Until the last few years with the Novellistas, I had been working from home since Hurricane Katrina told me I had to pack up and find another way to make money. I was an art director at a major ad firm in New Orleans when they laid me off due to the aftermath. So I stayed in Nashville and found a few restaurants in New Orleans that wanted to stay with me and helped them get through that period of time. At first, it was a struggle not being able to meet with them, but as time went on I figured some things out. Most of my clients these days are in different parts of the country. There are even a few I’ve never met in person.
So now, you’re not working in an office, and you’re at home trying to avoid this virus. It’s quite the switch, and you want to make sure things keep rolling right along, and there’s also the fact that you want to still be a valuable asset to your team. There are a lot of things to consider if you want to make sure you stay ahead, along with just putting your head down and doing your work.
What’s the secret? Finding your space, over-communicating, and being available.
Find your “Feng shui”
Create a space for yourself that works for your workload. Hopefully, you can close it off from the rest of the family. If that’s the case, closing the door will create the privacy you need and also get you in the frame of mind you need to get things done. It also keeps the kids screaming down to a nice dull rumble. No door? Create some kind of partition or something that will feel like your space. If you can create an area that feels like your space, it will help you own your productivity.
“Can you send me the file we talked about”
Over-communication is vital. Write your text and emails to clients, or team members, as if they don’t have any clue what you’re talking about. Emails that say “Can you send me that file for that job” are confusing online. Even if your team member is working on the same job, they could be in a different headspace at the time, so let them know exactly what it is you need. “Send me the media file for job 23-222” works much better, prevents confusion, makes their job a little easier, and prevents the back and forth email, which would ultimately end with a phone call from the person you were trying to reach saying “dude, what file are you talking about?!!!”
“I’m here if you need me”
In the beginning, two things are going to happen, people are going to pester you with questions, and people are going to fall off the face of the earth. Don’t be either one.
Keep your text app open, your phone on, and your notifications on, so that you can quickly get messages and prevent being out of the loop. This can be difficult since you can’t get work completed with people constantly texting, emailing or calling. So If you need to hunker down without distractions, let the team know through your apps that you will be offline for a certain time and then set all your apps to “away”.
Set a Timer
A good practice is to set a timer while you’re away so you can get back online when you told your team you would. Google chat, Slack, and iChat, are good tools to use for quick communications. For overall work, there are a ton of programs like Asana, Mavenlink and Base Camp to keep your projects all in order. You’re probably using these at your job anyway, but for the freelancer, it’s a good tool to have so you can see your jobs at the office or when you’re away from the office.
Check-in Before You Check Out
If you have a team, it’s good to do a check-in in the morning or at least once a day to be on the same page for the projects that you’re all working on together. You can do this through your text apps, or have scheduled calls through Zoom, Free Conference Call, Skype or other virtual meeting apps. Google chats can also help keep the team together.
The main thing, of course, is getting the work done. But working to make it feel like you’re still in the office with the team is going to keep you, and your co-workers, sane throughout this strange and unsettling time.