How to work from home: Tips from a seasoned ‘work-at-homer’

A list of tips and some useful tools which I use everyday to help you keep things running with your feet up by the fire. 

With the coronavirus outbreak on our doorstep a lot more of us will start working from home. As someone who’s been running my business from my laptop for a while, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to do this the right way - and the wrong way. As such, I’ve made a list of tips and some useful tools which I use everyday (most of them are free) to help you keep things running with your feet up by the fire. 

First Things First: a Good Home Working Setup

You should embrace the new found perks of a life without commuting. Now that you don’t have to spend your mornings trapped in rush hour traffic anymore, enjoy another hour of sleep in the morning. Have a relaxed breakfast with your family and enjoy the unexpected opportunity for quality time with your loved ones before you start to work. 

I’d recommend working certain hours, similar to the ones you usually would. Not only because most people won’t accept phone calls at 11pm, but also because it will give your day structure. You should use every opportunity to put structure into your day and office hours are a great way of doing that. I will also add that it is incredibly important to stop work once your office hours are over. Use the evenings and the weekend to relax and unwind - it will make you feel a lot more refreshed when you get back to work on Mondays.

And one last tip of mine would be to divide your home into different areas: have a dedicated “work-area” which will be your new office; and keep it separate to those parts of your house or flat where you would like to relax - like your couch, the comfy nook, you get the idea. 

Now on to some useful tools.

Scheduling Calls: Calendly

Scheduling a call often takes a few back and forth messages, which can be quite a tedious process. I find that calendly makes the whole thing incredibly easy. 

With calendly, you can create an event type of a certain time, like a one hour consultation call. You can then set times at which you are available for such a call, for example every day except Thursday between 13:00 and 17:00. 

With a link which is easily included in an email or your website, (if you need help with this drop me a message) you can send clients, coworkers or future customers to your calendly. With a few clicks they can book a slot for a one hour consultation call. You’re then notified via email and the event is automatically transferred to your Google calendar - if you have connected one. You can even ask calendly to send a reminder to the person who’s booked a call with you, just before your call is on, so they don’t forget. 

There is a free plan, where you can only set one type of event - like the one hour consultation call. With paid plans you can create several types of events (15 minute phone call as well as a one hour consultation call etc.) and can use it to process payments for your time - a feature which will be useful for advisers, for example. 

Explaining Stuff: Loom

Loom allows you to record your screen and your voice - and on a good hair day, you can add a little window with your face in it as well. This is fantastic for when you’ve worked on a project and you need to explain to someone else what exactly it is you’ve done. I've used it to talk customers through their new website, to explain documents to a colleague and have included them to spice up cold outreach emails. Once you’ve recorded your video, you can send your clients or colleagues a respective link, so they can watch it.

This is what these videos look like. The screenshot was taken from a video about Looms amazingly kind COVID-19 updates.

They are changing their pricing structure to accommodate those impacted by the outbreak. It used to already have a free plan, but they’ve extended it, so that you can now record an unlimited amount of videos. The pro plan, which is £4 and allows you to edit your videos, now has a 30 free trial and is free for anybody in the education sector, forever!

WeTransfer - for Technological Minimalists

WeTransfer is the easiest way to send files online which are too big to fit in an email. It is incredibly simple to use, so I would recommend it to those who struggle with technology or have clients who do. It is as easy as uploading a file to WeTransfer and click send. Done. Plus it’s free. 

Managing Your Own Workflow and Ideas: Notion

Do you know this feeling when your head is just full of ideas and you need a place to sort them all out? Me neither. But in case you are one of those people who are commonly overwhelmed by their own minds, Notion might be your digital solution. (My boyfriend asked me to put this in here - he swears by it)

It is basically a digital notebook, but comes with the perks of digital link- and share-ability. You can create different pages for your notes, link one idea to the other, invite others to collaborate with you on a document, you can upload calendars and I heard some people say you can even use it as a website. Its usability is just as vast as I imagine the minds of people who need this kind of tool to be. 

There is a free plan. For those who need to upload more than 5MB of files their paid plan for $4 a month should do the job. 

Signing Documents: Docsketch

The German in me takes contracts and legal stuff very seriously. Nothing can be formal enough for a contract. Naturally, working with clients on different continents, I needed to find a German-bureaucracy-proof way of signing documents digitally. Docsketch came to my rescue.

You can upload a file to Docsketch to add fields for e-signatures and then send it to those you’d like to sign it. If you need the document to be signed by various people and a certain order, you can sort that out within Docsketch. And you can save contracts you use often to resend them to various people. 

With a free plan you can have one template and send three documents a month. If you’re German, I’d therefore recommend the Personal plan, which is $8 a month.

Hack for Signing Contracts on a Mac

There is a special hack for signing documents digitally for Mac users. Open a file you would like to sign with Preview. In the top toolbar go to “Tool” → “Annotate” → “Signature” → “Manage Signatures”. Get a piece of paper and write down your signature, but much larger than you usually would. You can now hold the paper with the signature in front of your Mac’s camera to scan it. For me, this was a tricky process, it took me and my laptop a couple of attempts, but it did work out just fine in the end. Now, my signature is stored on my laptop. When I want to sign a document, I just go to “Tool” → “Annotate” → “Signature” and then click on my scanned signature.

Overwhelmed with all the new passwords: Dashlane

Dashlane is a fantastic tool for anybody who wants to up their online security. It is a safe way to store all your passwords in one place. Instead of your calendly, hubspot, canva, loom and skype password, you now only need to remember one master password to access Dashlane. You can also use it to store files with sensitive information. 

It’s free for up to 50 passwords. With a paid plan ($3.33 per month) you can store an unlimited amount of passwords and synchronise the app over different devices.

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