God knows I don’t want my health to deteriorate because I am consumed with my work. That would be an imbalance of the most dangerous order.
5. See and talk to human beings. I can already tell how easy it would be for me to isolate myself, so I have to make it a point to get out of the house at least a couple times a week. I am going to force myself to set face-to-face meetings with clients from time to time, go to networking events, and even join association boards. And of course, during my free time, I already made a New Year’s resolution to get out in the world and be more social. So far this year, I've done pretty well.
All that said, I also got to thinking about all the wonderful things I can expect as I join the ranks of the self-employed. And that, of course warrants another list.
So I’d like the end this post with a few of the things that pushed me to go to work for myself in the first place.
Five cool things about being my own boss:
1. No pressure to be somewhere, dressed and alert, at 8 a.m. Or hell, at 10 a.m. Or ANY a.m. (Nanner, nanner!! Pffft! You WISH you were me!)
2. The ability to bring my dogs to work. When I need a mental break for 5 minutes, all I have to do is reach down at my feet to pet or play with them. Pure bliss -- I can’t wait.
3. No permission required when I make a non-work appointment or run an errand. If I need to go the dentist, the bank or run to Heine Bros for a latte, I can. Whenever I want! And you can’t stop me!!
4. The opportunity to work outside, on my covered porch. I got wireless Internet at my house precisely so I could take my laptop out on my porch when it's warm. I cannot wait to work outside, with my feet up, and bask in the sunshine this spring. Did I time this shizz right or what??
5. The chance to get paid for telling only the stories that I choose. This really is the best part. I get to decide how I make my living, by selecting only those clients I want to work with. So far, I've picked some really great ones. And I can't wait to see who comes into my life next!
T-minus 14 days and counting! Woot!
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.