How to Stay Focused When You’re a Freelancer and Work from Home

Being a freelancer gives you plenty of opportunities to do something you’re good at and something you love, but there can be no doubt that certain aspects of working for yourself are tough.  I have been freelancing for the best part of three years now, and I’ve had to learn an awful lot in a short space of time in order to make ends meet.

One of the hardest things to learn is the self-disciplined required to stay focused on the task in hand.  I know I’m not alone in this.  Early on it was hard not to get distracted.  The work I took on at the start of my freelancing career was often very dull and repetitive, so everything – and I mean everything – became more interesting than what I was supposed to be doing.

Now that I love the work I do I find I can get stuck in and lose myself for hours at a stretch, but staying focused when you work from home was something learnt the hard way.

Here are just five pieces of advice I can pass on to help focus your mind and reduce the distractions of the domestic…


Dress as though it’s still a 9-5


I don’t mean that you have to don a trouser suit or dig out your best office shirt, but never be tempted to just sit around in your lounge pants or pyjamas.  If you put on a relatively smart set of clothes (or just some ‘proper’ clothes) it can completely change your mindset and force you to take things a little more seriously.  Just make sure it’s an outfit which is also comfortable if you’re going to be spending hours on end sitting in the same position.


Create an ‘office’


Even if you can’t designate a spare room an office, at least try and create a dedicated working space.  If you’re housesharing and only have the one room, try to screen off a corner with a desk and call it your workplace.  Working and living within the same four walls can be hard because it’s easy to blur the lines between the place you work and the place you relax and unwind.  Having somewhere to ‘commute’ to every morning helps you set the two aspects off your life apart.


Take breaks


Taking breaks away from your desk really does help you concentrate when you return.  This can be quite tricky in an office, when you don’t want to feel your boss is watching you ‘slacking off’ for ten minutes in the hour, but when you work from home you answer to nobody but yourself.  Even if it means working a bit beyond your five o’clock knocking-off point for the day, take regular breaks and a proper lunch hour to keep yourself feeling on-the-ball.


Amazon and Facebook aren’t your friends


Try not to get distracted by websites which aren’t work-related during the day.  Add an extra couple of barriers to prevent yourself from a downward spiral into internet shopping or social media – log out so you’d need to enter an email and password every time, don’t add sites you might be distracted by to your favourites and promise yourself all the time in the world to shop and Facebook friends in the evening.


Stay sociable


You can start to feel very isolated very quickly when you work from home.  Feeling lonely and bored can really take your mind away from what you should be focusing on, so it’s healthy to get out the house now and then.  The advantage to being freelance is you can set your own working hours, so if you take Friday afternoon off, just make up for it by working later one day the next week.

Take a few hours off here and there to get out the house and interact with other people, whether it’s meeting a friend for a drink or simply popping to the supermarket for a chance to say hello to the till operator.

Think of self-discipline and focus as a muscle like any other – the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.  Try to minimise the distractions around you and reward yourself when you get things done.  Being a freelancer and working from home is far from easy, but it’s a case of finding what works for you and ensuring that practice makes perfect.


Lizzie Exton writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.