How to plan when working from home

What I’ve learnt as a freelancer

As a freelancer, I work from home most of the time. The advantage is that I’m keeping my overheads low and increasing my profit. The downside is that I’ve had to retrain my brain so I can maximise my time and focus on my work.

It’s all too easy to get caught up doing jobs around the house and then before you know it, your work schedule has gone off the rails.

By planning my time and being realistic, I’ve learnt to make the most of my billable hours. When you’re a freelancer, you don’t get paid for the whole day, just for the times you’re completing client work. So, working smart is vital.

Understand how you work

By this I mean, if you like getting up early, you could get a couple of hours work in then have a break and a late breakfast.

Or you might prefer to work later into the evening and go to the gym or catch up on sleep in the morning. I have two children, so early mornings for me are a no go. Once they are at school and nursery, I can focus on my client work.

Find out when your best times will be to do the majority of your work and try to get into a routine. You might find that some days you can start early and some days you can’t. Your other commitments will also have an impact, so it’s about finding out what works best for you.

I don’t have a separate office; I work in a shared part of the house. I can’t work in a mess, so when I can, I allow 30 minutes before I sit down at my computer to tidy things away. Just quick jobs like putting washing in the machine or on the line, not a full spring clean of the house!

To-do lists

Now some people love a list (me included), while other people hate them.

I would urge you to try this though. It really helps you focus on what’s important for that day.

Personally, I like a pad and pen but you could add notes to your phone or use a to-do list app, such as Todoist. By writing things down you’re more likely to remember them, so there isn’t a mad panic when something gets forgotten. Then there’s the fact you get to cross things out too. I mean who doesn’t get a buzz from that!

Taking to-do lists to the next level

For me, a to-do listis just for my daily tasks. You could plan weekly, monthly and even yearly if you wanted to though. This isn’t going to work with a pad and a pen but there are project management tools out there which can do the job.

They’ll have a built-in calendar and plenty of space to add short, medium and long-term tasks. The advantage of this is that you can see which weeks and months are quieter and where you could catch up on admin tasks. It can also make it easier to see when you have space to take on more client projects.

Here are a few examples of daily, weekly and monthly tasks:

Daily to-do lists

  • Follow up emails
  • New inquiry emails
  • Completing time sheets
  • Client work

 

Weekly tasks

  • Making a plan for next week
  • Admin tasks (like tidy up inbox)
  • Scheduling content for social media
  • Invoicing

 

Monthly tasks

  • Update blog content
  • Bookkeeping and banking
  • New orders from suppliers
  • Monthly catch-up with clients/outsourced freelancers
  • Log website and social media stats
  • Catch up with my accountant

 

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that I should give online planning another go. I’ll add it to my to-do list!

Goal setting

As well as your to-do lists and planning, it’s good to write down your goals.

You want them to be a balance between aspirational and achievable. For example, you might want to increase your social media presence, boost your profits or win new clients.

To make those goals achievable, you need to be more detailed and think about how you are going to achieve each objective.

Increase social media presence = I’m going to add two posts a week on my Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts.

Increase my profits = I’m going to increase my fees by 5%.

Win new clients = I’m going to join a new networking group.

Use a social media calendar

Social media is a really important tool for freelancers to demonstrate the work they do and to increase their network of potential clients. It’s all too easy to get sucked into adding posts though and before you know it hours have gone by.

Using something like Buffer or Hootsuite allows you to add posts to multiple social media channels at the same time. You can also schedule posts to go out on different days and times during the week or month.

So, not only can you easily post to multiple sites but you don’t have to go onto Instagram and LinkedIn and risk being sucked into watching cute kittens.

Schedule your breaks

I find it all too easy to either get caught up in work and not take a break or get constantly distracted. It depends how you feel on any particular day.

You can’t work solidly for hours and hours at a time. It’s not sustainable and your concentration and work will suffer.

If you have a blog to write (like this one) then set aside that time. Once it’s written, perhaps take a short break before coming back to it and reading it through to edit.

Look at the tasks you have for that day and make sure you fit suitable breaks in around them. We’re all different, so try to determine your own level of attention and set breaks accordingly.

Supporting freelancers and their business

When you’re starting out as a freelancer, there are often lots of questions regarding the structure of your new business, best bookkeeping tools and which taxes you’ll need to pay. As your business grows, you’ll need to think about any further tax implications and if there are new avenues you could explore.

We love finding out about new businesses, so let us help to give your more time to focus on what you do best.

Come and visit us at one of our THP offices located in ChelmsfordCheamWansteadSaffron Walden and London City.

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