How to Work from Home: A Short Guide Featuring 10+ Proven Tools

Many of us are facing the question how to work from home? With the right approach and tools you can accomplish as much from your house or apartment as in the office.

I've worked from home for years as a freelance journalist, a copywriter for a large software company, and more recently while running my site Become a Writer Today.

My story is hardly unique.

More than 57% of workers have a flexible schedule, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number has grown exponentially since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Experienced home-based workers are independent, self-motivated, and focused. If this describes you, how can you get started with remote working and find jobs? And what equipment do you need?

Let's dive in.

What Kind of Work Can I Do From Home?

Remote working is ideal for writers, authors, web designers, interpreters, teachers or tutors, graphic designers, editors, transcriptionists and more.

Basically, anyone engaged in knowledge or creative work can earn a good living or build a meaningful career from their house or apartment.

How to Work from Home

Working from home is relatively easy once you follow a few simple steps. They'll get you through a lockdown and prepare for the office or embrace this way of working over the long-term.

Establish a clear reason why you want a remote job

The coronavirus global pandemic forced many people to work from home out of necessity rather than by choice. But what about when life returns to normalcy?

Is working from home a short-or long-term career goal? Remote work offers a level of independence not possible in a traditional office setting, but self-motivation is key. No one is going to check what you're doing.

I wanted to work from home to eliminate the commute and find more time for projects like writing. I also dislike large offices, although some extroverts I know prefer them.

Set Ground Rules for Yourself

What ground rules will you establish to ensure your remote work career succeeds? Effective remote workers know what their time is worth and set hard boundaries about the types of projects they'll work on. They also set their environment up for productive remote work. Despite the cliche, they rarely work in bed or while wearing a pyjamas.

Create Your Ideal Work Schedule

What does your ideal work from home schedule look like? Productive home workers follow a daily schedule. They avoid letting work spill out into their free time or the weekends.

I'd recommend mapping out your ideal week using Google calendar and blocking booking work hours for admin, calls, deep work, and so on. Don't forget your weekly review.

Get Dressed

It's fun to take a Zoom call while just out of bed or wearing a pyjamas. Unfortunately, it's also a bad idea. Not getting dressed for the day sends a message to yourself to switch off and relax.

You don't need to wear a shirt and tie but dress appropriately in comfortable clothes. Plus, you won't have to worry if a client or a boss requests and impromptu Zoom call.

Get the Right equipment and Workspace

If you're lucky enough to have a house or apartment with enough space, set up a dedicated area for work. That way, you can avoid a home job spilling out into your personal life.

If that's an issue, try and confine work to one part of where you live, like a kitchen table. Invest in a site of noise-canceling headphones will help if you're working alongside a partner or flatmate.

Get a Good Internet Connection

Access to the internet is your primary tool as a remote worker and means of connection with the outside world. Invest in a fast connection and an appropriate router than can support high-bandwidth from multiple users.

I also recommend having a backup internet connection, like a mobile phone hotspot, in case something goes wrong prior to a deadline.

Kill Distractions

It's much easier to get distracted while working from home thanks to distractions like television, games, social media, the internet and even family. Reduce or remove as many of these as you can from where you work.

If you're unsure why you keep getting distracted, consider tracking yourself with dedicated software for a few days. For example, I work from home in a small office. I took out the games console so I'm not tempted to play while working.

Plan your Breaks

Many home workers complain about working all day and night. However, this type of working usually supports more flexibility and control over a schedule. Use lunch breaks to get out and go for a walk or a nap. The former offers a break for sitting down all the day. The latter offers time to recharge.

Similarly, avoid working during periods meant for time-off like late at night or the weekends. It's a good idea to make an extra effort on planning to meet others. Social interaction can easily wane while at home all day!

Manage Your Communication Tools

Email, web conferencing and instant messaging are massive distractions. They're also the staple of most home workers part of a remote team.

Try and use these tools at set times rather than having an instant messaging or email client open all day. It's impossible to engage in deep work in you keep responding to pings and information requests.

Similarly, if possible, turn off email and instant messaging notifications on your phone. You can also restrict access to these apps at certain times of the day. Unfortunately, your ability to do this may be dictated by company culture or a work from home policy. Explain when you're most productive to a manager if that's an issue.

Email and status updates while in bed are also a big no-no, as you'll find it harder to fall asleep at night time.

Need more advice? Check out our detailed list of working from home tips.

How Do I Find Legitimate Work From Home Jobs?

Discover work from home job opportunities by tapping into your professional network and building a portfolio online. Over the past few months, I tried several services employers use. If you need work today, consider using Solid Gigs, Bonsai, and Flexjobs for your job search.

Flexjobs is particularly useful if you're a freelancer working because finding the next work at home-based jobs is almost as important as having the current one. It costs approximately $15 per month, although Flexjobs regularly discounts this price for remote workers.

Read this Flexjobs review.

Also check out my list of writing jobs.

What Are the Best Work from Home Tools?

Most work from home or WFH jobs require a desk, computer and somewhere you can focus. If a home office is unavailable, create a space free of distractions like a television, phone or game console. You'll need several other tools too.

1. Video-conferencing

Zoom

What it's for: Zoom is used to collaborate and meet with people around the world, including team members, employers, clients, and interviewees. 

Video conferencing tools like Zoom enable you to be part of a wider team, even while working remotely. You can see each other, join in discussions, share documents and collaborate. I also use Zoom to record interviews for articles I'm researching.

Cost: A 30-minute Zoom call is free. Longer calls and recordings start at $14.99 per month. 

2. Proofreading

Grammarly

What it's for:  This writing tool allows you to find and fix errors in your writing quickly and easily and contains plugins for Google Docs, Word, and more.

Cost: The basic version of Grammarly is free, and the premium version costs $29.99 a month. 

Read this Grammarly review.

3. Project management

Trello

What it's for: Trello allows workers to collaborate with others and manage complicated projects. It allows groups to interact on projects faster than email. I use the free version to manage projects for my site, Become a Writer Today.

Cost: Pricing options range from free to Enterprise level, at $20.83 monthly. 

4. Email and collaboration

Google Workspace (Formerly G-Suite) 

What it's for: Google Workspace is a comprehensive set of tools that includes – Drive, Gmail, Meet, Docs, Calendar, Sheets, and more. This suite should take care of your word processing, email, spreadsheet, and even basic video conferencing. 

Cost: Pricing options per user range from $6 each month for Basic to $25 per month for Enterprise. 

5. Your computer

Best laptop: 13 inch MacBook Air (2020 model)

What it's for: The MacBook Air is an ideal portable laptop. It has enough power to support most remote job tasks including email, writing, and research. 

Cost: Pricing starts at $949. 

Best desktop: 27 inch iMac

What it's for: The larger screen of this iMac enables me to open two windows at once. I also find it useful for self-editing, as I can open two documents side-by-side. 

Cost: Pricing starts at $1299. 

6. Mouse and Keyboard

Best mouse: Logitech MX Master 3

Best keyboard: Logitech MX Keys

What it's for: This mouse and keyboard helped me with repetitive strain injury. It also includes some extra customisable buttons and feels more sturdy than a Magic Mouse.

Cost: Mouse starts at $106. Keyboard starts at $159.

Also see this roundup of the best keyboards.

7. Noise-canceling headphones

Sony Noise Canceling Headphones WH1000XM3

What it's for: Noise-canceling headphones allow you to focus on your work, even if your environment is distracting. I have an earlier version of these headphones, which I use to listen to ambient music while working.

Cost: This set of noise-canceling headphones costs $348. 

8. Light

BenQ Blue Genie E-Reading LED Light or a Banker's Light

What it's for: Proper lighting is an essential part of a workspace, particularly if you're reading text or proofing. The BenQ Blue Genie LED Light is one good option. I also like a banker's light because of its old-school design. 

Cost: $59-230 

9. A password manager

Remote workers tend to use more software than office workers as they have to collaborate. 

What it's for: If you find managing passwords a headache, LastPass and 1Password both are useful. 

Cost: LastPass is free. The premium version costs $2 per month. The more feature-rich 1Password costs $64.99, but you can take advantage of a free trial first.

Both are useful additions to your toolbox, but I find 1Password easier to use.

10. Other remote working equipment

You'll need a good pen and a desk.

A large desk is good for confining work to one place in your house or apartment. Any pen will do, but a fountain pen is more pleasing to use than a cheap ballpoint.

Also, remember to invest in a good internet connection! In fact, I have two in case the first one drops.

Read my guides about the best pens and the best writing desks.

The Joys of Remote Work

Remote work offers independence and flexibility, but it takes time, planning and the right equipment.

Although working from home can be challenging, I would never go back to an office. Independent, self-motivated workers can easily build a career at home.

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