12 Key Tips for Successfully Working Alone.

home office desk

I’ve been self-employed  for twenty years. I’ve loved being my own boss. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. There have been some real challenges and some hard slogging. Over time I’ve learned some things about working alone  and I’d like to share them with you. Maybe you’ve got some additional tips. If so, please share them by leaving a comment below.

  1. Create a home office. It’s important to keep your overhead down so don’t spend money on an outside office. Make sure your home office is a place where you can work without being disturbed. Close the door. The sound of barking dogs and crying children isn’t very professional when you’re on the phone with clients. It’s also important to make a clear mental separation between the place where you live and the place where you work in your home.
  2. Get a comfortable ergonomic chair. One of my best investments was a quality ergonomic chair. You’ll be spending many hours in your chair. You want to be comfortable and properly supported so that you don’t end your day with aching muscles.
  3. Set work hours. The quickest route to failure is to wander through your work day without any sense of a beginning or end to it. You don’t need to punch in at 9 AM but you do need to be disciplined about when you start.  Make certain to have a fixed time of the day when you stop work. Don’t keep pushing on until midnight.
  4. Look sharp. Get out of your PJs and bathrobe. It might be tempting to shuffle around in your rabbit slippers but it doesn’t instill a sense of professionalism. You don’t need to put on a suit but you do need to change into something that makes you feel sharp.
  5. Enlist the services of a bookkeeper. You need to set up a bookkeeping system to get a handle on your income and expenses. Hire a person who is familiar with the needs of the self-employed.
  6. Get insurance. Speak to an insurance broker to assess whether your home insurance adequately covers your home-based business.
  7. Be persistent. I like to remark that I’m not brilliant but I’m persistent! When I look back, I realize that I’ve accomplished a good deal because I seldom gave up unless it was  clearly a futile exercise. To succeed on your own you have to keep pushing ahead through the inevitable setbacks and road blocks.
  8. Join a business networking  group. Isolation can be a detrimental factor when working alone. Find out what local business networking groups are in your area and join one or two of them.
  9. Have passion for your work. One of the challenges of working on your own is that you don’t necessarily have “cheerleaders” to keep you motivated. If you don’t absolutely love what you’re doing, it will become increasingly difficult to get through the hard times.
  10. Don’t be consumed by work. It’s easy to go non-stop when you’re working alone. Make sure to take 10 or 15 minute breaks every hour. Schedule time for family and friends. Go for a brisk walk.
  11. Prepare a list. You need to have a plan for your day. It can be something simple like  writing down the three things you must complete today. I like to use the GTD approach to maintaining productivity. It helps to break big tasks into manageable pieces.
  12. Keep learning. This is critical because you need to keep on top of changing technologies and trends. Find time to take training programs and workshops, read books, subscribe to newsletters, and attend  lectures.

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16 Responses to 12 Key Tips for Successfully Working Alone.

  1. Good advice for us all. Thanks.

  2. Thanks again Great

  3. Dan,
    Great points about things to keep in mind about working at home or alone. I’d like to add a website that I find useful when I’m on a deadline for writing something.

    DrWicked.com. This is a simple-to-use website that can help when you want to really concentrate on a writing exercise: http://www.lab.drwicked.com/writeordie.html. Plug in either the number of minutes or words you are doing, then hit the “Write!” button. If you think for too long instead of typing on the keyboard, it prods you with a reminder to keep on writing.

    When you are finished with the exercise, make sure you save your story as a file so you can open it in Microsoft Word or another word processor.


  4. Thanks Dan that is very concrete and I agree. There are some things I need to improve upon. Regarding #4, I totally agree. Besides being dressed for work, for some reason I learned that I must have my shoes on — to really get down to work.
    And I work in casual clothes, but gotta have those shoes on. Guess it is in case I’ve gotta get up and go. In my previous life, I was a news reporter and never knew when I had to get up and run.

  5. @moviedream @elizabeth. Glad you found this post useful.

  6. @Beth LaMie. Thanks for suggesting DrWicked.com. I’ll check it out. Sounds like a helpful nag ;-)

  7. @lizbowen. I’m glad you found this post helpful. I can relate to the shoes story. My mind tends to idle in slippers. I think there’s a direct connection between my intellect and my feet. ;-)

  8. Hi Dan. I really enjoyed your post today. Creating a work schedule is such a good point … I am a little obsessive about checking my email and will get bogged down in a project as a result … at inconvenient times. Thank you for maintaining such an informative, well-structured blog. Always a pleasure.

    • @Amanda Kuhnert. Glad you enjoyed the post! A little trick I use to keep from obsessing about e-mail is to turn off the “reminder” chime. Silence is golden! Thanks for your kind comments. Always good to hear from my readers.

  9. Nice list of key points!

  10. Pingback: Working Alone: When There’s More Bad Than Good, Part 1 | Wildly Passionate

  11. I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  12. Great advice, Dan. Re. the chair. After suffering with some editing-induced neck pain, I was at the chiropractor asking for advice on an ergonomic chair. I’ll never forget his response: The best ergonomic chair is the one you get out of. I had a timer on my desk for years, which I set to ring about every 50 mins. or so. When it rang, I would get out of the chair and do something – walk around the block, stretch, sit ups … something! Now I get on my “tread desk” for a quick walk at the beginning of the day (I’m on it now) and then I’m back on at the top of every hour during the news cast. No more neck or hip pain!

    • @Adrienne Mason. Thanks, Adrienne. Great advice about getting up and out of your chair. We all need to put this into practice more. Do you work at your “tread desk” at other times of the day?

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