Truth is, I’m sitting here, on my sofa. It’s 22:27pm. Baby and toddler are both sleeping soundly and the husband is out. It’s what I call PRIME TIME. I’m sat with the laptop resting on the seat cushion, my knees bent up, and my chin resting on one knee. A very questionable posture which is no doubt responsible for various aches and pains during the day. And yet, this is how I continue to work. Because, for most of us, the life of a freelance parent just isn’t as home-office-glam as we’d like it to be. Fortunately, I’m in the flow nether-the-less.
My home office, a space of adult-only tranquillity — with fresh white walls, pops of colour, weekly fresh blooms, designer furniture (including an ergonomic chair) and high-class coffee machine — is sadly just a dream. For now.
And while I would LOVE a beautiful dedicated space to get things done. Actually, I work just fine in my squish on the couch. And I have worked just great in my PJs on the bed (pre-babies… now I have to get up and dressed!) too. Over the past 8 years, I’ve found that it is completely do-able, and even enjoyable, to work from home without the luxury of a home office.
Be willing to adapt
The key to getting things done is having enough time and headspace to get in the zone. The reason working on the sofa is working right now is because I don’t have any little people distracting me! But at different times of the day, different rooms work better for me. If I need to, I can sit up on the bed next to my 4-month-old and soothe him on a fussy night, or I can camp out in the dining room and let the toddler play with his daddy in the lounge. When you don’t have a proper office, be ready to adapt.
Think about what most impacts your work output. Does noise distract you? Do you work better in a well-lit space? I move my work to suit my mood and help boost productivity. Sometimes sitting like a grown-up at the dining table is the only way to go!
Work to a schedule
I guess this goes for whether you have an office or work from your living room floor; stay sane at home by working to a schedule. This will help avoid the many temptations of your own environment if you don’t carefully plan your time. Procrastination can make that washing-up stack look a lot more appealing than it should do!
Dress to impress
I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit in slouchy clothes or even PJs while finishing client projects. But there’s only so much copywriting ‘cazj’ I can take! If you want to keep on top of motivation levels, kick imposter syndrome up the bum and just generally feel better about yourself as a freelancer, then dress to impress yourself and your little people. It takes a bit more of a logistical effort when you’re a freelancing parent, but I find it’s so much easier to do business when I feel good about myself.
I admit. This isn’t my strong point. With a stay-at-home dad around, I love being able to stop and chat with my husband during my work day; but also I’m not great at making it clear when he can’t / shouldn’t interrupt. This means I can be guilty of half-listening as I try to finish a thought process — not ideal for your relationship or your business!
I strongly recommend setting boundaries at home, particularly if you don’t have that dedicated office space to lock yourself away in. Let others in the household know when they can and cannot interrupt your workflow.
Look after yourself
You’ll be glad to know I’ve adopted a more sensible posture for this section because, in all seriousness, looking after yourself is vital if you want working from home to be a success — especially as a parent.
It’s time to take the well-being of both body and mind seriously. Drink enough. Stretch enough. Take breaks! They are all things we can forget to do when we work from the comfort of our own abode and enjoy our jobs. I know we don’t have much time to waste each day as freelancers and as parents, but stopping to check we are looking after ourselves is never a waste of time.
I’ve done 8+ years without a proper office but occasionally, working from a personal space gets too much. If you need to clear your head and bring fresh ideas to a project, think about getting out for a change of scenery! Coffee shops, libraries, soft play centres — they all do the trick.
Be kind to yourself
Working from home has its challenges and these are amplified when you don’t have a dedicated office space to claim as your own. But please, be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you do wear scruffy clothes for a week and never do your hair. Don’t let the lack of a shiny office let your confidence dip because you’re ‘sure the ‘pros’ all have one’; the way freelance businesses are run varies hugely.
In the end, it’s about happy clients and customers. And if you’re doing a great job, they won’t care where you work from!
Photograph by Francesca Tortora.