Working from home is one of my favorite things about being a freelancer. However, it can end up being a distraction if you’re not careful. There have been plenty of times that the whole day has gone by before I even got started working–simply because I decided to play around the house or on the internet.
While it’s okay to do this from time-to-time, it’s not okay on a regular basis, your projects either start being late or you’re forced to work off-hours to make up for it. The way your office is set up plays a big part in whether you’re more or less productive throughout the day. There are several ways to help it speed along your work.
1. Have a Dedicated Office Space
The most important time saver that a freelancer could possibly incorporate is to have a dedicated office space. That means either a room (preferable) or a section of a room that’s for working only. When you’re forced to work on the dining room table, in the living room or anywhere else that’s not specifically for work, you end up wasting so much time setting up and tearing down your office stuff every day. Plus, when you’re trying to work somewhere where you normally eat or relax, it makes it difficult to get in a productive work mode.
If at all possible, try to dedicate a full room for an office, even if you have to invade a guest bedroom. This allows you to shut the door and have the peace and quiet that’s required for us freelancers to work.
2. Keep Everything Off
It took me a long time to realize just how much time I was wasting due to all of the stuff I had ‘on.’ Twitter, Email and IM programs actually ate up a good chunk of my work time every day–so I started an experiment last month to see what would happen if I kept everything except what I really needed off while I was working. The result? I’ve been able to finally work several hours straight with little to no interruptions and I now get a lot more work done in less time. Score!
3. Kill the Clutter & Get Organized
A cluttered desk and office can slow you down in more ways than one. The first is that it takes you that much longer to find whatever it is you’re looking for. How long have you wasted searching for that one client invoice?
Another way clutter can slow you down is by keeping you from being mentally focused. When you’re around a ton of visual clutter, it’s harder for your mind to focus because it’s so distracted. It’s fine to have stuff on your desk, but make sure it’s neat, orderly, and please find another place for all those papers!
4. Go Digital
One big way I’ve been able to save time is to go digital. I no longer print anything out dealing with business. Invoices, estimates and payments are handled through a billing app. My schedule is handled on iCal and my taxes are done online and then saved to my computer.
Going digital has saved a ton of time. It’s easier to find what you’re looking for when you can just search on the computer, I no longer have to spend the time organizing and filing away either. Plus I save lots of money since I don’t need so much ink and paper anymore.
5. Invest in Wireless
When setting up your home office, it’s worth it to invest in a good wireless system. Currently, I have zero wires hanging off my desk besides the power cord to my computer (and I’m still trying to figure out how to go wireless on that). My printer, internet, mouse, keyboard and even music and movies are all wireless. This reduces the visual clutter on your desk, allows you to place your office and desk where it’s most comfortable for you and saves you time by not having to keep up with all those cords. The extra cost of these items is well worth it, and it allows you to work anywhere else in your house if you need a break from the office.
There’s no longer just “high-speed” internet anymore. When you call your cable company to get internet, they most likely hook you up to their cheapest plan. Instead, ask for upgraded internet. We’re currently on 10mbps (from what I hear, that’s slow compared to Europe but fast for us!) and while we end up paying an extra $20 a month or so–our work gets done faster and we’re able to bill our clients faster and do more work because of it.
While you’d think once you get to a certain speed you wouldn’t notice a difference, but you do. This is especially true if you’re working with a lot of large files such as photography, layered PSDs and PDFs. Uploading sites via FTP no longer takes all day with a faster internet connection.
One of the reasons people hate working at a full-time job is because they have no control over their environment. Who wants to work in a plain vanilla cubicle? Yet when I see so many of my fellow freelancer’s office space, it’s just as terrible. Why would you want to work in a cluttered, dark cave all day?
Invest some money into your office and try to place your office where you have some nice windows and plenty of light. Get a nice desk and chair and some decor. While having a nice office doesn’t directly save you time, it can help you be more motivated to come and work. I know I still look forward to coming into my office after we relocated it to the brightest room in the house and completely redecorated it.
8. Work Alone
Some of us (like myself) like to talk and enjoy company. It can get hard sometimes to work in the office alone, but it has to be done. If you’re someone who’s easily distracted, you need to work alone. While my fiance works from home twice a week, I’m lucky he’s so focused because he will actually tell me to shut it (in a nice way). People themselves can often be distracting, especially if they’re someone we really like, like our kids, friends or significant others. I have literally wasted an entire day or missed out on potential work because I ended up talking to my mother all day.
9. Use Less Apps
I love beautiful apps, so I get really excited when I see all of the awesome to-do apps and client management apps and project apps and billing apps. Do you see where I’m going with this? I’ve found that a freelancer can easily get app-itis and end up wasting a ton of time playing with the apps or trying to keep up with them instead of working like they should be. Personally, the only business apps I use are one for billing and one for scheduling. That’s it. I don’t use project or client management apps, and to-do apps just take too much time to keep up with. Remember the famous acronym KISS? Keep It Simple Stupid.
10. List Your Office Time Savers
And the last item is up to you! What has helped you save time in your own office?
Image by Jeremy Levine Design