Having worked in an office on a 9-5 basis, I think the beauty of going freelance is being able to work from home. But in order to do that, I had to organise myself in such a way that would be practical, convenient and motivating me to work.
The task was made a lot easier by the fact that I moved in with my boyfriend, who works as a freelancer himself and has a separate room for his office: I just needed to find the right space for myself in there.
How to define ‘the right space’?
- Make sure your chosen space is clearly separated from your living area. I have the luxury of using a whole bedroom as an office for two people and I understand that not everyone can do that. But find a corner/alcove where you keep only your pro stuff. This makes it so much easier to work! It makes a physical ‘border’: both for yourself (being in the right mood for working) and for others (do not interrupt when at work!)
- On a similar note, if there are other people in the house, make sure that they understand that when you work, you are not available. They cannot just pop in and say: hey, how about going out for a curry tonight? Or: what do you think about the new top ten on the radio? They can ask you such questions when you’re taking a break/have finished working.
- Good lighting. My desk is in a dark corner of the room. Solution: I use a day-light bulb, which imitates day light perfectly. My eyes are less sore from staring at the screen all day long and I hope not to need to go to Specsavers’ too soon.
- The room where your workplace is needs to have good air circulation and heating system. Lack of oxygen really doesn’t help at work! And neither does being too hot/cold. It really is important, as you will spend long hours sitting in that room.
What should your office comprise?
- A good desk is a must. By that I mean its size and height. It needs to allow you to use it comfortably: otherwise you’ll start having all sorts of back problems and these can really make life difficult.
- A comfy chair. You’re going to spend hours on end sitting in it!
- If you use a laptop, try to get an external keyboard and a proper mouse. Also, ensure that the monitor/screen is level with your eyes. The reasons for getting a proper keyboard are explained in my medical record: the first question my physio asked me when I came in with a bad shoulder (sports-inflicted) was whether my keyboard allows me to have my elbows wide enough apart. The reasons for using a proper mouse are real risks of strain injuries, especially on your wrist.
- Good internet connection.
- A phone line of some sort. I just use skype-in and my mobile to cover my two main (expected) markets: the UK and Poland.
- Something to help get yourself organised: a small whiteboard, sticky notes, a notepad and stationery – whatever is your preferred method. I like using notepads and sticky notes, but sometimes, when I feel particularly stressed and disorganised, I use to-do lists and calendars on my gmail account. (I might elaborate on this in another post!)
- A kettle and a good supply of tea/coffee – not necessarily in the office area. Both my boyfriend and I love taking little breaks to make a cuppa, especially if we’re struggling with work. It allows us to stretch our legs (going down and up the stairs) and to think things through and come up with solutions to problems encountered whilst working.
- Some recommend a good supply of snacks (chocolate, carrots, sweets – whatever you like). I’d be careful with this one, as working from home is by nature sedentary and it’s way too easy to put on excess weight. However, if you have a large job due in the next morning, then I do agree that this is crucial: you just will not have the time to cook, let alone go shopping once you sit down to work.
- If you like listening to music or to the radio to keep you ‘company’ – the right sort of equipment for that.
- Some way of backing things up. I have an external hard drive for keeping copies of work (still need to find good software for syncing); there are also online back-up services, e.g. Norton or A-drive.
All of the above are my personal take on things and this may not work out for everyone. There have been many discussions on the internet about working from home and home offices, e.g. on ProZ.
What are your opinions and preferences? How is your office organised? What works and what doesn’t work for you? Please share your views in comments!