On Working From Home

Date: July 21, 2016 at 10:23 am- by Ali- Comment(s): 26

A year and a half ago, I decided to pursue a freelance writing career.

Freelance writing is lots of things. It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s fun. It’s 52 different things on any given day.

Part of being freelance means working from home most days. I thought I’d write about that today.

Me and my little coworker!

Me and my little coworker!

First, let me state that I am both happy and lucky to work from home. It’s a choice I made — not necessarily an easy one in many respects — and it took about a year for me to really make it work on both a financial and sustainable level.

When I first went freelance, Brian and I were newly engaged and living in a small one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side. Soon, we started accumulating wedding stuff, then registry stuff, then a dog. It was crowded.

I never had a workspace in our old apartment. I worked on the couch. Every. Single. Day. I could’ve (and should’ve) ventured out to work from cafes, coffee shops, wherever, but I liked the idea of being home for some inexplicable reason. So I sat on the couch, with my laptop either on my lap or on our very low coffee table (so I was hunched over it — ugh, posture), and usually with the TV on in the background.

That setup didn’t work. I was constantly restless, I wasn’t productive, and I felt totally claustrophobic.

Now, we’re mostly settled in our New Jersey apartment, which I love because I have an actual office! Well, it’s half-office, half-bike room. But I’ll take it. It’s a major upgrade. And even though it still has some boxes we haven’t unpacked sitting around (and those IKEA puppies which, I swear, I’m giving as gifts to people), having a designated workspace has drastically improved my productivity and quality of life.

So…to break it down a little.

Not helping pay the bills. Thanks, Ellie.

Not helping pay the bills. Thanks, Ellie.

Reasons Working From Home Is Amazing

I live in athletic wear. My winter uniform is sweatpants and a sweatshirt. My summer uniform is a casual skirt and a tank top — often with a built-in bra so I don’t have to go the whole bra route. It’s comfortable and easy.

My kitchen is at my disposal. I get to make my own lunch, and I don’t have to worry about sharing a refrigerator or microwave with coworkers.

My schedule is more flexible than most peoples’ schedules. This is a big one. Since I am freelance, I generally create my own schedule. Yes, it’s based around deadlines, meetings, calls, and whatever else may come up. But for the most part right now, I dictate how my schedule works. I always thought that would mean something like 8–5, but in reality it’s more like 6–sleep. We’ll get to that.

I have the cutest coworker ever. And while she rarely barks, she does seem to always make a point of barking when I’m on an important call. Love that. But most of the time, she just sleeps at my feet like any good coworker should.

I love that she likes to be close to me while she sleeps. Nice puppy.

I love that she likes to be close to me while she sleeps. Nice puppy.

I don’t have to worry about other people doing things that annoy me. Like the two people at my old office who used to clip their nails at their desks (I cringe thinking about that) or the passive-aggressive notes on the microwave, refrigerator, and bathroom stall doors.

I don’t have to share a bathroom. I was quickly reminded of how nice this is a few weeks ago while I was working at Dance Spirit and needed the bathroom and all three stalls were occupied. Memories!

So, lots of good stuff here! And on the flip side…

This Sedentary American Life...

This Sedentary American Life…

Reasons Working From Home Is Sometimes Less Amazing

I live in athletic wear. When I have to get dressed for actual social situations, I get confused. I forget what it’s like to actually get dressed. I don’t even know where most of my real, non-sporty bras are, and I haven’t worn jeans in years. I love being not-quite-business-casual, but I also sometimes miss actually getting dressed for the day. I know people say to do that even if you work from home because you’ll be more productive, but nah. I’m good.

I move a lot less. Thank goodness for Ellie, otherwise I’d be so super lazy. After going freelance, I very quickly gained (and haven’t quite shed) what I deemed the Freelance 15. Those walks to and from the subway every day add up, and without those little walks to the office or to grab lunch, I’m far more sedentary. And, surprise, it shows! I’ve had to try and be smarter about what I keep in the house (apples!) and what I just can’t have because I’ll demolish it all (ice cream, duh).

Cheese!!!

Cheese!!!

I’m far more easily distracted. There have been days when I’ve sat on the couch to eat lunch and turned on Grey’s Anatomy, only to then find myself settling in for four more episodes. I know I’m at my most productive at my desk, so as tempting as it is to curl up and write in bed or on the couch, I have to avoid it.

My work in progress. Note there is one fewer IKEA puppy...

My work in progress. Note there is one fewer IKEA puppy…

Sometimes the internet here really sucks. And I have to either fix it or deal with it myself instead of walking over to the IT Department and being like, “OMG everything is broken, PLZ fix.” This is not a big deal. But since I need to be online 96% of the time, it can be a slight inconvenience.

I’m home all day, every day. Someone once asked me to write a Day in the Life post after going freelance. Here’s how that would go:

  • Wake up early. Go for a run.
  • Come home. Take Ellie for a walk.
  • Shower. Eat breakfast at desk while reading emails and morning news.
  • Work. Eat lunch while working. Take Ellie out to potty as needed. Work. Work. Work.
  • Meet Brian at ferry around 8 PM.
  • Eat dinner.
  • Keep working for a little while.
  • Fall asleep.

That’s it. That’s my day. Me at my laptop, writing, sending emails, tracking down past-due payments, repeat. I love what I do and I get to go to my fair share of fun events and classes. But this is a pretty standard day in the life.

This is my office at any given moment. Ellie's tennis balls everywhere. And boxes...because we are still not totally unpacked.

This is my office at any given moment. Ellie’s tennis balls everywhere. And boxes…because we are still not totally unpacked.

I’m always in my office. So it’s not like I switch off at 6 PM to head home and unwind from the day. I’m still here. So I just work until my work is done. On Monday, I was at my desk until 11:30 PM. Not every night is that late — most aren’t — but I don’t go leave the office when my boss leaves the office. This is nice in that I don’t waste time commuting, but it also means I sometimes start working at 6 AM or keep working until well after dinnertime.

TBH, I get a little lonely. As much as I’m loving being out here in New Jersey, a few weeks ago I realized that I was starting to feel a little lonely. I missed having my best friend right next door and lots of human interaction at all my workout classes. I felt sad for a few days. Then, when I went in to the Dance Spirit office for a few days and had adult conversations, I realized I needed to bring that back into my life somehow.

WHO REMEMBERS THE DANCE SPIRIT MIRROR SELFIES?!

WHO REMEMBERS THE DANCE SPIRIT MIRROR SELFIES?!

Having coworkers runs the gamut. You can have amazing ones — like my former intern, Michael, who turned into a real-life BFF — or less great ones. But it’s fun to have built-in coworker friends who know every detail of your life. During what I call “the Dance Spirit Glory Days,” our staff would spend the first, oh, hour of each day catching up on the show’s we’d watched the night before (usually just So You Think You Can Dance), the stupid things our boyfriends had said or done (usually left the kitchen cabinets open for no reason), or our outfit choices of the day (often legwarmers with high-tops for me). I loved that. Now, I talk to Ellie and listen to music sometimes, but neither are substitutes for true human contact.

So I’ve made a good effort lately to hang out more! I’ve joined friends for workouts, I’ve branched out locally, and I’m getting to know a bunch of my neighbors (and their dogs) better. And, look at that, I’m not feeling so lonely at the moment.

IKEA puppy at November Project! Captain Myles loved it! He was like, "OMG, I love puppies! Can I hold it? Can I keep it?" And I was like, "No, Myles. It's a gift."

IKEA puppy at November Project! Captain Myles loved it! He was like, “OMG, I love puppies! Can I hold it? Can I keep it?” And I was like, “No, Myles. It’s a gift.”

I feel like I’m supposed to do everything around the house in addition to working, and I hate that. Because I’m here, right? So not only should I work a full day (and then some), I should also, in between sending emails, do the dishes, the laundry, the grocery shopping, etc. And take Ellie out for all of her walks. Even if I’ve had a super slammed day, I feel like, in theory, I should have dinner ready when Brian gets home since I was here and could’ve thrown something in the oven. Which has literally never happened…

I feel guilty whenever I leave Ellie. Since I do it so rarely, I hate to leave her. I’m working on it. #momguilt?

Being very helpful!

Being very helpful!

People don’t necessarily take my job seriously. On any given weekday day, a friend will ask, “What are you up to today?!” As if I’m just hanging out, playing, shooting the shit. I work at home, but I still work. Yes, it’s flexible most days, but I’m still earning a living. (#TBT to when I left my last job to go freelance and my then-boss said, “What, you don’t have to work now because you’re getting married?” Totes, bro.)

Working from home and being freelance are not mutually exclusive. Being a freelance writer comes with its own set of amazing and less amazing aspects. Maybe we’ll talk about that another time!

FELLOW WORK-FROM-HOME-ERS, TALK TO ME! What worked for you? What didn’t? Did you, too, decorate your home office with stuffed puppies and boxes?

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26 Responses to "On Working From Home"

I’ve never worked from home per say – but when I was writing my master’s thesis I sure spent a LOT of time working at home! It definitely had it’s ups and downs. Mostly I just found I got super bored with no one to talk to and no distractions (yet so many ways to distract myself). I think if I were to start working for myself/on my own I would look into using a co-working space a few times a week! Or else I may go crazy.

LOVE your home office set up!! You nailed those pros and cons of working from home! As a grad student, I cherish those days to knock out all the work at home + make the return to yoga pants, but then I miss seeing my lab mates and friends on campus :).

Oh YES to all the things. I started working from home as a speech pathologist 3 years ago. I struggle with all the same things, and enjoy all the upsides, too.

Adult clothes avoidance, Suzy Homemaker guilt, and loneliness are real things.

I also get “so what do you actually do?” when I tell people I work at home. I WORK you idiot!

I work from home too and I was so grateful to see you feel the same way about a couple of things that I thought were just me (the “people don’t take your job seriously” and the “must do ALL the things and also work”)! I am trying to work on that second one – it is hard not to feel like you shouldn’t be able to do it all!

1. I love your office space! Totally my style.
2. I fondly remember the Dance Spirit mirror selfies – so fun to see one again!
3. My husband is self-employed and his office is at home, too. I think he would agree with a lot of your pros/cons. His parents will call him up on any given day and ask him to do favors for them, such as come up to their house (which is over an hour away) and put up shelves or something or to let their dog out when they have a doctor’s appointment. So crazy.
4. I love the pic of you and Ellie where she’s sporting the huge yawn. Super cute!

I can totally relate. While working from home has some amazing aspects, it can have less great ones too. I got very lonely– I hated the feeling like everybody was “out in the world working and doing things” while I was at home like a hermit (even if it meant yoga pants and no commuting costs/time/annoyances). Even though I was just as productive (if not more productive) I did feel a little removed from society. I now have a job where I’m back in the office 95% of the time and can honestly say I’m so much happier. I miss the flexibility sometimes but am so grateful for the human interaction!

I worked from home for nine years. I am an introvert so I had to make it a point to make lots of lunch dates so I didn’t become a recluse 🙂 My job required many local meetings as well as some travel so I felt that I had a nice rhythm. And I had great office mates – first my beagles Basil and Thyme and then my GSP Rosemary. Work from home was also great as I could usually get my kids on the bus and be there when they got home. I will never forget walking into my former workplace after a few months working from home. The HR person asked, “So do you like being home with your kids?” Excuse me, where do you think they are now? In a box? I work. They go to daycare. I had a former coworker that moved to the at-home gig a few months before me and said he felt so much more productive because he didn’t have to chat all day long 🙂

I’ve been working from home for the past year and a half and I’d have to say one of the best parts (aside from the daily wearing of yoga pants and slippers) is definitely the ability to break out into song and/or dance when I feel the need for a little respite from my work. The only “person” I offend with my off-key vocal stylings is my cat, as she’s legit thrown me shade when I start belting out too much Celine Dion or Whitney Houston. But I’ve found one of the best ways to get out of a “I work from home and have no interaction with society” funk is to sing some power ballads (or show tunes or anything from the 1990’s Disney lineup) at the top of my lungs.

I’ve been freelancing on and off since 2007. I just spent 2ish months at a full time gig that was so horrible. Honestly they lied about the position so it wasn’t really as senior as I expected. So I quit and am happily back to freelancing from home. At the moment I don’t have enough business to sustain my expenses (hello $700 Obama care monthly premium, mortgage etc) but I am determined to make it work. I love it way more and feel so much more appreciated. My clients are the best! And my dog is similar to Ellie. Just lounges and mostly stays quiet.

I started working today at 8am. Then ran some errands and went for a run. Now I’m going to eat some lunch and then it’s back at the computer for a while. I love the flexibility. Just wish I had more financial security. 🙂

P.S. I am an art director / graphic designer 🙂

I identify with every single one of your points! The work from home 15 is so real. I work 10 feet from my refrigerator and it is dangerous. Still trying to figure out a solution to this, since just keeping healthy options in the apartment isn’t working for me. I can still gain weight on grapes, somehow. I swear I have the self-control of a toddler. I love that I can belt out the Hamilton soundtrack or take a break for an hour to go work out whenever I want to though!

Loved this post! I don’t work from home, but often wish I could every once in awhile. Thanks for your honesty and humor!

I can totally relate to this post! I did pretty much the same thing at the beginning of 2015 – left a busy marketing agency job to work from home and it was definitely a huge transition (socially and financially). And I hear you on wanting to do everything around the house and not shutting work off at the end of the day (and working into the later evening).

A few things that have helped me:

1 – trying to make sure I get out at least 1-2x a day, even if it’s just for a workout
2- listening and discovering new podcasts (instead of just talking to my cat all the time….)
3 – sometimes switching up my work space – I have a home office but sometimes going to a coffee shop is nice
4 – scheduling lunch and coffee dates throughout the week and treating it like a standard lunch break like you would have in an office

Also people not taking your job seriously? totally been there and it’s super frustrating – just know that YOU know what you are doing and are working hard and the rest is just noise 🙂

Hey fellow work-from-homer! Have you thought about checking out a co-working space (office full of other freelancers renting desks)? I love working from home a lot, but sometimes I get frustrated with being at home ALL DAY LONG and also feeling lonely like you mentioned, and it really helps to go hang out/work with other freelancers one or two days a week. Just to get me out of the house if anything!
I would also try sticking to more “office hours”, I know it’s tempting to work so much *because* you’re at home and it’s hard to say no to projects, particularly early on, but it’s also super important to be able to turn off your computer and have “home” time too. For example, I have a rule of not checking my email until I’m dressed, breakfasted and at my desk – it makes such a difference!
Love those IKEA puppies!!!

Melanie says: July 21, 2016 at 5:25 pm

I work from home just one day a week. Funny story … my neighbors have a rooster and he likes to crow while I’m on calls for work. Very professional! Also, I LIVE IN THE MIDDLE OF A CITY!!! 😉 WTF?

MacKenzie Stroh Hines says: July 22, 2016 at 12:14 am

This was an awesome post. I am a fellow-work-from-homer, and my dogs are my two co-workers (not really I have human ones, they just work in an actual office far far away). Best part, workout clothes. All. The. Time.

I have been working from home since May and you just put it all out there perfectly! I agree 100% and feel your freedom and your pain. I have been shopping for a desk to get past the hunched over coffee table thing.. Where did you get the white desk? I love it!

Have been working from home since January. It is the best and also the worst and many things in between. Personally, I didn’t want to fall into the (tempting) athletic wear trap and make a point of getting dressed in non-athletic wear everyday, I’m not rocking a suit though. At my office I had a standing desk and I really missed it/found myself sitting all day so I bought a StandStand (https://www.standstand.com) and I love it! Still figuring things out but I do also make sure to take a walk/coffee break that is outside my apt. at some point if I can. The need for air, having a conversation/seeing other people, and remembering there is a world beyond my walls is so necessary. Would love to hear any tips you have!

I am attempting the work at home thing, and there are a few things that do and don’t work.
I have to have a dedicated space. I have to be started by 9 am or my day is shot. I have to be very intentional about my day.
My dog is a beautiful but annoying distraction. If I turn the Tv on, its game over. And since making phone calls isn’t my forte, I have to get some meditation in to get over the anxiety of being on the phone at all.
But its allowed me to focus on my health which has been a blessing. But its also kept me very isolated, which is hard. And right now I don’t have a lot of money coming in so its hard to feel like what I’m doing is justified.

I’ve been working from home for nearly 5 years and so much of what you said is true for me, too! Family/friends don’t think I have a “real” job, I live in sweats, I always feel the pressure to maintain the house & take care of the pets, and am pretty lonely these days. I love the convenience factor but it can be challenging sometimes. I also get distracted very easily. Case in point – Commenting on your blog when I should be working. Whoops. 😉

I work from home too and completely agree with everything you wrote! I just got a puppy which has helped, but otherwise I’ve basically lived in coffee shops or on my patio, pretending it’s my office (aka snapchatting and blaring the soundtrack from “Hamilton”).

I’m a full-time freelancer now that I’ve relocated to Chicago, and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Although I did apply to jobs before moving out here, I didn’t feel particularly passionate about any of them, so it’s been nice to essentially keep doing the same job, while not being at a Midtown 9-5. (For reference, I worked as a production editor at a publishing house and had to outsource each of my books to a freelance copy editor and then a freelance proofreader, and I always did the freelance part for my coworkers on the side in NYC, so I’m now doing that full-time.)

Because I basically started over here, I’m still working on furnishing my apartment, which has forced me to work from cafes or the library every day, as a lot of my work is actually done on hard copy, so working on my apartment floor isn’t exactly ideal. But I like that this gets me out the door, and I’ve become a regular at a nearby coffeeshop with unlimited coffee refills (I’m sure they’re judging my daily athleticwear uniform, but whatevs. Meeting up with my friends here for dinner or drinks after their office workdays forces me to put on real clothes.).

Also awesome? Living around the block from the beach and having it all to myself in the middle of the day or when I jump in at the end of a hot run.

Love this post! I moved to Brooklyn (almost Queens Brooklyn) about a year ago and my boss asked if I would stay on and work from home. I enjoy the people I work with and am a bit of an introvert so it was a beyond perfect situation. While I absolutely love working from home I totally agree with your post. People definitely don’t seem to take my job as seriously which can be frustrating. Also, since I’m not in Manhattan and am in a random area of Brooklyn I’ve had a hard time meeting people here which can be lonely (the introverted-ness doesn’t always help and I tend to work later than I used to due to convenience). Unfortunately the nature of my job (healthcare) doesn’t allow me to work from coffee shops and other public areas. It has been an interesting transition, in some areas I feel like I have more work/life balance while in others I’m still figuring it out. That said, working from home fits my personality and work-style far better than the office did so I wouldn’t change a thing, just need to work out the kinks…and perhaps get an adorable puppy!

Stephanie says: July 25, 2016 at 11:33 am

i lovelovelove your desk chair! would you share the details of where you got it?

p.s. definitely saw you on tv last friday on the today show, for celine!

It’s by Rachel George, and I ordered it from Houzz (where I found it cheaper — boom!). I LOVE it.

I’m figuring out the part-office/part-working from home thing, and it’s a delicate balance. I’ve been married to a “self un-employed” dude for 12 years, and while it can be hard, I wouldn’t change it. Side note: I have a 7yo gir in Dallas who would happily take one of those IKEA puppies off your hands…

My boyfriend worked from home for a year when he first moved to NYC. He did most of his work on the couch or while in bed…often with them jackhammering outside our window because NYC is the best. I hated that he was ALWAYS home (and never made dinner either, ha), but now he’s basically never home since his office job works insane hours. Two extremes!

I’m sometimes jealous of people who can work from home since it’s literally impossible for me to work from home…but it is really nice that I can’t take work home with me. Once I swipe out from work, that’s it. Pluses and minuses, for sure.

Of course, we should have gotten a puppy when he was still working from home because now we’re gone for 12+ hours per day, which definitely isn’t puppy-friendly.