Although self-employment is relatively new to me, I actually worked from home while living in Toronto. I was one of three employees at a small start-up and had a little pull-out desk in the corner of my one-bedroom apartment. It was tiny, but right next to the window, so I was able to look outside at the city below.
There were definitely ups and downs. One day I loved it and the next I resented not having an office to go to every morning. Working for yourself takes discipline and self-care. I know a few of you are self-employed and work from home as well, so I thought I’d how share the ways I’ve managed to maintain my sanity. Read on for my top seven tips…
Dedicate space to your ‘office’
If you predominantly work from home, it’s important to dedicate space to your ‘office’. Even if you don’t have a spare room, you should still set up a desk and a comfortable (ideally ergonomic chair) so you can focus and get work done. I often shift from my office (where the light is best) to our kitchen table, where I have a bit more space to spread out.
Setting boundaries is one of the most challenging aspects of working for yourself because, let’s face it, there’s no one else to pick up the slack if you need to take a day off. That said, boundaries are important and you should set them. That’s not to say your boundaries will be the same as someone in a conventional job (I’m writing this on a Sunday afternoon, after all). Depending on your business goals and the type of work that you do, you might need to work the occasional Saturday or take calls after 6PM.
This is probably what I struggle with the most (and what I struggled with when I worked for a start-up). I try to workout in the morning, just to ensure I get some fresh air to start my day off on the right foot. I also organise photoshoots, coffee dates and lunchtime meetings to ensure I’m meeting with clients and friends face-to-face rather than over the phone. Otherwise, I could easily be sitting in my pjs until 4PM…
* Please note that as of 20 March, 2020, I’m practicing social distancing and only going outside when necessary (to pick up groceries and for a short jog around my neighbourhood).
Have a strong support system
For me, this has been the most vital thing since deciding to work for myself. I’m lucky that I have a supportive partner who is able to deal with my occasional bout of neediness. And my family, though far away, are always willing to chat me through difficult periods. As a blogger, it helps to have friends who aren’t in the industry and don’t work in the digital space. I find it so important to have people in my life who know about the things I don’t choose to share online and who offer perspective when I’m spiralling into an Instagram vortex.
Find your community
That said, I also love having fellow blogger and photographer friends and friendships that started online. I’m travelling to London with my first ever Instagram friend next month, and she’s even coming to our wedding next year. It’s incredible that we live in such a digital age, where friendships can go from online to offline so seamlessly. In New Zealand, I’ve found a local community of creatives who work for themselves or from home, which helps fuel collaboration. When I started Prairie Girl Musings in 2012, the blogosphere was still such a weird, unknown space. Not a lot of people were sharing their opinions online, so I often felt quite alone and unusual. It’s exciting to see blogging receive more and more acknowledgment as a viable career.
Get used to rejection
In addition to feelings of isolation and a lack of routine, self-employed individuals also deal with rejection, especially if you’re in an industry where you’re putting yourself out there constantly. I’ve developed thick skin and mental resilience simply by pitching my ideas to brands and PR agencies day after day. Managing your emotions and not taking things personally is key and I urge you to treat your job as just that. Continue pushing yourself in the right direction and always ask for feedback because rejection is rarely personal.
Just like at a traditional job, I’m learning to reward myself when I hit certain milestones. I’ll never forget my first sponsored blog post and how excited I was to be creating content for a brand. I poured my creativity into that campaign, coming up with a unique angle, styling and photographing the products, writing and editing my words until everything sounded just right. While it may not be time for a bonus, why not celebrate by treating yourself to a nice dinner or a maybe even a long weekend away? Without a boss to commend your efforts, give yourself permission to celebrate your hard work.
Photos by Sophie Isabella
I’d love to hear from you. If you work from home or not, let me know how you look after yourself.