Work Smarter, Not Harder

by Marissa on November 14, 2012 · 43 comments

Its been almost 8 months since I started working from home/ random cities and airports. I love it so far. Then again I may have a fetish for airplanes and airports so I don’t know if I’m normal. Working for yourself (from home) is fantastic because it provides a certain type of freedom that working in a corporate cultural can’t. For example, I am writing this sitting in a coffeeshop in Boston waiting to meet a friend for breakfast.

I don’t know many people who wouldn’t want to work at home and enjoy the freedom that it offers. The problem for most people is that they still need to contend with working a full time job and handling all of their other responsibilities. That is why, for most people, living the work at home dream is something that will always be out of their reach, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I want to start off by saying that not everyone can and should put all their eggs in one basket like I did. I walked away from a great position in a company and industry that I just wasn’t passionate about. I’m 28 years old, and felt like I need to take a leap, and that this would be the best time to do it. I don’t have kids, and I made enough with my side-business to have all of my bills paid covered without struggling.

It took me 2 years to build my network here, and by build I mean hardcore networking, volunteering for Regional Committees, sitting on Boards for Non-profits and for Profit companies, organizing events etc. It took a lot of my free time, but it also gave me insight into things that I loved doing and the things that I couldn’t be paid enough to do. As time when on I got to a position where I could pick and choose the things I liked and walk away from the things that stopped being appealing.

I also learned to value and hone the skills that are in demand and outsource the tasks that I don’t enjoy or take up too much of my time.

Here are some of my tips:

Have  a schedule. Block out times for everything.There have been weeks where I put sleep, gym, eat etc in my calendar so I don’t forget to do them. Knowing that you have 2 hours to finish a task makes it easier to be focused.

Do a time audit for different tasks every 2-3 months.I look at how much time I spent answering emails. What questions keep popping up? Are they from the same people or different ones. Doing a deep dive helps me understand where I need to clarify better, and what gaps need to be addressed quickly.

Have and create time for yourself and your family.There is no ‘normal’ and more, so you have to create your template of that a ‘typical’ day looks like.

Invest in self improvement.This could be reading a new book a month, or go to a conference or a networking event. Make sure its part of your budget.

Automate everything that doesn’t need human interaction or conversation.There are a ton of apps that can help with this depending on what type of work you do.

Ask for help.I have a VA who saves my life almost everyday. Know that you can’t do everything yourself, and building a company needs more than just you.

Set Goals.I have daily, weekly, and monthly goals. This helps me and my team accountable. And I celebrate the little wins.


Photo Blanco

  • Budget & the Beach

    I agree it takes a certain discipline to work for yourself and/or at home. I had to learn to turn down day plans with people, even if I didn’t have actual work to do, because there was always something I could be doing to GET more work.

    • Marissa

      I know! I have lost days going out with friends for “lunch”.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Great tips! I took the plunge about six months ago and couldn’t agree more. My wife had been running the business for the previous two years and just got to a point where there needed to be more than just her handling the business. I like good problems like that! :) Being disciplined and being wise with your time is essential, otherwise it’s easy to just go nowhere.

    • Marissa

      Congrats on taking the plunge!

  • The College Investor

    Good tips. I recently hired a VA to help me with some of the time consuming tasks that are necessary but don’t really do it for me.

    • Marissa

      VA are the greatest thing (people) ever!

  • femmefrugality

    Awesome tips! I’m in love with the idea of it, but I don’t know if I could give up the 9-5 for life. Health insurance costs in particular would kill me. I’ve heard so many places that the biggest problem for work at homers is time management. You don’t have anyone there to be accountable to, so you just don’t work. Thanks for addressing the issue so thoroughly, in case I ever am brave enough to make the plunge!

    • Marissa

      Its a bit easier in Canada because we have universal health care. And good luck with the scholarship!

  • Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals

    I’ve worked from home for the past two years, and although I love the freedom it offers me, it is WAY harder because now my two kids are underfoot constantly (instead of at daycare, as they were when I worked outside the home). More than anything, I miss the relative “peace” and “quiet” of my old office – although I don’t miss the drama or politicking!

    • Marissa

      I have trouble working at home when my brother is over, I can’t begin to imagine having kids around.

  • Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    Great stuff! I work from home and it definitely takes somebody that’s goal-oriented and disciplined to do it. I enjoy it though and dread ever having to go back to a normal 8-5 job!

    • Marissa

      It does take a certain type of person to do that.

  • Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses

    Great tips! It sure does sound nice to work for yourself, though I don’t know if I could make the plunge myself, at least yet. Cheers :)

    • Marissa

      Its not a great as I make it out to be. It gets lonely really quickly, but the freedom makes up for it.

  • American Debt Project

    What do you use your VA for? I am definitely spending all of my free time working on my own projects and it’s tough but I like it. However, when our business launches, I will still have an office. I think 1-2 days a week working together in person with my core team keeps me accountable. I like the idea of having somewhere separate from home. I know a home office works, but I like the separation for now. Plus I get more tempted to be lazy if I am at home or on the road. It’s easy to put off the admin tasks that have to get done!

    • Marissa

      My VA does a lot my repetitive tasks that take up a bunch of time. Best investment ever.

  • Andy Hough

    I loved working for myself, but definitely could have benefited from utilizing your tips. Once I have gained some experience at my current job I plan to return to self employment.

    • Marissa

      I’m excited about the ops headed your way!

  • Canadian Budget Binder

    Some great tips, thanks for sharing. Blogging and everything about working from home takes up alot of time some days I don’t know how I fit everything in with my full-time job and a wife. I know that my saving grace is my schedule and I do my best to stick to it. It doesn’t always work out but I balance my life with my blog and it works out. I can only hope that the blog continues to grow like it has and I too can have other options on my plate. Mr.CBB

    • Marissa

      I’m sure your site is going to be huge soon, although it already is doing well.

  • fabulouslyfrugirl

    I’m not sure if I will ever work from home but I will definitely keep these tips in mind when I do! I still think it’s pretty scary working for myself, but I really admire people like you who go out and make it happen!

    • Marissa

      I’m sure you’d do great if you worked from home.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    I certainly need to schedule my time more. At my day job, I live by a schedule, which is good and bad. I have a harder time at home. It’s like I’m rebelling or something, but I’m not sure who I am rebelling against.

    • Marissa

      My calendar rules my life. I feel lost without it.

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life

    I’m not sure I could rely completely on myself for my income, that seems a little scary. These tips are great reminders for my blog productivity though. Thanks!

    • Marissa

      It works just as well with blogging :)

  • AverageJoe

    The time audit is a huge win. I always avoid it because it feels like such a PITA at the time. BUT I see where the time goes, which is important.

    I’m with ADP: I’d love to hear more about what the repetitive tasks are that you use the VA for, if you don’t mind sharing. If they’re secret, that’s fine, too.

    • Marissa

      You just gave me an idea for a post :)

  • Marie at Family Money Values

    Networking from home is definitely harder!

    • Marissa

      Sure, unless you do it via social media.

  • Lauryn Doll

    Amazing post. (This is my first time here.)

    I’m going to begin blocking out time and doing time audits for everything in December. I should start now, but, well, I don’t know. Actually, maybe I should start now.

    I do know one thing – I spend too much time on Facebook sometimes.

    • Marissa

      Facebook is my kryptonite!

  • Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom

    Great post. I share your unusual love for airports. Working from home is a great option for the disciplined. I’m looking forward to Derek having the opportunity to join me at home like John who called it quits on his job 6 months ago.

    • Marissa

      I’m glad someone else does too. Airports are amazing.

  • K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks!

    I’ve been self-employed/working from home since April 2012 and overall I absolutely love it! Being able to travel and virtually work from anywhere suits my personality and lifestyle very much. One must be very organized and still ensure that there is a structure to the day. I hope to never have to go back to a daily commute to an office or a traditional 9 to 5 worklife.

  • Mike

    I loved working for myself, but absolutely could have benefited from utilizing your tips. Once I have gained some experience at my current job I like the concept of return to self employment.I’m sure your sites is going to be huge soon, although it already is doing well.

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  • ForHerByHer

    Awesome tips!

    I also work from home and I love that working from ‘home’ means I can work from pretty much anywhere. It took some getting used to in the beginning. I found that because I never left the ‘office’, I would sometimes look up and realize it was 1:00 am. It’s easy to burn out when you’re working for yourself… hiring a VA is one of the best things I’ve ever done!

  • My Money Design

    Writing blog posts from a coffee shop and going to breakfast sounds pretty amazing to me. That right there is one of the reasons I’ve started to become more fond of traveling and having flexibility.

    Great list! Some people might disagree, but I do think its important to schedule in time for yourself and time for improvement. If you don’t, it will just get pushed aside and you’ll never end up getting to it.

  • Kathleen

    I love these insights into working for yourself!

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