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You’re a Kenyan who’s keen on succeeding as an online freelancer working from home. You want to learn how to surmount all the distractions around you or at least learn how to work around them. Tunakuget.

There’s an allure to the work-from-home lifestyle. No rushed early mornings. No rush hour traffic – your commute is reduced to the distance between your bed and the computer.

Hapa hamna njaro ya ati kulinyesha traffic ikashikana halafu wasee wa mat wakahike fare more than double.

Si lazima ushuke kwa kitanda. Unaeza shika hiyo lapi ukiwa tu kwa bed na works itambe.

Some people take to the work-from-home lifestyle like fish to water, while others have a steeper learning curve.

Freelancing success boils down to self-discipline and having a steady stream of available jobs.

Family members don’t make it easy either.

Initially, they’re sceptical about your job and won’t take it seriously.

“Since you’re just in the hao, si you just do the dishes?”

Your response to such distractions makes or breaks your freelancing career.

A work-from-home situation is akin to being thrown into the deep end of the pool – either swim or drown.

Freelancing Isn’t Unstructured

Clients who engage remote workers are acutely aware that distractions pose a significant threat to their projects, timelines, and budget.

To avoid being short-changed, clients resort to tracking your working habits and documenting progress.

For instance, if you’re using Upwork, one of the most popular sites with Kenyan freelancers, the client might have you on a milestone-based contract.

In this case, you must complete the work before the deadline.

The client won’t track your progress on a daily or hourly basis; they just leave you to your own devices and expect you will respect the deadlines.

Alternatively, they might have you on an hourly rate where they track your input through a timesheet tool.

Tracking Productivity

Here, the client uses time tracking software, which you must install on your computer to track your time whenever you’re on the clock.

The software accesses your screen and will periodically take screenshots of your desktop.

Upwork’s time tracker takes screengrabs every 10 minutes whenever you’re logged on and working on a client’s project.

At the end of the week, the software sends all the screenshots to the client for review.

The client sorts through the screengrabs, often contrasting the amount of work you delivered versus the time you’re billing them for.

Naturally, a client will only pay for the time you spent actively working on their project.

Any screenshots showing you binging on The Churchill Show reruns on YouTube will be readily discarded.

Worse still, such screenshots earn you a black mark.

The client may not only fail to pay you for the time but may choose to terminate the contract.

At that point, you only have yourself to blame for the lost income.

Or maybe it’s your inability to overcome distractions?

Rather than allow distractions to ruin such a lucrative opportunity, bolster your ability to overcome the enchanting siren calls.

Beware of Time Vampires

Fibre optic internet networks provide unlimited high-speed internet at nominal fees.

Internet companies, such as Safaricom, Faiba, Zuku, and more, boast internet speeds higher than 3 Mbps.

From streaming live premier league games and movies to roasting people in #KOT Twitter, you can do it all.

Or get sucked in by the juicy gossip on sites such as Tuko, Mpasho, or Ghafla.

While enjoyable, these activities are proven time vampires that will suck the productivity right out of your day.

Use a Productivity App

Unlimited hi-speed internet can be quite distracting, but you can overcome this problem with the help of productivity apps such as Rescue Time.

This tool tracks the hours you spend on each open application (MS Word, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) on your computer.

You get to review how you spent the entire day, which is the first step in identifying and countering distractions.

The app also lets you block distracting websites during working hours and set reminders to help you focus on the work.

Running Rescue Time during the first few months as a freelancer greatly improves productivity, creates excellent work routines, and overcomes distractions.

The lite version of this paid app is free for life.

Switch off the TV

Working with background music is acceptable, at least to some people, but having the TV on as you work is a catastrophe.

The constant flickering of the screen will have you stealing glances.

If you’re looking at the TV, you’re not fully committed to the task at hand and you might only do mediocre work.

Alternatively, you might end up watching an entire episode of your favourite show.

If you’re keen on growing your career as a remote worker, you mustn’t take chances with the TV — it only serves to ruin your productivity.

But What If You Can’t Turn It Off?

Depending on your living situation, you may not have control over the set.

Rather than inconvenience everyone else, opt to work from another part of the house.

If that’s not possible – single rooms and bedsitters manenos – think outside the box.

Work from a friend’s house or office. At the very least, invest in a good pair of earphones.

Alternatively, you can go to a public library near you.

The Kenya National Library Services charge a measly 20 shilling for an entire day at their facilities, including free Wi-Fi

Manage Your Breaks

Tapping away at your keyboard or staring at your computer screen for long hours is not only tedious but also unhealthy.

A well-deserved break is beneficial to both your health and productivity.

Breaks give your mind and body a chance to rejuvenate in readiness for the next productivity bout.

However, a 15-minute break can morph into an extended rest spanning several hours.

If you’re on a time tracker, taking long breaks can cost you a client.

You see, time trackers monitor both mouse and keyboard movements as well as idle time.

Having too much idle time on your timesheet leads the client to conclude that you’re not reliable, earning you a summary dismissal.

While most idle time isn’t paid and therefore won’t cost your client money, it can still muddle the delivery on time-sensitive projects.

Timing Your Breaks

Set that alarm: A 15 minute breather is sufficient to refresh your mind after a gruelling session but will fly by before you know it unless you set an alarm.

Don’t be tempted to snooze the alarm when it goes off. Rather, get back to your desk and grind away until the next break.

Schedule your breaks tactfully: There are no hard rules about scheduling breaks, so you can structure them as you deem fit.

Allow enough time between breaks to let you finish a particular task or at the end of your attention span to keep your mind from wandering as you work.

Establish Boundaries with Friends and Family

Most people in your life might not get that working remotely comes with deadlines.

Or that your clients are depending on you to solve pressing problems that impact their lives and businesses.

Put Your Foot Down

You need to make it clear to everyone in your life your online job is your bread and butter. It supports your lifestyle and pays you real money.

In that regard, it’s just as valuable their day jobs.

Impress upon them you’re not always available for errands or chitchat.

As much as you sympathize with your neighbour’s need for a babysitter, let them know your livelihood comes first.

Take Charge of Your Freelance Career

Ukitaka kuthrive kwa hii industry, lazima u-overcome distractions na unfanyie client job venye anataka.

Dedicated sites kama list lucrative jobs from vetted and reliable clients on their job board.

The best part? These services are free and you will incur no charges whatsoever. 

Photo by Christina / CC BY



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Small Revolution

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.