Writer's Edit

A newsletter for novel writers looking for inspiration and advice on their creative journey.

How To Work From Home (and Stay Motivated)

At first glance working from home seems like the dream job: being able to set your own hours, not having to get dressed up (or dressed at all), avoiding the draining and time-consuming stalemate of peak hour travel, and having more time to devote to your family and personal activities.

All of this sounds amazing and too good to be true but it is obtainable, especially with the increasing amount of freelance writing positions available that only require a steady internet connection.

As desirable as all of this sounds working from home is in some ways more detrimental than working in an office environment; the casual and familiar nature of the workspace can hinder productivity and no regimented working hours creates less of a motivation for working.

On top of all of this being your own boss creates problems especially when in close proximity to digital distractions such as the internet, games, and movies.

Working from home requires a commitment that has to be stronger than that required for a regular full time job, but if you follow the advice in this article you may be able to live the dream.

how to work from home
Writer Nick Cowling explores the challenges of working from home, as well as the best practices for a productive day. Image Credit: Ddqhu via Flickr Creative Commons.

1. Create a dedicated writing space

Probably the most important aspect of working from home is reinforcing the feeling that you are actually working.

Being home is often associated with relaxation and doing anything except working.

By creating a separate space that you mentally associate with work that is noticeably different to the rest of your home you can set up a “base of operations” so to speak.

This writing space should be in an area that is separate to the rest of the house, such as a different unused room, the corner of your lounge room, or something similar.

Motivation only works if you feel the need to be motivated.

2. Disconnect Digital Distractions

This is the most obvious piece of advice in staying motivated.

Since their creation digital media, especially video games, have been amongst the biggest time wasters around.

Countless hours have been lost to countless pixels. To create an authentic working space you need to at least disconnect consoles, gaming computers, and TV screens unless they are absolutely necessary to your task.

Do not look for excuses to turn them back on.

It may seem extreme to unplug the devices as opposed to simply switching them off but the harder it is to activate them the easier it will be to write.

3. Set Work Hours, including breaks

So by now you have a dedicated writing space and have shut off all in-house distractions now you can write now yeah? Not just yet.

Just because you are in an informal setting does not mean that you have to act in an informal way.

The best way to keep the fire burning in regards to motivation is to have set working hours.

These hours may not be as stringent as 9-5 but make sure that during the times you have designated for writing you write.

Inevitably you will be distracted it’s human nature to chase the shiny things and procrastinate, but instead of drifting aimlessly in this procrastination having a schedule that you work around will ensure that these distractions are only temporary if they occur at all.

4. Get a whiteboard, create a schedule

Setting out the work hours in your mind is a great start, but in order to fully realise the schedule you have set or yourself you need to write it down.

By writing your work and break hours down on a whiteboard (or any other kind of board) you give the idea a physical basis, something that you can refer back to and something that you know you can’t change will create a physical boundary between your professional and private hours.

Break the day up into specific tasks between tasks for clients, skills training, and searching for new clients and opportunities (these are just suggestions; alter the timetable to suit your own needs and goals).

By separating the day into specific tasks it takes away from the feeling that you are working a solid 8-hour block that has no real definition.

Each task can be tackled independently and you can allow yourself a short break in between them, mentally refreshing you for the next task.

5. Inform clients, family, and friends of your “office” hours

As sure as you are of your professional work hours the other people in your life may not be.

Certain people, particularly close friends and family, may think that because you are working from home you are able to hang out, have a prolonged phone chat, or think that you are able to help them move a couch.

What you have to tell everyone is that this is not the case.

Make sure that all of your nearest and dearest are aware of the hours that you are unavailable.

Concentrating on writing is hard enough, having distractions from familiar and all-other-times welcome people will give you more of a reason to stray from writing.

Reinforce to these people that you are “at the office between 9-5” and if any distractions continue put your phone on silent and leave it in another room (in keeping with the advice on Digital Distractions listed above) checking it once every hour.

It is also very important that clients are aware of your “office hours”.

Knowing that you work from a home office may lead some clients to think they can contact you at any time of the day (or night).

Let your clients know that unless it is absolutely urgent you are not to be contacted outside of your set operating hours.

6. Escape the office

This tip may sound completely opposite to all the advice that has been given so far but in some ways it is one of the most important pieces of advice you can follow.

Working from home can be very alienating.

Those who do find themselves working from home are often in a very isolated environment with only themselves for physical company.

While it may seem great to be working by yourself in a distraction-free environment a lack of human interaction will cause all creativity and ambition to stagnate.

The best way to stay refreshed and motivated is to leave the office once maybe twice a day for short periods of time.

Run down the street to the local café and get a drink and a bite to eat, surrounding yourself with other people who aren’t out to distract you can do wonders for your morale, and can even inspire you to view a writing task with fresh eyes or from a new perspective.


Writer’s Edit is a newsletter for novel writers looking for inspiration and advice on their creative journey.