Let’s face it: writing is mostly a solitary business. The picture we have of the writer alone in her room, deep in the writing process, is pretty accurate. Writing takes dedicated hours over a long period of time.
This means that many people who write for a living work at home. I’ve been self-employed for quite a long time, and sometimes I had a space to work that I rented, but mostly I’ve been lucky enough to have room in my home to set up an office.
This scheme is not without risks, however.
Early in my working at home days, it seemed almost impossible to get anything done. Eventually I gave up and took an office in the city.
But when I began book publishing in earnest in the 1990s, I took an extra bedroom in your home and converted into an office.
Over the years since I’ve worked from home both as a contract worker doing book design and production, as well as an entrepreneur, starting businesses and gathering a team online.
In the course of the thirty-plus years I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned lots of lessons about navigating work at home successfully.
Here are my top tips for authors and publishers who work at home:
13 Tips for the Work-at-Home Author
- Get dressed for work—It may seem like fun to spend the day in your pajamas, you’ll be much more productive by dressing for work to trigger yourself to take your home work seriously.
- Establish a routine—Routine is part of life when you work in any context, and routines can be used as powerful reinforcements in building successful habits.
- Treat your business like a business—Your mindset will communicate itself to others whether you intend it to or not. Act like you’re transacting serious business and people will take you at your word.
- Choose a dedicated work space—An absolute necessity for home workers. Having a space that’s optimized for your type of work, where everything you need is readily accessible will help make you so much more productive. Put some time (and some resources) into making your home office an inviting and efficient place to work.
- Declutter—Keeping order, not surprisingly, helps with focus and concentration
- Create a pleasing ambiance—Having your own space gives you an opportunity to create an environment that you’ll be happy to work in.
- Less noise, more light—If you can find a spot that has either quiet or great natural light, take it. If it has both, guard your space jealously.
- Get a good chair—When you consider your desk chair is your most-used piece of equipment, you’ll realize why it’s a good idea to invest in one that gives you great support. During the dot-com bust, we picked up several pricey Aeron chairs, and they really make a difference especially on those late night launches.
- Try to leave the house each day—Getting some air and a chance to walk around for a few minutes will keep your energy up for the long haul.
- Restrict your social media use—If this is a problem for you, try logging out of all your accounts during your work day, and/or turning off notifications on all your devices. On iOS devices, the “Do Not Disturb” setting is quite handy.
- Work at your most productive time of day—I’ve divided my day in half. Until noon, I work on creative projects and my own writing. After lunch, it’s promotions, product development, book design and all the rest of my work.
- Have a plan—Using a “to-do” app or a rolling list on a memo pad will help keep you on track with your own priorities which are all too easy to forget during the day.
- Stay connected—We’re lucky to have great collaboration tools like Zoom and Skype to maintain contact with colleagues, readers, marketing partners, and vendors.
- Take clear breaks—My day seems to work best when I break for lunch around 1:00, and look for a pick-me-up around 4:00. These become predictable parts of my day, and these routines make the rest of my day very productive.
- Make your phone into a voicemail system—Some time-management experts consider the telephone the number one distraction for people trying to do business. I give out a phone number that’s strictly a voicemail server, and restrict business to outgoing calls only. This allows me to schedule and predict calls, making the telephone much less disruptive.
- Hire an assistant—I know you’re not going to do this, yet I also know from long experience there’s nothing you can do that will multiply your own efforts as much as working with a daily assistant.
- Don’t let friends stop by—Establish business hours, and do your best to keep them. On the other hand, this is your business so if you feel like taking your honey out for a hike in the afternoon please do it!
These are just tips, of course. Since you’re the boss, you get to write your own rules for working at home. And since you’re the boss, you can declare a “day off” whenever you like.
I bet a lot of readers work at home. Do you have any tips for the rest of us? Let us know in the comments.