From Zero to Hero: Stepping Up the Work from Home Game

zero to hero

Working from home isn’t easy. It’s not always easy to get started…and once you’ve gotten your feet wet, it’s not always easy to keep up your momentum. I’d wager a guess that at some point, all of us who work from home have questioned why we do it and why we are at least momentarily envious of our friends who earn a living in a more traditional environment.

Even if you’re getting everything done in a day, it’s still easy to feel like a total zero. Here’s how to step up your work from home game and go from feeling like a zero to a total hero.

Examine Your Schedule

When you work from home, you get the “opportunity” to set your own schedule (most of the time – I know some people contract with places like call centers and end up with set hours…and that’s okay, too). The thing is, the schedule that works for you during the school year may be a giant no during the summer or on school breaks. Planning to work while your baby naps is all well and good until you realize just how freaking tired you are or the little darling gives up naps. Your day is not designed by Ron Popeil. When you work from home, there is no set it and forget it. It’s more like set it, use it, tweak it, and change it if and when necessary. Schedule your most mind-power consuming tasks for when you have the most energy and focus. I don’t care if that is 5 am before anyone else wakes up (bonus: you’re done with all your work by like…noon) or 11:32 pm. When you work on the most energy consuming work tasks first, the rest of the time you work will make you feel a million times more productive.

So, make it a habit to examine your schedule and change it when necessary.

Stop Being a Conformist

It can be just as easy to fall into the habit of comparing yourself, your work habits, and your entire life to other work from home enthusiasts. You don’t have to work like they do. You don’t have to have the same decision making process. While it is good to network with others and glean what you can use, don’t ever think that you’re doing it “wrong.” If your house isn’t burning down, the kids don’t have you hog tied and living on the roof during a lightening storm, and your clients are happy, you’re fine. Sure, try new ideas if you want…but don’t do it because you think you’re wrong or because there is a certain why you must work from home. No. Working from home is individualized. It is your business.

Take Some Time to Enjoy Working from Home

Doing the dishes doesn’t count…unless maybe you’re planning an awesome dinner party or just looove to clean. Take some time every day to enjoy the fact that you work from home. Sometimes, I take a hot bath in the middle of the day. Why? Because I fucking can, that’s why. Sometimes I go and sit at the lake and work while Red Bull fishes. Why? Because I fucking can, that’s why. I’d love to say sometimes I take a nap in the middle of the day…but I don’t because I am a chronic insomniac who can’t even sleep during the day…and on the off chance I do, I’m likely quite sick. Every day during the summer, Baby Bull and I wander toward our neighborhood park. There’s a splash pad there. We stay for close to an hour (he sunburns easily even with sunscreen). We go whenever we want. Why? Because I fucking can, that’s why.

So, go to the library. Go on a walk. Take the children somewhere fun. Go stand on your head in the corner. I don’t care what you do as long as it is legal and moral. You will never feel like a work from hero until you learn to enjoy your life.

Be Consistent Even on Shitty Days

Some days, life is just a big steaming pile of dog shit. The kids and the dogs are vomiting on the carpet. Your sweet little pumpkin decides to grab a permanent marker and draw you a picture….on the wall. Clients change their plans at the last minute. Your hypochondriac mother won’t leave you alone and you decide to take up drinking. Some days just suck. While there is an occasional day where you should just take a break and throw in the towel, it is extremely important to be consistent even on shitty days. The needs of your clients don’t go away because your day sucks. Your electric company still charges you. You still need money to pay your bills.

Persevering through shitty days does you two favors. First, it reminds you that you have a purpose. Total strangers still need you. Second, it teaches you and your spawn a valuable lesson. Life doesn’t stop. When things get hard, we do not quit. Sure, we may re-assess and need a new plan, but we do not quit. It teaches YOU that you are capable and strong. You may feel like a zero that day, but in a few days when you look back, you’ll feel like a total fucking hero because you rocked that day like no other.

T Is for Time Management

Zeros have the same 24 hours in a day as total heroes. The difference is in how that time is managed. I know that tomorrow will suck for me because it will be busy. So, one thing I am doing today to prepare for tomorrow is to handle some of tomorrow’s work. That will be one less thing for me to do.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Learn to manage your time. Plan things. You don’t have to have a start and stop time for things. I don’t. I do know roughly how much time I will need to devote to each client on any given day. And I work in my fun time.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Seriously. No is perfect. I know it can be hard to give yourself a break. I struggle with it, too. “I could do more. I should do more. I must do more.” Yet, our self-worth shouldn’t ever be totally tied up in our work. You are not a slave. You are a person. You are a person with needs. You are a person with responsibilities outside of work…and that make you a hero.

Comment below how you make your work from home experience better (and click Confessional to tell us your anonymous secrets.)

WAH Rule 654 – Something Always Comes Up

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If you haven’t already experienced this phenomenon in life, rest assured that not only does it happen when you work from home, but it does not ever improve. Any time you need or want to do something, something comes up. If you’re lucky, that something is cute and worth it and not annoying.

Dan Bull the Anvil and I have tried to record the Sunday edition of Black Moth Radio all morning. It happens with work, too. It is one of the many realities of the work at home life.

Short Story: How I Started Hating My Office Space

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In August 2016, I rented office space. My reasons were pure. As someone who worked from home, I struggled with separating my work life from my home life. When I was working, I felt guilty because I wasn’t doing typical homemaking things. When I was doing typical homemaking things, I felt guilty that I wasn’t working. So, I found a nice size single office at an affordable rate that included my Internet. Up until the last month or so, the experience (overall) was fine. However, I started to hate it. Here’s how I started hating my office space.

I Felt Rushed Every Day

When you’re paying for office space, you feel obligated to use it. And I was no exception. I am definitely more focused in my own space. There are fewer distractions. Yet, between school obligations for the school-age children, martial arts practices for my husband and one of my sons, and appointments for the Baby Bull, I always felt rushed. I started freelancing to take control of my time…not to feel like I’ve got more obligations.

I Hate Whiners

I understand whining with children. Children have to learn that life is tough and that they are tougher. I hate whining from adults who are on the job. There is a difference between the occasional whining session that most of us have and people who think they are entitled to an easy life. Life is not easy. I hate whiners. The walls here are thin. To the right of my office, is a business owner who does construction and roofing. I like him. It’s his son / assistant that drives me batty. He always has something to bitch about. It’s never a well-worded suggestion that shows how business practices can be improved. It’s always a complaint about how awful it is that he has a job and has to work.

Loud Noises

I can tolerate loud noise from my children. I can tolerate occasional loud noises in a traditional work atmosphere. These new neighbors on the other side of me? Just…no. I lost a contract because of their nonsense. They just seem to have no common sense.

Always Inside

I’m not getting outside as much as I used to…to be fair, though, it’ summer in Oklahoma – so being outside during certain times of the day is fucking miserable. However, early mornings and evenings are better. Right now, I am almost always inside. Officing from home again means more opportunity to not be stuck inside out of obligation. It was so great a couple of weeks ago when I got to work outside at the lake while Red Bull fished.

No Time for Certain Hobbies

Because I always feel rushed to get here, get my work done, and get home so others can get to where they need to be, I feel like I have no time for certain hobbies I really love. I have a lot of hobbies. When I get stressed out, I don’t want to do any of them…that, in turn, exacerbates my stress. I feel like I don’t have the time I need to unwind despite having my own space.

So, I’m moving my office back home.

Newsjacking and You

bear of bad news

Okay, soooo I was on Facebook today and got sucked into reading an article posted on Entrepreneur.com related to newsjacking. What is newsjacking? In short, it’s where you take a relevant story and talk about it on your blog, website, podcast, or whatever. You know, get more people to see you on social media. Like anything that you may use to garner attention, it has good points and bad points.

The Pros of Newsjacking

Pro #1 – It’s not new. Seriously. Opinion pieces have always existed. The Internet is just one more place to mouth off. So, this isn’t a trend. It’s just something that, for some reason, someone thought it should be an article. Must be a slow news day. And look, I am using their method except I did not link to the outside source. It’s not hard to find. The article isn’t poorly written…I just don’t understand why something we’ve always done needs to be covered.

Pro #2 – It can get your regular audience to your site. Let’s face it. Sometimes our regular readers don’t want to read the same ole’ shit day in and day out. If you don’t give people what they want to read (key that is also a con), they may not come back. They may not share. They may unsubscribe.

Pro #3 – You get the opportunity to write something amazing and go viral. Yesterday, I was bopping around on Twitter. Yeah, big surprise, huh…and of course my timeline is full of writers sending out their links on the Bill Cosby mistrial (news flash: the jury considered what the judge allowed them to consider and applied the law as instructed – they couldn’t come to a conclusion. They did not do anything wrong.) and other recent events. If you’re going to newsjack, you have the opportunity to #1 – link to a really good site in the hopes of increasing your SERP and maybe even reaching out to the original reporter / site and say “Hey I’m using your article as a source” and hopefully scoring a reply or a retweet and #2 – showcase your reasoning and writing ability (please, for the love of pancakes have the ability to string together a paragraph that makes your readers feel like they haven’t wasted their limited time on this planet)…and maybe some well placed wit. Any opinion that you have should be backed by facts and sound reasoning. Not just because you feel like it or because you don’t like the way X works. By the way, this is the only type of “writing for exposure” that you should do…on your own blog….because as one of my best friends loves to say, people die from exposure.

Pro #4 – It is one less time that you have to figure out what in the fuck you’re going to post. I write for a living. Writing for other people is easy. Yet, by the time I’m done, I’m tired and I don’t always feel like creating more content…and I damn sure won’t farm it out. So, newsjacking provides a way for you to have some content (like this post which, again, is an example of newsjacking).

Cons of Newsjacking

Con #1 – You run the risk of alienating your audience particularly if you’re the face of a business. Most of my friends know that when it comes to stupidity in politics, I am an equal opportunity hater. I’m fairly liberal considering my state, but even my liberal friends think I am pretty conservative. I consider myself a moderate. One thing you’ll notice if you look me up online is that practically none of my pieces are subversive when it comes to politics. There are one or two related to court decisions and such, but they are backed by reason. I don’t call any names. I write like an adult…because that’s what I am. Getting political is bad for business. You run the risk of alienating your audience as well as turning off potential clients. So, if you’re going to newsjack…make reason and logic your friends. Keep the name calling to zero. I wasn’t crazy about Obama, but I never named called. I criticized policies. I don’t particularly like Trump. I don’t name call. I criticize his policies. With that being said, I don’t do it in a space such as this where practically anyone can find it. People hire other people because they like them and want to do business with them…they feel a connection. It’s hard to feel connected if you’re acting like a jackass instead of using logic.

Con #2 – You could write something that pisses people off and you could go viral.  Going viral isn’t always a good thing. Do you wanna be made into a meme? Because that’s how you get made into a meme. Yeah, I know…freedom of speech. Blah, blah, blah. Keep in mind that freedom of speech has limitations including, but not limited to, facing legal ramifications if you’re spreading lies…and don’t try to hide behind some sort of legal loophole. I know they exist…but the likelihood that an average person will properly hide behind one is pretty much zero. Seems like a good way to lose business or to be ran out of business.

Con #3 – Dated content.  Evergreen content is your friend. You can use it for other things. Dated content? Not so much. Cosby’s mistrial isn’t going to give you extra content. Writing about newsjacking? I could rewrite this. I could podcast about it. I could video it. I could take each point and make it its own post.

If you’re gonna newsjack, pay close attention to what you are doing and do it right. Don’t open yourself up to the potential loss of business.

How Did I Do It? Motherfuckin’ Time Management, That’s How!

time management

Usually, when people find out I work from home (like, legitimately work from home) I either hear:

No one can really work from home and make money (says someone who couldn’t do it).

or

Oh my gawwddd that is so greeaattt….how did you do it?

Motherfuckin’ Time Management, That’s How

That is seriously the answer. Granted, it’s not as detailed as some would like.

Obsessed with Time Management Since Childhood

One of my first memories is staring at a clock. Next to that clock was a calendar hanging on the wall. I was four years old. It was summer. I was hot. I was tired of listening to my parents fight. I was staring at the clock and the calendar trying to determine exactly how long it would be until I turned 18. When you’re four, that’s a long long lonnnggg way off. (Of course, when you’re almost 39, 25 doesn’t seem that long ago…) Pro parenting tip: little children should not be so miserable.

I recognized that was essentially forever. And a forever filled with constant fighting and childhood abuse didn’t seem like a good time. I recognized early on that the more I knew about people, life, and things, the better off I would be. I started tagging along with my grandma on her paper route (we lived in a small town). I walked to my great grandmother’s (across town) while my parents were high. I went to the library. I played in a rock quarry (another pro parenting tip: know where your fucking kid is – rock quarries aren’t safe). I followed around my older brother and older cousins. I read books (yes, at four).

Once I started school, I did anything I could to not be home. In elementary school, this meant taking on extra projects. We lived in the ghetto (yes, really) and I started collecting broken electronics. I learned quickly how to disassemble and fix circuit boards. I sold the parts. I started babysitting at eight (the other kid was a year old – his mom was a manager at Mazzio’s and I had him alone for 12 hours a day. Who’s bright idea was that?!)

In junior high, I joined Odyssey of the Mind. I joined the Scholastic Bowl. I joined the Great American Smoke Out. I was in orchestra. Again, anything to fill my time, learn, and not be at home.

In high school I was in JROTC, rifle team, and the color guard (the one from JROTC). I started working full time. I was always reading something.

I wanted to get as much done in as little time as possible…but the things I did all had to be done to my own personal standard of excellence.

Of course, I was in high school in the mid 90s…we didn’t have waste time on social media. The Internet wasn’t a big thing. It was expensive. We had dial up modems and BBSs. That was pretty much the extent of it.

Freelancing and Time Management

Now I freelance full time. By full time I mean whatever hours I have to put in to get the job done. Could be 4 hours. Could be 16 hours. When I started freelancing, I taught college part time and I worked in a law firm part time. Don’t forget to throw the kids and husband into that mix.

If you want to work from home, you simply must learn how to get control of your time. It’s really that simple. It means setting a schedule and working that schedule. It means doing whatever it takes to be successful. It means that you spend far less time on social media fucking around (and most of you reading this are gonna say, “But I’m advertising!” No you’re not. Stop lying to yourself. You’re fucking around).

You have to get your tendency to procrastinate under control. Or you will not succeed. There is no boss standing over your shoulder making sure you’re working and not surfing Facebook. By the way, if you’re fucking around on social media when you should be working, it’s theft. You’re robbing yourself and you are robbing your employer. If you can’t be trusted to do your job when someone is there standing over you, you damn sure can’t do it at home.

If you have time to sit around on social media, you have time to find potential gigs. You have time to write proposals. You have time to start and build a business. You make time for whatever you want to get out of life. And what I wanted to get out of life was to have a peaceful life. Freelancing helps me do that…but it wouldn’t be possible without time management.

By the way, I started work early this morning. I was done by noon. I’ve even made crazy bread. Yet, the only crazy thing is how much people would get done if they would force themselves (don’t give me the ADHD excuse if you’re an adult – learn to focus…I did…without medication). To not chase your dreams? That’s crazy. To put social media nonsense over accomplishing your goals? That’s crazy. Not learning to manage your time and instead just flitting around? That’s crazy because you won’t get where you want to be in life…and that’s all on you.