The number of Americans who work from home keeps going up. More than 3.1 million of us worked from home in 2011, according to a study conducted by globalworkplaceanalytics.com, and that doesn’t include the self-employed. But with the freedom of working from home comes the added responsibility of staying organized and maintaining self-discipline without a boss breathing over your neck. We’re in a transitional period where autonomy is still a relatively new concept, and most of us are used to the structure imposed by traditional school and work environments. But times are changing—here’s how to change with them.
Of course, you should be customizing your resume to the job you are applying for, but try creating a timeline that records when you filled out online job applications. This way, you can make follow-up calls in a timely manner and know at a glance how many positions you’ve applied for. Search through job boards like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Craigslist and your local newspaper’s job boards. Consider revisiting your alma mater’s career center for guidance from professionals and to connect to resources like career fairs and resume-writing services. Start a blog or website using a platform like WordPress, so clients can easily verify your talent and reach out to you for job opportunities.
When something sounds too good to be true, it often is. As a general rule, you should meet every job opportunity with a level of skepticism. You’ve probably seen those scam advertisements that read something like, “Single mother makes six-figure salary working from home.” These kinds of scams can even slip through the cracks of credible job resource sites, so be cautious. Do your research before you invest your time and efforts into a job opportunity. Research any company that contacts you. Check with the local consumer protection agency, and search the Better Business Bureau, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites.
Stay on the Lookout
Many work-from-home opportunities will be short-term, which means you should actively seek new opportunities to replace your job when the project is over. Continually be on the lookout for newer, better opportunities, even when you’re busy. Check out resources like Indeed.com to stay in the loop, and look into joining a nearby worker’s union or professional organization in your industry to keep up to date on new jobs in your field.
Don’t Overdo It
When you set your own schedule, it’s just as tempting to procrastinate as it is to overdo it. After all, you control when you work, and if it’s on a commission-type basis, why not work 12 hours a day to really make bank? It sounds good in theory, but only if you’re a machine. Overloading your schedule increases your risk of burning out, and can often be followed by days of zero motivation and exhaustion. So, the method is not only less productive, but actually takes a harsher toll on your mind and body. Download time management apps like Evernote, Dropbox and OmniFocus to keep up with your schedule without overdoing it.
Unlike a traditional workplace where job opportunities are neatly categorized by departments and distributed among employees, at-home workers don’t have these same inherent organization tactics. These four tips can make your transition to this new work environment as smooth as possible. However, don’t be discouraged if you don’t become an expert overnight. Some rules will be learned along the way, so make sure to trust your creativity and instincts with each rising problem.