I started working from home full time in 2008. I was 26, and ModMyi.com (then only a year old) had started making enough for me to quit my “normal person job.” While my wife Robyn worked at the local pie shop (really) to help cover the bills, we were living in a 1000 square foot apartment in lovely Lutz, FL. You can see one of my first office setups at the top of this post. I started with a $40 rolling cart from Walmart. I eventually made the jump to a $120 Target desk in the corner of my bedroom in that apartment.
After 6 years of working full time at home, moving twice with a full in-house office in both homes, I’m moving back into an office. Laicos, a new venture I co-founded with Ryan Negri, will move into downtown Tampa this July. In these past 6 years, ModMyi has grown to be the largest iPhone-focused community on the web, aside from Apple.com, with close to 900,000 members. Here’s some things I learned while working from home.
- You need a schedule. When I started working from home, the freedom was intoxicating. I could go to any social event, go outside whenever the weather looked perfect, work all hours of the night if I felt so inclined. But Robyn had no clue when I was working, when I was playing, when I was off. This led to arguments about me not being available, even though I felt I was available more than ever. It created stress in the home, and I had difficulty effectively planning and meeting deadlines. I slept less, or I slept too much, depending on the week.It took close to two years for me to finally realize I needed to at least set a loose schedule of when I was working and when I was off. This allowed for better deadline estimation and completion, better family time, better sleep schedules, and an overall calmer feeling. Defining work time and off time allowed both to be more focused. This schedule can even change week to week – Robyn and I have a set time I’m working, but we also go over the schedule each Sunday to decide if it needs to change based on what our family is up to this week.
- Get dressed. Talking with other work-from-homers has shown me this one changes per person, but I found getting dressed in the morning when I rolled into “work” (read: the other corner of my bedroom) increased my motivation hugely. Being in sleeping clothes put my mind in a lazier state, and it was often hard to break through that fog. Which leads to the next point:
- Separate your workspace from the rest of the home. In my first experiences, we didn’t have enough bedrooms for me to have one as my office. I started with a cart downstairs in the TV room, but was distracted constantly by the television, people stopping by, the kitchen, anything going on. Because my off-work daily life was so used to this area, it was extremely hard to stay on point. Setting apart a place in the home just for work trained my mind to focus while there.
- Don’t JUST work from home. Motivation is the biggest issue people who work from home face. Never leaving the home leads to a feeling of being in a rut, and you have to change that up a little to stay fresh. Your mind is your biggest enemy when it comes to motivation. I would pick a single afternoon per week to work at a local spot. There’s plenty of sites to tell you local spots with wifi if you don’t know them, and in Tampa we have such great weather I would often just go to a park and tether my phone.
- Take breaks. I have a tendency to get so lost in coding, writing, paperwork, or design I’ll look up and realize 5 or 6 hours have passed without me getting up. For a long while (ok, still sometimes) if Robyn didn’t bring me some of whatever she made, I wouldn’t eat lunch. It feels productive to get lost in code, and often is, but you need to take breaks to keep your energy up with food, fresh air, and hydration. You’ll feel better at the end of the day, you’ll sleep better, and your work will improve.
- Get a PO box. Most businesses require mail being delivered, and giving out your personal address just isn’t smart. We have a UPS Store half a mile from the house, and use that as our ailing address. I get an email or a text every time mail comes in, and I now have a physical address I can use. USPS also has post office boxes to use.
- Maintain a network of other work-from-homers. I found a lot of great advice, recommendations, and confirmation I wasn’t crazy by talking to other people in similar work-from-home experiences. Some of this would be just texts and emails, but I also made it a point to grab lunch or breakfast with fellow work-from-homers at least once a month. Depending on your profession, it can also be a great way to give and get business.
- People don’t get it, but it’s awesome. As many people as are working at home these days, I still heard often that I didn’t really work, or my teenager would wander in and say “you’re not really working you’re just on the computer.” But you’ve got to hustle to make working from home work – many people stop after realizing they can’t maintain the motivation. It takes much more mental wherewithal than working from an office.My time working at home has been incredible, and I loved the personal discipline I learned while having the freedom to live a life scheduled around what’s important to my family and I.
Share your experiences if you’ve worked from home – would love to hear.