Working from home is one of the best things about being a freelance copywriter. No commute. No corporate clothes. No makeup. No annoying colleagues. Working from home is a dream, but it does come with its own challenges. There’s the constant lure of Netflix, the distraction of ‘things to do’ around the house, plus the fact it’s hard to switch off when you literally live in your place of work. Over the past few years, I’ve perfected the art of being productive working from home. Here are my tips for staying sane* and getting shit done.
*Sanity may vary between individuals. I was crazy before I became a copywriter.
Many people assume that, because I’m self-employed, I sleep until 10am every day. I can’t think of anything worse. As the ultimate morning person, my best hours are in the early AM – so that’s when I do my deepest work. Important stuff like writing copy and client meetings always happens in the morning, when I’m at my sharpest. I save less intense work (like admin, emails, editing etc) for after lunch, because I know my brain fades as the day goes on.
If you’re an early bird like me, use the morning to your advantage. But, if you’re a night owl, you do you. Sleep in, stay up late and start work in the afternoon. The beauty of working from home is that there are no rules around when you work. Pick your most productive times.
The flexibility of working from home is one of the biggest benefits. That said, I always try to stick to a daily routine. Not only is it good for my brain, routine is good for my business. Routines and processes help me feel more in control, especially when I’m super busy. Here’s what my routine looks like most days:
4.30am – 5am: Wake up. I’m a weirdo who loves early mornings (and hates feeling rushed)
5am – 6am: Coffee. Check emails, Facebook etc. Journal. To do list.
6am – 8am: Gym, shower, breakfast.
8am – 12pm: Write copy, client meetings, other important business stuff.
12pm – 12.30pm: Lunch
12.30pm – 3pm: Continue writing (if I can), then switch to editing or admin.
3pm – 4pm: Grab a snack and some fresh air. I usually walk and listen to a podcast.
4pm – 5pm: Reply to any emails, complete admin. Finish the day with an empty inbox.
5pm: Party time.*
* Eat dinner in PJs and drink endless cups of tea while watching trash TV.
I know some copywriters who work from home at their kitchen bench. Others work from libraries or cafes. To these majestic, carefree souls, I tip my hat. Personally, I need my space – and I find having a dedicated workspace makes a huge difference to my productivity.
I’m lucky enough to have a large spare bedroom in my home, which has been converted to an office. This room is where the magic happens. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful and it has everything I need to work without distraction. There’s no TV and no laundry in sight – just me, my desk and my PC. This room is strictly reserved for work and, when I close the door at 5pm, I try my best to leave work behind. I’ve recently upgraded my office with an awesome new sit-stand desk and some funky new furniture, which makes it feel even more special.
Some people think a perk of freelancing is being able to do fun stuff on weekdays. I am not one of those people. Every time I try to socialise during business hours, my inbox explodes with enquiries. I spend most of the time stressing about work stuff I ‘should’ be doing, rather than relaxing. I find that I can relax much more easily on weekends and in the PM, when I know my clients are also chilling. So that’s the time I reserve for fun.
Same goes for housework, too. While the urge to vacuum sometimes strikes when I should be writing, I generally have set times to do housework outside business hours. There’s always something to do at home, so I try to be firm with boundaries.
When I sit down to relax, I don’t like getting interrupted. That means I rarely switch off before 5pm. You know how the courier comes as soon as you leave house for 5 minutes? Or how your meal arrives when you go to the restroom? It’s the same thing with Netflix and working from home. If I decide to clock off early and binge-watch Good Girls, my phone immediately starts ringing. Guaranteed. Every time. That’s why I rarely do it.
Instead, if I’m having a quiet day, I use that time to do other stuff. Write a blog post, update my website, find something funny to share on social. As a business owner, there are always things I could be doing to better my business. Plus, a Netflix binge is so much better after a productive day’s work.
Notwithstanding all the above, there’s a certain amount of discipline that comes with working from home. What you don’t do today will be waiting tomorrow, so I say: Just do it. My brother once gave me a tip about running half marathons. He told me to sprint the first 10km. He was half joking (we’re both crazy competitive), but this has become my life motto. No matter what you’re doing, sprint the first 10km. Get the bulk of it done early, so you can cruise to the finish line if you choose.
In terms of copywriting, this might mean writing an outline or researching client competitors. Just getting something started, even on days when you don’t feel like it. I find that, once I start, I rarely cruise. I keep going, full steam ahead – but, man, it’s nice to have that buffer.
Do you work from home? How do you keep on top of tasks? What do you struggle with? I’d love to hear your tips for staying sane and productive.