So I work from home. It's hard. Sometimes there are deadlines that are tough to meet. I work late nights. BUT I love it. Since leaving the 9-5, I have been able to take my part-time income to a full-time income by hustling freelance gig work. I affectionately call it the "digital hustle." My new life has afforded me the freedom of the stress of the corporate world, yet allowed me to enjoy the benefits from working from home. I now have time to do my laundry, wash the dishes, attend my daughter's school functions, and overall enjoy the benefits of my own autonomy.
Often I'm asked about what it takes to make a living autonomously. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Working from Home is Still a Job
I wake up everyday at 7AM. There are no mornings lazing around wasting the day away. In fact, I find that I may put in more hours in a day now than I ever did working in the corporate world because I no longer have to put on make-up or commute to an office. There are always things to get done and every day should be treated like a work day!
2. Beat the Sales Drum
Leads and sales do not come to your doorstep. You must be forever be on high alert for an opportunity to present itself to offer your services. Sometimes I dedicate 2-3 days a week to strictly looking for new gigs. These days often end up very rewarding or very disappointing. Yet, there is such excitement that goes with signing on a new client! Usually, I can hardly wait to start on their project. I ask myself, what can I do to make them successful? In my line of work, it is often with a startup company where I'm helping them create their business plan. I want to make sure that I provide them with the highest quality product which ensures they will return time and time again.
3. Dote on the Best Clients - Fire the Worst
I find it extremely important to ensure my best clients remain satisfied at all times. This includes a less than 24 hour response time (even if it is a quick note to say I'm busy) - quick edits when required to any work performed - and overall an extremely high customer service. Typically these customers are willing to pay for quality work and they continue to do business with you because you do cater to their every need. This customers will come to you first when they have a new project and will provide word of mouth recommendations that will lead to additional business.
On the other hand, there are clients who have unrealistic expectations, provide unclear directions, and are generally very difficult to work with. Unfortunately, you will sign these clients. Recognizing them sooner than later is important. It's OK to fire those clients. While you should always avoid doing work for less than your worth, occasionally it will happen. The relationship with these clients should be tactfully dismissed. While I believe that you should "never burn the bridge", there is no long-term benefit to maintaining the relationship with these clients. Finalize the work, then casually walk-away. It will retain your value and maintain your reputation.
4. Meet your Deadlines
You are only as good as your word. If you cannot meet deadlines, you are not reliable and ultimately a less valuable resource to any client. High-end, good paying clients are paying for your service AND your commitment to deliver quality products on-time. When negotiating any project, evaluate the realistic expectations for delivery. It's far better to to under-promise and over deliver than the other way around. Personally for me, this is one of the most important factors in meeting customer expectations.
5. Make a List
At the end of every day, every week, I make a list for the next work day. My list is hand-written with check boxes to track my progress. Often, you will see priorities written next to the list. I self-rank what is most important to deliver first, second, third, etc. This is especially helpful on a Monday morning when I may have forgotten my commitments from the week prior. Identifying and managing your workload will help you meet your deadlines and commitments to customers.
6. Swallow a Frog
This is my favorite piece of advice. You should swallow a frog EVERY MORNING before diving into items like email correspondence or Facebook Posts. The idea of swallowing a frog is gross, it's something that you don't want to do - and when it comes to work, it refers to doing your most difficult tasks. These tasks should be done first thing in the morning. This way, you are using your valuable morning energy on items that are the hardest to get done ultimately making your day more productive.
Finally, I think one of the most important things to remember when working from home is that you should treat it like a job. If you don't dedicate the hours, you will not get the benefits of the autonomy. Your personal drive, organization, and execution will single-handedly dictate your success one way or another.