Freelancing can be a lonely business, especially folks like us who work at home. With the internet tools it’s a double-edge sword — on the one hand I can have meetings and do demos over video conferencing software, but on the other hand, working at home can be isolating.
I quit my full-time job over 2 years ago now. It wasn’t the easiest start for me I must admit in the beginning and it was big change for me in both my mindset and my schedule.
I had to fill my schedule (or at least I thought I had to) in order to “keep busy”. I had this feeling like I had to work just as hard or rather had to work the same hours (which turned out to not be the case).
I still had the mindset that productivity came from my time spent, rather than the value I produced for myself and my clients. And I became a workaholic which was the opposite reason why I started working for myself in the first place. Talk about ironic.
Then I would get overwhelmed and tired and I would ease off a bit. But I ended up feeling like I was unproductive and felt useless and unproductive (neither of which was the case really). But it took some time to get into the groove of working on my own, to develop good habits of a work at home freelancer and to build a healthy way of managing the time between my personal needs and my clients’ needs.
Here’s some simple ways I did it and hope that you can improve your lifestyle too as a Freelancer.
1. Socialize With Your Peers and Meet New People
Your work friends and colleagues (and even bosses) were you social network from 9 to 5, likely five times a week. You might even see them on the evenings and weekends and they formed a very important social network. I certainly relied on them more than I ever imagined.
Breaking away from that was very tough. While I was still friendly with them, not seeing them day-in, day-out meant that I didn’t really continue having a relationship with them. I quickly became lonely.
Sure I had my own friends, but not necessary ones that helped me bounce work-related ideas off of.
I live in downtown Toronto so it’s fairly easy so there are lot more convenient options for me as the conferences come to me. But if you living in the suburbs shouldn’t dissuade you from getting out there and going to meet some peers and influencers.
In the first 3 months of becoming a freelancer, besides doing the stuff I needed to do for work, I would go on Eventbrite and find some free conferences I can attend. Most of these I found to be government-sponsored in some way and that’s totally cool as most of these are free.
What’s great is you can filter by location (i.e. your city), date and also the cost. You’ll likely see some weird marketing hits but as I said the best ones I’ve attended that are free also happen to be the ones hosted by the city-municipality.
What I found was that some events hosted by B2B companies that are looking to get and growth their small business clients. Because they want to do outreach and marketing, they tend to host great conferences for free.
Tip before you go:
- Bring along a physical business card. I got some beautiful and professionally designed here at 99 Designs. It goes a long way to be able to have people instantly recognize you and most vendors at the booths will have a raffle or draw in exchange for a lead generation opportunity for them.
2. Join some Free Online Webinars
It might not take you outside and it might not give you the opportunity to connect with others on the calls, but I found joining the webinars really helped me pass the time. More importantly it made me feel connected and it always gets my creative juices flowing with ideas.
If for nothing else, I’m observing how to build a funnel, write copy and deliver presentations. That’s not such a bad thing!
There are so many to choose from nowadays, but I found the most important for Freelancers are those related to:
- Brushing up an existing skill
- Listening to interviews of Experts and Influencers in your field
Brushing up an existing skill
There are many ways you can do this but there are some good ones you can attend:
Shopify Webinars are a good place to look. Invision webinars is also another place, especially for designers.
Then there are free and near-free courses you can attend through Udemy.com, Coursera.com and also Lynda.com (which is now owned by LinkedIn). Each of these, you can get certifications on how brush up on an existing skill you have, improve your social influence or learn new skills too!
Tip on learning online:
- There is almost always an invitation to those attending webinars to ask questions. ASK A QUESTION through the forum! Socializing is healthy and this is the way to stay sane when you are work at home freelancer.
Listening to Interview with Experts and Influencers in your Field
I’m a big fan of podcasts. There are some that are better than others and I tend to listen to them more than the others on freelancing.
There is nothing like a good interviewer. A good interview is a master of navigating and understanding the client and can bring out great insights from the guest. I find that it’s a skill that needs to be practiced and when it’s practiced well, I can be useful in so many ways.
So, not only are you listening for the content from the answers provided by these amazing guests, you’re also learning vicariously through the interview on how to do idea extraction for when you interview your audience on what their pain points and ideas are.
The Unmistakable Creative is one of them. I also find Harvard Business Review IdeaCast to have some really great guests who talk about management and design and how this can apply to work and in life.
Tip for listening to interviews from experts in your field:
If you like their interview, I would say track them down and read a blogpost from them and COMMENT. There is nothing more flattering than a nice comment from an admirer and who knows if you can connect in many ways or find a way to stay in touch. It’s sort of like a virtual business card.
3. Meetings With Yourself
Being a work at home Freelancer, I thought there was no excuse to me eating healthy and eating fresh. After all I have a kitchen like 4 steps from me (the kitchen table is my de-facto office desk) so there is no excuse. Boy, was I wrong to think that it was that easy.
When I was at the office, it was easy for me to go out and eat. I almost never skipped a meal because I had reminders from the office environment to give me signals. The office is quiet, I would think and I knew people were off to lunch. Or my colleagues would come by and ask to go for a coffee and it just made the days pass so much easier.
At home, there are none of those signals. You eat whenever you’re not a call with the client and if the client wants to talk through lunch — you just suck it up.
So I found there are two general areas you can do better when it comes to meals and drinks:
- Eating home cooked meals
- Schedule meetings with yourself
Eating Home Cooked Meals
It means exactly as its describe: eat at home, eat cooked feels that are freshly prepared. It does, I know, sound easier said than done.
There will be days that you buy prepared-meals from your closest grocer, but try not to. What I found to work best for me was to find recipes that I could make in 20 minutes or less.
For me the go-to recipe is broiled Salmon and side of organic greens in balsamic vinaigrette. I happen to really like fish and there isn’t too much you need to prepare for other than washing it (maybe, I don’t it sometimes) and salt and pepper to taste! Salmon really cooks itself.
Scheduling Meetings With Yourself
It’s easier said than done because we all only have 24 hours in day. But because time is a limited resource, we should always be mindful to make sure I prioritize. Here’s a short video from Lynda.com from an expert on learning how to say ‘NO’ to things and even clients if need be:
Sometimes you have to say no. In most cases, ‘no’ should be the default answer if it means you’re going to be derailed in the work that you’re doing.
Oddly enough it’s easier to say No to a boss, but far harder when it’s a client. So the best thing to do is to book time off in your schedule to make sure you have meals, take “coffee” breaks. These are the chunks of time that you should protect yourself to be creative and to eat!
Tip for schedule meetings with yourself:
Take a nap in the bedroom! Power naps have been proven to be an effective way to help concentration, creativity when done right. The idea is to break away from the physical space of doing work. Cooking in the kitchen is a good way to break free from the daily work space as well.
4. HIIT It Harder
When you have to commute for work, even if you had to drive to work and it took you door-to-door, it still forces you to walk to and from the car. Like most of us who work in office buildings, it also means you have to take the elevator or walk the stairs.
So, embedded in your day, there is some walking involved. (Experts say you need 10000 steps.)
If you use to walk to work or took transit, then this is a big reduction in your daily exercise. So, what do you do when your commute is from the edge of your bed to the home office desk?
Working it Out at Home
I discovered high-intensity interval training or HITT many years ago now and have used them on and off through the years. There are many body-weight exercises that you can do at home (even with as small a space as my apartment), but I’m always looking to cheat and get to my goals with the least amount of effort.
HIIT is not for everyone and certainly should be approached when you have a good level of fitness first, but I found the concept to be suitable to my lifestyle and my general preference to take shortcuts.
If you don’t know too much about HIIT you can find more about the benefits here. It’s been proven in many studies now that the high-intensity for a short period of time (usually a work lasts 20-30 minutes) that it still have the same effects of all other exercises but it lasts longer in your system. Most fitness experts say you do about 3-4 times a week (I do about 2) and that’s enough to stay in shape.
They come in all shorts of sizes and weights, but this is one of the larger ones. You should find one that fits what you can lift and then go lower. The idea of these kettle-bells is for to do explosive, dynamic exercise through swing or a combination of swing-lifts. It also makes it fun for me.
So, it takes some time to get use to your new found freedom. It’s important to stay healthy and sane as you make the transition from employee to work at home Freelancer. Here are the takeaways from this article:
- Go out and meet people at free, local conferences
- Meet people online and best through conferences so you stay in touch
- Create meetings for yourself — look in your meal times and breaks on your calendars and defend them fiercely
- Do short exercises between meetings.