Some of my students asked for tips about climbing the corporate ladder but truth be told, I hate the corporate ladder. Every time I find myself getting promoted, I end up resigning shortly after — even from my best employers. I had been a work-from-home person for most of my career because I usually earn money from writing and doing art/tech when I find myself getting tired of the corporate world.

For 2013, my typical week is roughly:

  • Mondays: (At home) Prepare lectures for 3 hours + do game production work for 5 hours
  • Tuesdays to Thursdays: Teach / do academic admin work for 3 hours + (at home) do production work for 5 hours
  • Fridays: (At home) Do game production work or write research + run errands
  • Saturday: Industry meetings

Depending on which part of the quarter, there could be more academic work load than production work load. Come December, life is mayhem. Everything happens on December.

It sounds like I have a lot of free time, but this setup actually requires a lot of discipline. So for those of my colleagues who now find themselves in a work-from-home setup, here are my top 5 recommendations for surviving it.

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5. Separate work space from sleep space.

One of the benefits of working from home is that you can forgo the 2-to-4-hour commute. I certainly don’t miss this, being a person who drinks water all the time. In fact, I hate commuting so much that I always uproot and re-plant myself every time I change companies.

Thing is, a lot of new freelancers think that having a lockable room is enough to get you started. But there are people who cannot resist the gravitational pull of their beds, so they end up sleeping when they’re supposed to be working and working when they’re supposed to be sleeping. Then they complain about their messed up body clocks. Separating your work space from your bed space is the key. For some people, a foldable divider is enough. For others, the work space has to be in a completely different room. I personally find it very stressful to see my work area when I’m supposed to go to bed so there has to be a clear dividing line between rest and work.

Oh and one other thing: there have been stories of family members and loved ones forgetting that they’re supposed to be working. So sometimes they find themselves doing errands and other family-related stuff during work hours. Some people have resorted to renting out office spaces like co.lab and Regus, or working at some nearby coffee shop, just to keep work and personal lives separate.

4. Be calendar-obsessed.

One of my main problems is that if someone told me face-to-face that there’s an upcoming meeting and I don’t have my smart phone or a pen and notebook combo with me, there’s a huge chance that I will forget about that meeting. I have been so used to working electronically that even my reminders have to be electronic. If you’re not as tech-obsessed as I am, planners (marked by different colored pens) are your best bet.

Just make sure that you stick to your calendar/planner.

My typical week for the fourth quarter of 2013

My typical week for the fourth quarter of 2013

3. Plan your rest periods accordingly.

I am a huge believer of the concept of “delayed gratification”. I don’t play until I’m done working. I give myself an hour’s break after every 3-4 hours of work or before I start a completely new task. Many people have a hard time delaying their gratification — especially when YouTube and Facebook are so easily accessible. If you’re one of them, my suggestion is to setup a Google Calendar account and have it alert you constantly.

I personally enjoy a slow morning. I used to have terrible acid problems and I figured out that hurried mornings (breakfast eaten quickly then literally running off to work) are one of the things that caused it. What I do now is that I take breakfast leisurely, most of the time while answering student inquiries/problems on Facebook. It sounds like I’m working and eating at the same time, but this actually relaxes me better than having to talk to all of them in school. (My own introvert issues, actually. It’s also why I think working purely from home is best for introverts and a challenge for extroverts.)

2. Communicate properly.

You do not need to be an extrovert and call all the time (heck, that defeats the purpose of working from home), but make sure you know how to communicate. As freelancers, you have to be self-sufficient because you’re not going to have a supervisor looking over your shoulder all the time.

One thing to remember is that there’s nothing more irritating to a project manager (or a video game producer like me) than someone who says things at the last minute. If you’re going to be out of town for three days, for instance, inform your project manager at least a week before so that s/he can plan what to do in your absence. If you don’t have the necessary equipment for a certain task, SAY SO. If something is going to be a hindrance to your workflow, SAY SO.

Part of communicating properly, for me at least, is sending a report of what has been done for the day, what your work impediments are, what your solutions to these impediments are, and what you plan to accomplish the following day. It’s like doing daily Scrum, except in a virtual office environment. Lastly, brevity and clarity are two of the most important things when you send information. No busy person wants to read walls of text.

Teach Parents Tech?

1. Hire an accountant/accounting firm.

Taxes are a delicate matter and one small mistake can have the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) running after your behind like a dog sniffing a bitch in heat. Let’s face it, if you are freelancing for a living, you most probably will not just have one project to handle. For many, this alone can be very stressful. Seeking professional help may seem like an additional expense but you also need to remember that TIME, for a freelancer, is gold. The amount of money you pay an accountant is nothing compared to the headache you may find yourself dealing with and the man hours you may lose just by dealing with it. Most of my relatives (and some of my friends) go to Tagnia, Ortega & Partners, CPAs for their accounting needs.

I wouldn’t recommend not paying taxes because being a tax evader means that you generally don’t exist on paper. If you’re planning on buying a house, getting a visa or getting a loan, you need to exist on paper. If you’re a trust fund baby, however, this probably wouldn’t be a problem. ^_-