Many of us dream of leaving our 9-5 jobs to become freelance writers. You get up every morning at 06:00 AM or earlier to work out, get the kids up and ready for school, serve breakfast, and get everyone out the door to school and work. Next, you climb in your car and drive one hour to a shitty job that makes you want to stab yourself in the eye EVERY Day.
The weekends are never long enough because your catching up on all of the household chores or trying to do fun things with the kids. Your exhausted, uninspired, stressed out and want a job where your longest commute is from your bed to the coffee pot then your computer to earn money. Nice, right?
I feel your pain. After going out on disability from my first dream job as a police officer, I ended up working part-time as an Administrative Assistant for a police chief I’d known for years. I’d worked there previously as an officer and every time a hot call came across the radio, whoever was on duty would run out of the office just like I used to and speed off to the incident.
Each time a little piece of my heart broke. I was stuck at a desk job, and while I did it well, I wasn’t cut out to be a secretary. When I first started, it was hunting season, and the guys were out in the woods. I didn’t even know how to order paper for the printer!
So, eventually, I began thinking like you. I wanted to work from home but simply didn’t know where to start. However, one thing I didn’t consider is if I actually had what it takes to work at home or be location independent. Working from home successfully can be much more challenging than you think. There are specific traits you need to develop a strategy to work from home.
Self-Motivation is Critical to Work from Home Successfully
This trait is absolutely vital to succeed when you work from home. There are so many good things about remotely as a writer. The freedom, comfort, and joy are impactful, but there is no external motivation. You are responsible for the outcomes of your work.
Because you don’t need to worry about your boss walking in on you watching YouTube videos or playing on Facebook, there is no one to monitor your work activity. You can be as lazy or as hardworking as you want to be and that’s dangerous.
While it’s okay (and awesome) to wash a load of laundry or sleep in, you must stay motivated to do your work. Many people who work from home successfully embody an entrepreneurial spirit. They flourish with minimal direction and can come up with new ideas regularly.
A planner will be your best friend as a writer working from home. Set daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly goals. Track them in your planner to show your progress and achieving them gives you the motivation to forge ahead.
Also, as you start to build your client lists, you can’t remember all of the due dates in your head alone. You’ll need some way to organize everything such as a project manager like Evernote, Trello, or Asana. The more goals you meet, the more successful you’ll be in your work from home career. It spurs you to do more and get lost in Facebook less.
If your easily distracted than working from home may prove difficult for you, but it’s something you can improve upon. I’m somewhat focused, but every time my work email dings telling me I’ve got new mail, I still drop everything and check the inbox in case it’s something important. I used to check my personal email several times a day which is a significant time suck. Now I check it in the morning and then after work.
Unlike at the office, you may be tempted to get a snack or raid the refrigerator every hour simply because you can. There are fewer distractions in an office setting than at home, and you have to be able to put blinders on.
The key is having an actual office and treat it like work. Sure, in the beginning, you may slack off a little bit just because you can, but a professional home office sets you up for success. Set your alarm and do your morning routine just like you would if you were going to work. When you’re in “work mode” you’ll be more productive.
Now, I just happen to in the minority group of people that can have the tv on while working and I barely pay attention to it. I can’t listen to music because I want to sing with it, and that breaks my concentration and focus. But I’m so deadline-driven that almost nothing can break my focus when a deadline is looming.
At work, your desk is neat and organized, but at home, it looks like someone dropped a bomb on it. However, who cares right, you’re the only one that sees it.
If you’re like me, clutter decreases my productivity, but sometimes I’m too busy to declutter and put things back where they go. Try to keep your desk relatively neat and your shelves well-organized so you don’t waste time trying to find something that you need. Searching for lost supplies is a significant time killer. Trust me, I know.
Your planner, whether it’s digital reminders in your phone or paper, will also help keep you organized. You can keep your personal and work life straight with your planner, and it’s a lifesaver, especially if you have a family.
Effective Time Management Skills
Efficient Time management is crucial for your success as a writer. I mentioned deadlines, before, and they keep me entirely on track with time. I rarely burn the midnight oil to meet deadlines because I plan and account for the unexpected. When I have a day where I’m really in the zone for writing, I write to stay ahead because inevitably a day will come when it’s difficult for even the most motivated person to stay on task.
Try to keep track of what you do every day for a couple of weeks to see if you can identify where you’re wasting time. The critical point is to monitor it honestly. If you catch yourself lost in your Facebook timeline document that. You’ll be surprised at how much time you waste on little things.
For me, I waste massive amounts of time on technical things. It takes me twice as long to fix something that’s gone awry on WordPress as the average person. Eventually, I hired someone to fix those problems for me (well most of them) and saved time and money. The time I saved allowed me to work more on the things that make money in my business.
Many people think that extroverts work better in an office setting while introverts work better from home, but it’s often the opposite. Introverts working at home for a company may be overlooked for potential promotions and new opportunities because they fade into the background. However, extroverts are better at remaining visible within a business even when working from home.
No matter what personality type you are, the key is the ability to get work done alone. If you want to get away from petty office politics and can process projects and emails with no problem working alone than you have what it takes to work from home successfully.
Yet, even the introvert may find themselves starved for a social connection. Personally, I call myself an extroverted introvert. I love people and socializing with friends and family but equally, love the isolation that working at home brings. Sometimes there are days where I don’t have much interaction with anyone other than Skype or emails. However, I have to balance that by spending time with family and friends.
The life of a writer is very solitary at times. Every once in awhile, I go out to dinner or lunch with someone or go out and listen to live music with friends to get my social fix and then I’m okay for a while. Sometimes the disconnect from traditional work can be difficult. You just need to find a way to balance work, family, and socialization. Once you do that, you have the winning formula for working from home successfully.
Mad Communication Skills
When telecommuting, you need fantastic communication skills and to be proactive about communicating with your boss or clients. Communication needs to be clear because there are no body or facial expressions to read in email or on the phone.
Often short, clear, and concise communication is much better than a soliloquy. When you’re long-winded, your messages may be confusing.
Don’t let communication fall by the wayside when you work remotely. It’s vital to your success as a writer with an online business. Make contracts with clients clear and ensure expectations on both sides are understood. Your excellent communication skills will separate you from the best.
Self-Evaluation is Necessary
When you work from home, there’s no boss to give you a quarterly evaluation. So, you may not receive much feedback unless you work with people who are excellent communicators. I’ve had some outstanding clients that provided great constructive feedback, but at times I can go for months without hearing feedback.
So, you must be able to independently evaluate your strengths and weaknesses as well as your work. Can you assess your work and writing with a critical eye and most importantly, always strive to improve your skills? Try to be more efficient and effective in not just your business, but your personal life too. Make it a habit to continually look for ways to improve.
Often, you’ll need to make decisions without feedback, and lack of confidence can influence how you make those decisions. Making decisions in fear versus confidence can be detrimental to your business. Sure, you can bounce ideas off of people or mentors, but in the end, it’s all up to you.
You need to feel comfortable voicing your feedback and opinion without knowing what others are thinking. Stand behind your voice if it’s unique, even if your opinion is unpopular. A fair amount of criticism may come your way, and you need to be confident in your skills when receiving negative feedback, which you will at some point.
Don’t worry, many of us struggle with being completely self-confident and receiving criticism, but you need to let it roll off your back like water. Not everyone will like what you have to say.
As I mentioned early, I’m certainly not tech-savvy
in any way so if you’re not technologically inclined that doesn’t mean you’ll
never be able to work from home. Just beware, that you will struggle and work
slower with all thing’s tech-related and wish you had a damn IT department at
So, when your computer crashes, you need to build your first website, or your damn WordPress website goes down, knowing how to fix those things, definitely gives you the edge. Thankfully, there’s always tech support, and with as many problems as I’ve run across, I’ve always been able to fix the problem or find help. I’m the girl that couldn’t put a paper cube together in third grade, so if I can do it, anyone can.
There is much more to tech than fixing computer and website problems. You need to be able to learn programs, platforms, and software fairly easily. Do you know how to use Skype, Google Hangouts, Dropbox, Basecamp, Asana, etc.? When I was just starting, an application I filled out asked a similar question, and I didn’t recognize half of the things on the list, but over time I’ve learned many online tools and programs.
You need to have a basic understanding of how these tools work to communicate with clients and employers. Also, you should know how to troubleshoot when things go wrong because trust me; they will.
Being Resourceful is Necessary
All I can say is thank God for Google. When you work from home making money as a writer, you’ll deal with issues on your own without input from anyone else. You need to be able to hold your own. If you don’t know the answer, know where you can find the answer. The internet supplies most of the solutions we need; you just need to be able to find them.
You have to be able to ferret out the root of the problem, not what’s only on the surface. Practice critical thinking with problem-solving to confidently address any crisis yourself.
Don’t despair that you can’t work from home successfully if you don’t have some of these traits. I didn’t either and I make a healthy living on my writing income alone. You’ll simply need to work extra hard to compensate for your deficiencies, but you totally can! But think carefully before you exit traditional employment because working online from home may not be for you and make you even more miserable.
When you always strive to better yourself, you learn the necessary skills to work remotely anywhere in the world. There’s nothing more freeing than being able to go on a spontaneous beach trip with friends because you can take your work with you if you have to. Now that’s freedom.