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Make Money

How to work from home in 9 easy steps

Working from home is now the norm for so many of us – but it's actually a lot harder than it looks. Here are the best ways to stay motivated, productive and focused when working at home.

woman's hand at laptop with coffee and a book

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, loads of universities have moved their teaching online and there's been a huge rise in work from home jobs. Because of this, it's becoming so common for our homes to be where we eat, sleep and work.

While the possibility of 'going to work/uni' by simply rolling out of bed to get your laptop sounds dreamy, studying and working from home can have its challenges.

If you're needing to WFH, be it as a student, as a freelancer or in a remote job, these tips will help you work from home as easily and effectively as possible.

Interested in working from home on a freelance basis? Our in-depth guide will talk you through how to approach it.

9 best ways to work at home

Try these top tips to work from home successfully:

  1. Set a routine for working from home

    red alarm clock

    Credit: samritk – Shutterstock

    You might be revelling in the fact that you don't have the mega-strict hours of a normal job, but the danger of this is that a lack of routine can really mess with your motivation and productivity.

    Assign yourself fixed hours for starting the day, taking breaks and ending your day. If you don't, you'll find yourself working over lunch breaks and having to stay behind on your laptop until 2am because you've procrastinated all day.

    And, if you can squeeze in a walk around the block or a jog outside before you start, that's even better.

    Treat working at home like you would a job where you have to show up at an office – don't work in your pyjamas. Although it might sound obvious, getting dressed every day will help boost your motivation and prevent you from lounging around in front of the TV all day.

  2. Find ways to stay motivated

    Ross from Friends looking motivated

    Credit: Warner Bros Television

    Having a job where you can work from the comfort of your bed definitely sounds amazing, but you need the self-discipline to not roll over and go back to sleep every morning.

    There will be no one to ring you up and leave angry messages if you don't show up for a shift (great!) and no one to tell you off for slacking halfway through the day (also great!).

    But this also means that no one has your back to say you really are a hard worker when you're failing to meet deadlines or turning in sub-standard work.

    You need to be your own boss when you work from home, and a hard-arse one at that.

    Your housemates may be playing a game of FIFA, and last night's photos may well have just hit Facebook, but if you don't stay focused, the quality and quantity of your work will take a hit. Resist!

  3. Manage your time on social media

    Phone with social media icons

    We spend so much time on our phones that your hand will instinctively reach into your pocket without you even noticing. Checking what your friends are doing on Instagram or what outrageous thing Donald Trump's said on Twitter is almost second nature.

    Social media is a massive distraction. Before you know it, you've watched 20 videos of cats meowing to Britney and half an hour has disappeared.

    Put your phone on silent and keep it lying face down. Or, better still, put it on aeroplane mode.

    This doesn't mean you have to go cold turkey all day. Social media is a great way of keeping up with what's going on in the world. But, make a rule of only checking it once every hour and staying on it for no more than three minutes at a time. Of course there's an app for this.

    There are even web browser extensions nowadays that will help keep you off Facebook and focused on raking in the cash.

  4. Don't spend too much time alone

    Student working at desk

    Credit: Atanas Bezov - Shutterstock

    In many ways, working from home as a student or in a job is so flexible that it can be the most social kind of work you can find. Meeting a friend for a coffee or inviting them over for lunch is easy as pie, and WFH tends to be a lot more flexible when it comes to your work/life balance.

    However, there's no denying that this can also be quite a lonely way to work. Be sure to make time for self-care, and try to meet up with others when you can.

    One thing we strongly recommend is getting out of the house and working in a local library or cafe so you get some human interaction.

    Don't underestimate how much of an impact it can have on your mental health and wellbeing to be sat alone staring at your computer for eight hours a day! The fresh air and chats with others will do you good.

  5. Don't work too many hours at home

    Cat sleeping

    When working involves sitting on your bum at home and using your computer, you're probably well aware of how quickly time can disappear before you know it.

    It's important that you give yourself a set number of work hours per day and stick to it. This is particularly the case if you have a part-time job alongside your degree.

    Most uni courses suggest a limit of 15 hours a week for any kind of term-time job so you can still concentrate on your studies.

    If you do a student job from home, make sure that you balance work and study as well as possible – otherwise, you could find yourself spending a lot of time stuck at your desk.

    It's probably better to aim for a lower number of work hours at first and then add a few more later if you think you can handle it.

  6. Become a self-starter

    Man on a laptop

    Credit: KaptureHouse – Shutterstock

    Although most universities and companies will give you as much support as they can while you adjust to remote working, that doesn't mean someone will be there to help you when it's 3am, you're shattered and you haven't the foggiest idea what you're meant to be working on.

    As part of the change to working conditions due to COVID-19, there will likely be a lot less face-to-face interaction between you and your tutor or employer. This means that help might only come in emails between nine and five, or in a scheduled video call.

    If you do run into a problem, there is, of course, the option of emailing someone. However, if you can, try and work it out by yourself first.

    You could try searching for answers to your query online, looking in textbooks, asking classmates and colleagues and doing trial and error until you reach the correct conclusion.

    Getting organised and planning your workload ahead will really help as it will give you plenty of time to deal with any problems that arise well in advance of your deadline.

  7. Resist the urge to binge eat when working from home

    Oprah Winfrey loves bread

    Credit: Weight Watchers

    Managing what you eat while you work can be tough. Having packets of biscuits and crisps lying around to graze on will only encourage binge eating.

    Be mindful of what and how much you're eating, and aim to stock up on brain fuel food. Having proper breakfasts and lunches (not just an apple or one slice of toast) will keep the urge to snack at bay.

    Preparing your meals the night before is also a good way to save time on cooking and make sure you stick to a healthy diet.

  8. Find the right work from home job for you

    step brothers interview in black tie

    Credit: Columbia Pictures

    If you would like to make money from home after or during your degree, and you've stocked up on tea and comfy pyjamas (of course), all that's left is... getting a job.

    Finding an online job requires just as much effort as finding any other type of job. Fail to take it seriously and you'll fail to make a profit.

    As a starting point, we've got our very own part-time job search engine. But, it's also worth checking out job sites, like this one which focuses on startups. As they may have fewer resources than bigger companies, startups are often keen to recruit remote workers.

    You could also check out our step-by-step guide to freelancing for everything you need to know, including tips on how to land different projects.

  9. Don't get conned by fake job adverts

    Fake news headline

    The mantra to remember when on the hunt for your dream stay-at-home job is: if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

    You can forget your dreams of a £70 an hour gig – unless you're very highly skilled or have a super niche skill to offer, you're not going to be making that much money at first.

    It seems that students and recent graduates are popular targets for online job fraud, so it's important that you take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

    Do your research – check out the company online before you apply. Expect at least a phone interview before being offered the role and check their office location on Google.

    If the address they give you looks like a kebab shop on Street View, it probably is a kebab shop (and let's face it, you probably can't work for a kebab shop from home).

Keen to make some cash at home but don't have the time for an online job? Have a read of our extensive guide on how to make some quick cash online instead.

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