“Ssshhh! Don’t say a word. There’s someone at the front door!” I hissed at my husband.
For the third time that week, one of our friends dropped by unexpectedly to shoot the breeze and see what we were up to. I was busy working and didn’t want them to know we were home (though our cars in the driveway were probably a dead giveaway).
I normally welcome visits from friends and family — but not in the middle of a workday.
I wish someone had told me when I started out as a work-from-home professional just how important it is to set boundaries for my daily schedule; I found out the hard way that a lot of people think anyone who works at home is free to babysit, pop out for coffee or do favors for others at any time.
For most work-from-home professionals I know, nothing could be further from the truth. People who work remotely for a company are expected to be available during their scheduled hours, not off running errands with a friend.
Freelancers, consultants and other people who run a business out of their home usually don’t get paid when they aren’t working and certainly aren’t generating income when they’re chatting with friends.
I know many of our readers work at home, so I asked our Penny Hoarder Facebook Communitywhat they wish they had known when they started out as a work-from-home professional.
Since work-from-home days are part of the awesome benefits we get here at The Penny Hoarder, I also asked my co-workers what avoidable things trip them up when they work remotely.
Here’s what I learned.
Work-From-Home Professionals Weigh In
It’s Easy to Forget the World Exists
“I am definitely an introvert, but I was amazed by how quickly I began to miss my normal day-to-day interactions with other people,” says Jeff Proctor.
“For me, working from home actually made me place a higher priority on everything outside of my work: going to the gym regularly, planning weekend trips in advance, etc. Basically, I had to make sure the entirety of my life didn’t unfold within my own house!”
Time Zones Are a Pain
Josh Darby, a developer at The Penny Hoarder, says, “The main thing I wish I realized beforehand was that time zones can be a terrible thing.
“The team I worked with were all based in California so I was consistently working 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. just to fit their schedule and finish same-day projects.”
Boundaries Are Your Best Friend
“The aspect that sometimes causes issues for me has to do with setting boundaries with my family,” Gus E Layla Kong told us.
“While my schedule does allow me the flexibility to throw in a quick load of laundry, or drop a package off at the post office, sometimes there is the expectation that ‘mom is home,’ therefore she can [run errands], and it won’t be a problem. I think it’s important for family members to realize that when I’m working, that needs to be my main focus.”
The True Cost of Working From Home
“I wish I’d known how much time I’d spend chasing down work, and how much of my time is unpaid,” says Esperanza Baca Gonzales. “I’m still not convinced this is better than just working a predictable job outside the home.”
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
“It’s easy to lose track of your hours and quote less for a job because you are working from the comforts of home,” says Penny Hoarder video manager Michael House.
“I wish I knew the importance of keeping a log of my hours and charging accordingly. Time is money and when you work from home alone often it’s easy to lose perspective.”
Say Yes to the Dress [Shirt]
Jessica Szabo says, “I have found that the ‘[it’s great to stay in] pajamas all day’ part is not necessarily true. I tried that, and learned quickly that I have trouble focusing and taking my work seriously when I’m dressed to lounge around. I also work online in an environment that does not require me to go on webcam… [so] I can wear a much more casual outfit than I’d need if I were going into the office for that amount of time. But I still get up and get dressed for work.”
“Often times it is easy to get distracted because you get too cozy. It is easy to mix home and work, which is not necessarily a good thing,” says Taylor Nix. “Also, sometimes it is really hard to find a really quiet environment for focus.”
A Case for Office Space
“Having a separate office space is important,” says Krystall Mirdad.
“I’ve been at it for years and since I work in my living room (or even bed if I’m sick) the line has blurred between home and work. I don’t feel that relaxing sense [of] being away from my job, I feel as though if I’m sitting on my couch I should be on my computer and working.”
Forget Phone Fear
Lexie Machado says she wishes she’d known “that the phone is a key tool to make a connection with a potential client and that talking on the phone actually isn’t as scary as my inner introvert led me to believe.“
Food for Thought
My fellow writer Carson Kohler says, “I wish someone had reminded me about the importance of keeping the fridge stocked with healthy food to keep my energy levels up.
“I also I wish I’d known how hard it is to remember to eat. It’s easy to forget when you’re sucked into your own little world at home.”
I’m Lovin’ It
Tracie Crisante sums up what a lot of people had to say about working from home.
“What do I wish I knew? How much I would love it.”
Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She once hid in her kitchen for 10 minutes so an unexpected caller wouldn’t see her through the window. Seriously, people. Call first.