Home office tips from a veteran freelancer

Next month marks my 15th year of self-employment, working in a home office. I take responsibility for everything from invoicing to making sure there’s enough paper in the printer. With some studies forecasting that the number of gig workers like me will soon exceed the size of the full-time workforce in a few years, I thought I’d share are few things I’ve learned along the way.

Have a space for yourself

I discovered early on that there is no such thing as working at home with children. You need to find your own space — even if it’s in the attic — where you can go when you need to concentrate. Kids need to understand the boundaries, too. I’m usually happy to see them at any time, but I also keep an assortment of signs that I can tape to the door of my office when I absolutely cannot be disturbed. Don’t feel guilty about this; your shift away from the office will ultimately give you more time with your little ones. But they need to know that you can be working even when you aren’t going to work.

Don’t skimp on technology

Time spent waiting for PCs to boot up and applications to load is time you don’t spend on more important things. Every couple of years I invest about $2,000 in the fastest PC I can get for my money. I also keep two large monitors on my desk so there’s plenty of space to keep current projects open. I consider the few extra dollars I spend every month on a speedy internet connection and the $500 for a high-quality laser printer to be productivity investments that pay back many times over.

Have a backup for everything

That said, things break, so don’t let technology failures leave you dead in the water. I keep two laptops on hand in case my main computer fails. If internet goes down, I can tether to my phone or drive a couple of miles to the library. Microsoft OneDrive, which comes as part of my Microsoft 365 subscription, continually backs up my files. I even keep a cheap printer on hand in case the laser workhorse has a headache.

Keep track of projects and deadlines

My definition of a bad day is an email from a client reminding me that a 2,000-word report I had forgotten about is due that afternoon. So, I keep a spreadsheet on Google Drive with up-to-the minute status information on every project I have on my plate. I also keep a sheet of paper in front of me where I jot down any new projects or schedule changes that need to make their way into the spreadsheet later. Use whatever tool you prefer. The important thing is not to rely on your memory to keep you on track. Color-coding helps you track the clients and projects that are most important to your job or business.

Learn how to search

I probably conduct more than 100 internet searches in an average day. Your mileage may differ, but search is likely to be an important part of your information-gathering activity. All sorts of little goodies are buried in search engines. For example:

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