Top Five Ways to Stay Disciplined When Contracting or Working From Home
So, when fleeing the structured and restricted routine of an office (and office life) it is important to remember that you will be needing some of that structure in order to make a success of your own small business.
Here are five ways to ensure that you balance the freedom of your new career with a little bit of discipline!
1. Design a System or Way of Working that You're Comfortable With
This is the most important thing a new self-employed worker can do. In order to maintain a disciplined approach to your contracts it is crucial that you organise a to-do list and a schedule of work and that you stick to it religiously. There are all kinds of tools on the market for doing this, from old-fashioned personal organizers to dedicated computer software and organizing systems. Equally, most bookshops are filled with good books on ways to maximise your time and efficiency. The most important thing is to find a system that you feel comfortable working under, and stick to it.
2. Learn to Prioritize
Once you've got your working system under way it is important to prioritize work. As a freelancer you will live and die by your reputation so you can never miss deadlines. Do the jobs that need doing, not those that you want to do. Organize work by order of urgency.
3. Remove Any Distractions
This is particularly important for those contractors or freelancers who work from home or a home office. Firstly, if possible it is best to set your office space away from the house or at least in a room at the furthest end of the house or in the loft. Secondly, you need to agree with your family certain hours in the day when you absolutely cannot be disturbed unless there is an emergency. Otherwise you will be constantly pestered by partners or kids, and called on to look at broken washing machines or pick up shopping or take the dog for a walk. Although you are at home, certain hours of the day should be seen by your family as working hours and you should be considered out of reach.
4. Use the Carrot Not the Stick
The best way to inspire yourself to work is to set rewards for good work or finished projects. Perhaps you might use your freelance schedule to plan a holiday with your partner or kids, but only if and when you complete a certain contract. Give yourself something to look forward to and to inspire you. In other words, be your own boss, but be a good boss!
5. Be Disciplined with Your Income
Finally, one area of discipline that contractors and consultants often pay too little attention to is their finances. It is crucial to be aware that there may be times when work is thin on the ground. For this reason it is important to establish a system that puts a percentage of your earnings every month into a separate savings account for those times when you are not working. Similarly, discuss with your accountant all the areas that are tax deductible, from your home office to your utility bills to travel and supplies. Once you have worked this out, make sure you document and save all receipts. Finally, because tax solutions for contractors and freelancers are so different from fixed employment, look into all the ways you can maximize your earnings, from Managed Service Companies to Umbrella Companies and other such structures designed for contractors.
This is a guest post by Alex Simmonds, a journalist and copywriter living in the UK. He can currently be found writing a daily blog on contractor news, offering updates on legal and financial issues affecting the contracting sector.
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