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You get to set your own hours, choose your own office space, give yourself a raise, and even pick your clients. Freelancing sounds like the dream, right?

Well, it can be, but there are a few things involved in working for yourself that warrant a lifestyle change. Since you’ll be managing yourself, you’ll need to step up on your personal discipline and organizational skills.

Goodbye Structure, Hello Chaos

You decide when to wake up and take breaks (if any), and the length and intensity of your workday.

If you’re used to an office job laden with regulations about everything, re-adjusting to a life devoid of them can be intimidating at first.

Despite this glaring challenge, this remote worker proves that it’s possible:

“I was out of a job for a couple of months last year and structured my “work” day as if I was still clocking in. I’d wake up with the rest of the house (working wife and kids in school), get them out the door, go for a run, eat, clean up, then report to work – which was job search activities. I’d stop at noon to eat lunch and play with the dog, then start dinner at 4:30. Unless a hot lead came up late, I’d stay away from the computer in the evening. If I ever get the chance to work from home, I’m definitely using a similar schedule.”


  • Plan for and start your day right. Morning routines alert your brain that it’s time to work and allow you to gather your thoughts before you plunge into the day’s tasks. You can accomplish this by getting dressed as though you were going to the office, setting aside time to meditate or journal, and  going for a walk around the block.
  • Chunk your working hours. We are generally wired to focus on any given task for about an hour to an hour and a half. Afterward, we need a 15- to 20-minute break so we can recharge enough to perform highly in the next task. So split your day into four or five 90-minute windows. That way, you can efficiently carry out four tasks in one workday.

Nobody’s Favorite Word: Discipline

A common assumption is that working from home entails plenty of free time for binge-watching your favorite shows while gorging on snacks. This can quickly become your reality when intrinsic motivation is lacking.

Part of what makes an online career so riveting is the opportunity to manage yourself. This doesn’t have to be a daunting task, it simply depends on how dedicated you are to carving out the best career for yourself.

Candice gives her two cents:

“Yes, distractions are everywhere, but you need to know how to deal with it. Usually, I work 8-10 hours a day, I get easily tired and sleepy. So, it’s really important to take a break this will allow me to energize my mind and body.

As a mother, I do a lot of daily chores and it’s really important to manage my time by setting a schedule of the chores I do before I start working.”


  • Set boundaries. With most jobs, there is always something that needs to get done. This requires you to be disciplined about setting a boundary between your work and personal life. If you intend to work from home for a long time, you have to make it into a sustainable lifestyle. And this requires you to set aside time to do your chores outside your working hours.
  • Use a time tracking device. Rescue Time is a useful tool that keeps track of how many hours you spend on one application (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.). So you can gauge your level of productivity at the end of a “busy” day and make necessary adjustments. It also allows you to block websites that you’re particularly susceptible to and even set alerts to remind yourself to get back to work.
  • Televisions and Phones. Do you really need to watch that show or respond to that message? Remember that texting can quickly become a rabbit hole that goes on for hours if you’re not careful. Schedule breaks when you can respond to messages and reward yourself with an episode or two of a TV show at the end of your workday. You don’t have to give up these simple pleasures.

Do You Have a “Real Job”?

From the outside looking in, it appears you may have time for a longer lunch break or impromptu babysitting appointments when in fact, the workload could very well be the same as if you had an office job.

Although signals such as locked doors, “do not disturb” signs, and putting on a pair of headphones may give your family a hint, some family members are unbearably persistent.

This is especially true when kids are involved. As Chris Brantner of “Mr. Cable Cutter” says:

“I have two children, one of whom is 7 and is in elementary school, and one is 17 in high school. I have a home office I work out of but when they are home, they love to randomly come in and say hi or ask for things. I love seeing them (one of the reasons working from home is great is because I get to spend more time with my family). However, it can be difficult to keep enough separation so that I get things done. I’ve had to have talks with them about ‘work time’ and make sure they understand when it’s okay to come knocking on the door and when it’s not.”


  • Create a personalized work schedule. This allows you to complete tasks effectively without the need to cut into your personal or family time. This will help you stay on track without letting both worlds collide. Keeping consistent hours every day will prompt the entire household to fall in step with your routine.
  • Bring your family into your world. Take some time to educate your family members on both the demanding and fulfilling aspects of your work so that they can develop a vested interest in your success or at least understand when you have to work longer.
  • Change location. Intentionally work from a library or a coffee shop once or twice a week so that the nature of the importance of your work is cemented within your family members’ minds.

What Online Career?

The concept of working from the comfort of your home and somehow achieving the same level of productivity (if not more) can seem bewildering at first.

How much work can I actually get done when no one’s watching? What about all the distractions? Is the pay sufficient? Does my work really matter? Am I allowed to take breaks?

These are just a few of the many questions rummaging through the minds of many newbie remote workers. Yet there is absolutely no shame in not having a clue about where to start. In fact, wasn’t it Steve Jobs who challenged us to “Stay Hungry and Stay Foolish”?


  • Enroll in an online training course. Luckily there are seasoned individuals who, through trial and error, have fortified knowledge on the dos and don’ts of an online career. Katrina McKinnon is one of those individuals, who has developed a step-by-step guide dubbed “7 Habits for Online Success”. In this course, you will learn which ‘truths’ will build a successful career and income within a freelance lifestyle.
  • Read more books! You will learn quite early in the game that it isn’t how much work you do but how well you do it that sets you apart. In order to perfect your craft, you’ll need to be more proactive about obtaining the necessary tools, often through reading. While it may be uncomfortable at first, consistent practice and exposure to information will make this online thing feel like second nature.

An online career requires a certain “next-level” personal discipline to still meet the same targets you would at a quintessential office job. Being successful at it means going through a long learning curve. However, if you can stick through it, over time the rewards will outweigh the struggles.

Photo by Visual Tag Mx / CC BY




I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of CopySmiths and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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