How To Work Remotely From Home: Tips & Strategies

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Working from home has many benefits: you dictate your own hours, no time is wasted commuting to the office, there’s no one watching you over your shoulder, and, best of all, you’re home to receive the mail – goodbye trips to the post office! However, remote work also comes with its own set of challenges: it can be overwhelmingly solitary, the urge to procrastinate may be strong, it can be difficult to stay motivated and, on the other end of the spectrum, it may also be hard to switch off when your professional and personal space are one and the same. Let’s look at some strategies to implement to assist with the challenges of having your home as your office!

Whether it’s a home office, a rented office, a co-working space, or a coffee shop, for freelancers the environment where they work is vitally important to their success. But where some prefer to work from the comfort of their own homes, others need a working space full of energy and dynamism.

We conducted a survey amongst freelancers to find out where it is they usually worked and these were the results that we found:

Home office (89%)

Due to the effects of the pandemic, it should come as no surprise that the majority of freelancers usually spend their time working from a home office

This may be because as a home working freelancer, you do not need to worry about traffic jams, office clothing, or colleagues. Working from home means working in your personal comfort zone. It is the highest degree of freedom in the working life as you can combine daily tasks, family life, and your job. Taking a short nap in-between, having lunch at your own kitchen with your family or enjoying your favourite shows when others need to follow strict office hours – this is the ideal work-life-balance for a lot of freelancers.

But working from home is not for everyone! Your family can be a big distraction, as can your pets. Having your beloved around you all the time can mess with the divide between work and leisure time. 

On-site (48%)

In some IT-sectors, like SAP consulting, it is more common to join the client’s office for a certain period of time. 48% of the participants confirmed that they usually work on-site to get the job done. When working with your client on-site, you definitely will gain more insight into the business processes and requirements than while telecommuting via Skype or so.

Nevertheless, joining the client’s office also entails some hurdles, especially in international projects. Clients and contractors will need to arrange working permits, visa sponsorships, flights, and accommodations.

Rented space/office (14%)

There are some freelancers that need social interaction and creative stimulation instead of a cosy working atmosphere. 14% of the interviewed freelancers stated they preferred to work from a rented space or office instead of working from a home office. 

The advantage in doing so is that you get the ability to focus solely on your projects when working from an office environment. But of course, working from a rented space or office also comes with rental fees and extra expenses.

Co-working space (8%)

Only 8% of the freelancers surveyed usually work at a co-working space. Working in a co-working space means sharing a dynamic and creative office environment with like-minded colleagues. 

When sharing an office with other freelancers, you will get the chance to find a lot of networking and collaboration opportunities as well as help when you’re facing problems. These spaces are a low budget alternative when you’re not interested in working from home as the fees for co-working spaces are cheaper than the ones for renting an office. 

Survey Results - Workplace
Survey Results – Workplace

Difference between remote work and work from home

Both remote work and work from home may sound like the same thing but there is actually a slight difference between them. Remote work is when a worker is outside of a company’s main office and all work is done solely from a remote place. This can be from home, a cafe, a co-working space etc. Remote work is considered to be a benefit and requires a different set of abilities, resources and skills.

Working from home, on the other hand, is simply a way of working. It’s what you do when you decide to stay home and work instead of stepping into the office. Unlike remote work, working from home is more of a temporary situation.

How to convince your clients that remote working is the way to go

Not all freelancers are always remote workers, but most want to be. Working from wherever you want means more freedom when planning a schedule. It’s easy to understand why freelancers don’t like to make regular trips to a client’s office. But it’s also not hard to understand the reasons behind clients wanting freelancers to be on site. Stuff like quality control and team meetings aren’t exclusive to those in the office. 

Want to convince your clients that working remotely can be great if done right? Here are the five things you’ll have to do:

1) Tell clients why remote work makes sense

Business owners care about measurable and concrete arguments. Instead of travelling to their office for more than two hours, you could be working. That saves money and work hours. Remote work can also be good for motivation if you’re the right person for it. Explain to your client that you work better and more in the working environment that you have created for yourself instead of in one created by others. But to completely gain your client’s trust as a remote worker, you’ll have to show them that you work systematically and reliably.

2) Create milestones

A good way to show that you’re not planning on pulling all-nighters at the last possible moment is to create milestones. Split a project into four or five different parts. This tells a client that you’ve given the task a lot of thought. It allows them to always know which stage you’re currently at and to give feedback when necessary.

3) Set deadlines and take them seriously

Milestones are not just there to show that you can split up a project in a way that makes sense. They’re also there for time management purposes. As a remote worker, it is on you to set your own deadlines. This will only work if you abide by them as if they were set by a higher-up. Keeping your own deadlines is essential for both showing your reliability as a remote worker and for your success as a freelancer.

4) Be transparent in sharing results

Having a plan is good, but being able to efficiently deal with things going wrong is what makes a remote worker great. Don’t be afraid to tell your client if a recent change pushes back the entire schedule. Tell them what’s going wrong and what you can do to fix it. There is nothing worse for a remote worker’s reputation than not communicating failures until the last possible moment.

5) Provide multiple ways for communication

Meetings are important. Regardless of whether they take place in the office, on Skype, Slack, or via email or phone. To prove your worth as a remote worker, you will have to be open for feedback and discussion. Part one of doing that is answering as promptly and accurately as possible without wasting too much of your own time or that of your client’s. Part two is being available at the appropriate time and in the ways preferable to the client. However, keep your own time in mind! Business meetings have a tendency to drag on without having meaningful results. Write down the main things that need to be discussed and go by that list to avoid eating too much into the actual project hours.


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Remote work strategies for success

Here are a few things that you can do to successfully remote work:

1. Wake up at a decent hour

When you don’t have the scrutinisation of your hawk-eyed boss watching you come into work, it may be tempting to sleep in all day, every day. But getting up at a decent hour allows you time to fully wake up and get into the right mindset so that you’re operating at optimum productivity levels. Just think back to when you were working in an office and the amount of time it took you to settle down and actually start doing something work-related. 

It is also useful to align yourself to the working hours of your clients, which will most likely be the traditional 9 to 5.

2. Dress up

Many people envision freelancers working from home in pyjamas but, while this is often the case, it also pays to dress up at home as if you are going into an office. This doesn’t mean putting on a full corporate suit (unless that’s what you want to do!) – mere pants will suffice. The act of getting dressed signals to your brain that this is a work day, not a lazy-lolling-around-in-bed day, and motivates you to start the day. You can always put your pyjamas back on after a hard day’s work.

3. Have a separate workspace

Depending on your living situation, freelancers are sometimes forced to work off of their dining table, but if you’re lucky enough to have space then set up a separate workspace for yourself. It helps to have all of your work equipment and resources contained within one area as opposed to being sprawled out all over your house but, more importantly, having a workspace also helps to physically divide your professional and personal life. As with any office, invest in a comfortable and ergonomic work chair and desk and decorate your workspace to make your time at ‘work’ more enjoyable. 

4. Find an alternative workspace

While it’s important to set up your own workspace at home, being at home all day can become quite isolating, and having regular social interaction is what most freelancers miss when they leave traditional office jobs. Try and break up the periods of solitude by finding a favourite local haunt with a decent wi-fi connection that you can work in while enjoying a coffee or even renting a co-working space for one day a week to connect and network with other freelancers.

5. Establish a routine

As a freelancer, you are the only person accountable for yourself and it can help to establish a work routine to adhere to in order to avoid whiling away each day to find that all you’ve achieved is re-organising your contacts list from surname to given name order, or vice versa, for the umpteenth time. 

Designate some predefined hours where you will be in “work-mode” as well as times when you are “off-duty”. Remember to schedule time in for lunch and regular breaks, and maybe even throw in some exercise during the day to get the endorphins going.

6. Reward yourself

Freelancing isn’t easy and requires a lot of hard work and self-discipline as you are essentially your own company handling every part of the business. So don’t feel guilty about spending some of your day watching YouTube clips of cute kittens; freelancing affords you a great deal of flexibility and the responsibility of managing your own time so reward yourself with a cat clip or five if you’ve spent the last few hours working intently on a project. Just don’t use this as a way of procrastinating and avoiding work that needs to be completed.

7. Let your friends know that you are ‘working’

People with office jobs sometimes don’t view freelancers as having ‘proper’ jobs and think that freelancers are available all of the time just because they work at home. Well, here’s a newsflash for them: freelancers do work and often on projects with tight deadlines. 

Although it may be tempting to spend the day with a friend or sending emails back and forth, don’t be afraid to draw a line if there is work to be done. Friends may also send you job alerts because they think that freelancing is filler until you get a ‘real’ job – just quietly move these emails to the trash bin.

8. Have a plan for the quiet times 

Freelancing can be all-consuming and hectic during the feasting period and eerily silent during the famine months. Don’t necessarily put up your feet when your inbox is empty of emails (although you’re absolutely deserving of it!) as the quiet periods can be an opportune time to work on side projects that have inadvertently been pushed aside. You can also learn and update new and existing skills, get all of your admin in working order or even brainstorm new ideas!

9. Find someone you can turn to for advice

Although Google is useful for answering a vast majority of questions, having a person you can turn to in a professional capacity can be very useful for those times that you need advice about a perplexing business issue or when you simply need to vent! Try finding a mentor in your industry (perhaps even try a previous manager) or another freelancer who you can organise to meet up with regularly to share updates.

10. Switch off

It can be hard to switch off at the end of the day because freelancers can’t physically leave their work at the office. It’s very easy to stay up late working when your laptop is right there and you can hear the faint ping every time an email comes through. 

Set firm boundaries from the beginning and make a conscious effort to separate your working and personal life, otherwise you’ll run the risk of burning out. If you can’t get work–life balance when you’re working from home, then when can you?

How to set up your home office for remote work

If you don’t put enough thought into the layout and decor of your home office, productivity may decline and your health may even suffer. Let’s take a look at the four cornerstones of the perfect home office:

1. Tech can be comfy too

When designing a good home office, comfort should be a top priority. And when people hear comfort they usually think of chairs, desks and lighting. We’ll get to that. But let’s not forget that tech can also be a huge part of being comfy, especially for people who work on their computers all day.

A good, wide keyboard you can type on for hours and a mouse that your hands are comfortable on doesn’t cost much, but they’ll make your life so much more comfortable. They’re also healthier and won’t tire you out as quickly. External screens are another peripheral to consider. Again, they don’t have to cost a ton, and can make your work much more efficient. The combination of a mouse/keyboard and a screen also means you don’t have to have your nose stuck to the laptop at all times – that’s less strain for your eyes.

2. The holy grail of office workers – a good chair

A chair is one of the things you should really consider investing in heavily when you set up your office. Yes, good chairs are expensive, but you’ll be sitting in them for years so look at it as a long-term investment. Not being uncomfortable is pretty important to staying productive. Not to mention the kind of pains a bad chair can lead to.

Make sure your chair supports your back well. Additionally, you should be able to switch positions now and then. Whether it’s just leaning back, completely changing the sitting angle or adjusting the height, changing positions will ensure that the pressure is spread more equally across your body.

3. Consider your lighting 

Lighting is something we often don’t really think about too much, but it can have an extremely strong impact on our productivity. Your eyes getting tired quickly or even getting headaches are often symptoms of bad lighting. First and foremost, you should try to position your home office in a room with enough natural lighting, as in somewhere with big windows.

Secondly, make sure you don’t have to stare at the artificial lights you have. They are often too bright and will hurt your eyes in the long run. If you’re working on a computer, overhead lights are generally better than ones standing at your desk directly in front of your eyes. And finally, don’t forget to adjust your brightness now and then. Many people often ignore that, but maximum screen brightness is really an overkill 99 percent of the time – don’t make your eyes take that extra strain if they don’t have to.

4. Plants, art and a tidy desk

This last part is all about what your environment looks like. That can affect your mindset in a big way and it’s worth thinking about. Plants, for example, have been shown to increase workplace productivity in a number of studies – plus, they make the air in your office better.

Having something to look at is also a way to give yourself a psychological boost. Whether it’s paintings on the walls, or figurines on your shelf, any beautiful thing is better than staring at empty space. As for your desk, make sure you keep it tidy. A tidy desk can improve efficiency and can lead to a better working environment. 

Preparing for virtual meetings

Thanks to the pandemic, virtual meetings are more common than ever and chances are, as a remote worker, you will have more virtual meetings than real-life ones. Some of the things you can do to make every meeting count and have your voice heard are as follows:

1. Test your equipment 

What you should absolutely not forget to do before a virtual meeting is to check and test your equipment. Leave yourself enough time to react accordingly, test the devices the night before and then an hour before the meeting. Having a backup plan might not be the worst idea either. In short, make sure your devices are good to go and you know exactly what to do if they fail you.

2. Express yourself clearly

The second thing to always keep in mind is that you’re not in a regular meeting. Participants will lose focus, because they either can’t see you or can’t resist multitasking while sitting in front of the computer. Speaking loud and clear and expressing yourself as simple and as straightforward as possible is paramount to keeping the participant’s attention and making sure they understand you.

3. Avoid multitasking

When having a virtual meeting, especially when doing it from behind your own four walls, it will be very tempting to multitask. Checking your email, grabbing something for the fridge or talking on the phone is best left aside. Paying attention is of utmost importance when attending your meeting and drifting off during a virtual meeting is easier than in an ordinary one. Be aware of that fact and make some rules for yourself to follow to make sure you give the meeting the attention it deserves.

4. Muting your microphone

Always be aware of the background noise your microphone produces. If twenty people are attending the meeting, they will all produce background noise and you will have a hard time understanding each other. Whether it is your cat meowing or just the static coming of from your mic, muting it is the best option most of the times. If anyone else mutes theirs too, you can make sure that the one speaking gets understood and actually heard out as well.

5. Make your voice count 

Now this last advice is really crucial in any meeting situation, not following it could mean that a meeting was not worth attending at all. You have to make sure you have a planned out agenda when going to meetings and that you know how to express it. As a freelancer, you will, more often than not, have to present your part of a project.

Get your message across, try making yourself heard through various channels.  Email notes beforehand or make sure you include details in the presentation. State what you intend to do and make sure everybody understands you.  Keeping those guidelines in mind might not make your virtual meetings more pleasant, but it will help your attendance count.

When remote work doesn’t work anymore 

For some freelancers, home offices are only useful up to a certain point in their career. Are your own four walls really not enough any more? If most of the following six points apply to you, the time has probably come to step out of the home office.

1. The space is just not enough

At the beginning, having 10m² as an office didn’t seem that bad. But now you’ve bought some extra tech, order stuff frequently and absolutely need a bigger desk. If that’s a fitting description of your work environment, the home office is probably not cutting it anymore. There’s only so much clutter that you can patiently ignore until it starts to get on your nerves and affect your motivation.

2. Separating home and work is getting harder

Careers grow, but so do lives. Maybe you don’t live alone anymore and have pets or kids walking around the house. Or maybe you just can’t resist laying down on that couch as the fervour of the first years of freelancing is dissipating. Changing up your work environment can do wonders for your motivation. It also helps you avoid distractions that eat into your working hours which never seem to be enough as is.

3. You have several employees

If your freelancing career has gotten to the point where multiple people are now working for you, managing them might be getting difficult. Daily online video meetings sound good in theory. In practice, they are rarely as productive as a good old-fashioned physical get-together. Having everyone in one place will not only speed up the workflow, it might also be beneficial for employee morale and job satisfaction.

4. Your network isn’t expanding

Meeting new professionals with whom you can exchange ideas and experiences can be difficult when you are spending all your working hours at home. More and more freelancers are looking towards co-working spaces for that exact reason. A coffee break at the office is often the place where project ideas and professional relationships begin.

5. Clients want to meet up in person

For freelancers with local focus, meetings can be a regular occurrence. But the client doesn’t always invite you into his office, sometimes it’s the other way around. Virtually every home office, however, is created with one person in mind. So they’re not really the perfect place for meetings. In case you have to meet up with clients often and don’t want to do it in your kitchen, you’ve probably outgrown your home office.

6. You miss the sun

Waking up and getting to the office doesn’t only have negative sides. It also helps you with two important things. Thing number one – creating a reliable schedule. If you know that you only have to walk from the bed to the desk, spending another hour in bed is very tempting. Number two – going out. Especially when there is a lot of work, getting some fresh air and being around other people will help you relax and concentrate.

Natalia Campana

Natalia is part of the international team at freelancermap. She loves the digital world, social media and meeting different cultures. Before she moved to Germany and joined the freelancermap team she worked in the US, UK and her home country Spain. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at www.freelancermap.com

By Natalia Campana

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