Tips on Working From Home Effectively

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As an SEO that works from home I face many struggles every day. Some of those struggles are from clients, however the majority are caused by my own relaxed work environment. I’m not even going to attempt to tell you how to solve client problems. However, if you work from home, I can help you become a bit more productive in your day-to-day work. And it might even help some of you who have to make the trek into the corporate office every day.

Things you need to work from home:

  • Dedicated office
  • Non-cell work phone
  • Reliable Internet service
  • Laptop computer
  • USB mouse, keyboard, large external monitor
  • At least two whiteboards
  • To-do / Done Lists
  • Google Apps calendar
  • Coffee shop nearby
  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking and a good headset

The Basics

The dedicated office will keep the kids and pets out as well and also signify that when you are in there you are working. You shouldn’t need a note on the door or anything like that. It needs to be understood that when you’re in your office you are working. The non-cell work phone is simply because cell phones cut out a lot and if you are doing business on a cell phone everybody is going to know it. Reliable Internet service is a necessity. If you are in SEO you already know that and I don’t have to explain why.


Working on a laptop keyboard and the trackpad is a horrible waste of time. Get yourself a wireless mouse and a full-sized keyboard and you will be working a whole lot faster. The larger monitor will allow you to accomplish more in your workday. You doubt me? According to a study by the University of Utah you can increase the speed in which you accomplish certain functions by up to 30% by getting a larger monitor. Read the link and go buy a larger monitor now!

The small whiteboard is for your “to-do” list. This is not just a regular to-do list though. It is also a list of what has been completed. This means that instead of simply crossing off something from your to-do list you are also writing the finished task or item on your completed list. Everybody knows that it feels good to see a to-do list shrink throughout the day. But it’s far more energizing looking at what you completed then looking at what still has to be done.

The second whiteboard, the large one, is to keep track of your clients and projects. Having a visual reminder of where you are on all of your different projects is a great way of keeping yourself on task. If you can look up and see that one client needs to have three titles rewritten, another needs to have an infographic created, and a third needs to re-sign a contract you will know this any minute of the day.

An online calendar (I use the one in Google Apps) is extremely helpful because you can block out your day for specific tasks. If you have a meeting from 9 AM until 10:30 you simply block that out. Then you might have the next 30 minutes blocked out for returning phone calls. After that, you may block out the next hour writing the link outreach e-mails. Block out every minute of the day. Fill some of the time with specific tasks that you need to get done and give yourself a couple blocks of time to take care of whatever arises in the middle of the day.

You know those things happen. It happens to all of us. And whatever you do, always block out time for breakfast and lunch. This is necessary not only for your sanity, we all need a break in the middle of the day, but also so that you are not getting up and going to the refrigerator every 15 minutes. Eat large meals so that you are not hungry throughout the day. The refrigerator can be one of your biggest time wasters of the day, at least it is mine.

The reason I specified a laptop computer is because you cannot take a desktop to the local coffee shop. When you work from home there are going to be days when you just need to get out of the house. It is inevitable. The kids might be annoying you, the dogs might be barking, or you might not be in the right frame of mind when you are at home. If you need to leave, do it. In addition to being a place of escape, the coffee shop can be a great place to have a meeting with a potential new client, meet with a coworker that also works from home, or even find new clients.

I would be absolutely lost, and this post never would have been written, without Dragon NaturallySpeaking and a good headset. If you are anything like me, hopefully not, you failed typing in sixth and seventh grades. If so, you will appreciate how easily you can simply speak into a microphone and see year words come up on the screen. Is it absolutely perfect? No. Does it make writing a heck of a lot easier? Definitely.

In Conclusion

Working from home provides way too many ways to distract yourself from your work. Do your best to remove those distractions by keeping your stomach full, your working area for work, and give yourself the excitement of not just of crossing off items on your to do list, but watching your list of completed items and tasks grow.

Tim Biden
Tim Biden is an SEO in Los Angeles. He has been working out of his home office for the last five years and has learned... Read Full Bio
Tim Biden

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  • Angie @AgentKnowHow

    My social media director pointed out your article. The tips you shared are applicable in any industry, really. As a real estate agent, one growing trend among home buyers from Gene X and Y is having office space at home or a place for their desk. So much has change given the shift from in our own economics from the industrial to the Internet revolution.

    I do love when my to do lists gets smaller and I definitely have 2 white boards. Good tips overall and thanks for sharing.

  • Andrew Booth

    I don’t regularly work from home, but I have heard another solid piece of advice on this topic. Get ready in the morning like you are going into the office! You won’t be motivated to get anything done if you haven’t shaved in 3 days and you’re wearing Spongebob pajama pants.

  • Ryan Bradley

    I think having the TV on is one of the biggest mistakes a new work-from-homer can do. There are some great tips on here, keep it up.

  • Tim Biden

    @Angie, I think you’re right. The number of people who work from home seems to be growing. With the Internet, there is so much that can be done from the comfort of home that many people don’t need an outside office. I just wish working from home got more respect in the US.

    @Andrew, I agree with you completely. Though admittedly I do avoid shaving, going through normal morning rituals certainly helps you to get into the work mentality. But the Spongebob pajama pants do sound comfy. 😉

    @Ryan, TV rots people’s brains. I personally think that if we eliminated TV from the American home, we would quickly find that we are more productive, positive and energetic throughout the day. That being said, I don’t own a TV. My wife and I had one when we got married but soon after we gave it away and we don’t miss it. Glad you liked the post.

  • Don Rhoades

    Awesome tips, Tim! The only thing I might add is a comfortable chair. This may seem obvious, but I went through 4 different chairs until I found the right one. The chair I have now, helps me correct my posture and that in turn helps my breathing, reducing fatigue. Teaching myself the Alexander Technique. The fact that you’re published on SEJ made my day, Tim! Good on you!

  • David Angotti

    I enjoyed this article and it is great advice! Especially true: “. . . there will be days when you just need to get out of the house.”

  • Tim Biden

    @Don, Thanks Bro! I truly appreciate that. =) And the right chair can definitely make all the difference in the world. You’re right. But for now the Herman Miller Aeron Chair is a bit out of reach. =( Now get back to work!

    @David, Apparently you feel my pain. 😉 Glad you liked the article.

  • Jared Reed

    These are all good. Two that I would add to this list are that you should get up and pretend you’re going to work. Take a shower, eat breakfast, the whole nine yards. It just makes you feel like you’re getting ready to do something. Also, don’t have an Xbox 360 with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in your office space 🙁

  • Louise Desmarais

    Wise tips indeed!

    I will add that it’s important to treat yourself as the true professional you are – and make sure that your relatives and neighbours know it too. Just because you work from home, it doesn’t mean that you’re available to let the cable guy in to the house next door or to pick up your friend’s kids from hockey practice because she’s stuck at the office.

    Also, accept that things can and will go wrong, and that’s OK. If you work in a company outside of the house and a client is unhappy – everyone shoulders a bit of the blame. But when you’re on your own, and something goes wrong, it’s all on your shoulders. It’s very easy to beat yourself up over it. Accept it. Learn from it. Move on.

  • RJ

    “you will appreciate how easily you can simply speak into a microphone and see year words come up on the screen. Is it absolutely perfect? No. ”

    Good that you addressed the imperfection right after it made a mistake. 🙂

    This is a good list of necessities, but the hardest part of telecommuting is distraction, which can only be remedied with dedication to your work and self discipline. There’s no one around you to keep you accountable.

  • Nancy E. Wigal

    Tim, great article and spot on, as I also work from home! You forgot one thing: the adoring cat and dog that really, really want to help you – NOT.

    The only equipment I don’t have is the Dragon software.

    I set a reminder bell every half hour to let me know to get up, walk away and stretch out some. I also work more effectively when I stop every 30 minutes.

    I have an Ikea office chair that is ergonomically correct and is great for reducing neck and shoulder pain. Of course the massage therapist and the chiropractor take care of the rest. 🙂

  • Tim Biden

    @Nancy, I like the 30 minute reminder bell idea. I might have to implement that. Thank you.

  • Allen

    Good points. Also, in terms of speech recognition, it’s a godsend for anyone with RSI or similar limiting physical problems.

    • Tim Biden

      That makes a lot of sense. And if you catch the sales right, you can pick it up for about $10.00. 😉

  • Myron Rosmarin

    Great tips. Having worked from home as SEO consultant for the past 2+ years, I’m always on the look-out for guidance. It hasn’t been without its challenges. Allow me to offer three more tips that all fall under the heading of online tools. First is online time tracking and invoicing. You should keep track of every block of 15 minutes for invoicing purposes. I use and it’s been great. As for to-do lists, hopefully your SEO practice will get so busy, you’re going to outgrow simple lists and take on some online project tracking (nothing as complex as MS Project). I use As for laptop vs desktop computer, I have both. The laptop is strictly for time away from the home office. I use for file synchronization. Ideally, you want as much of your “information” stored online and accessible from your desktop, laptop or mobile device.

    • Tim Biden

      I personally use Freshbooks for my invoicing and time tracking. I didn’t include those because they weren’t in the scope of what I was writing about. But because I have been asked to write a part 2, I probably will include them.

      And I also agree on the desktop/laptop necessity but if you only have 1, go with the laptop. And in the second installment I will also be sharing my file synchronization preferences. We have differing opinions on how to accomplish that and I look forward to the discussion afterwards. =)

      • Myron Rosmarin

        Looking forward to part 2!!

  • Patricia

    I really liked this article and it has some great advice for anyone who works from home. Can’t wait to read the second part of the article!

  • amilyjoe

    working from home is the most popular career option now a days. It gives you many benefits like you can work without any stress of boss, client, deadlines and traffic. But in home there are a lot of subjects that can distract you from your motive, your ambition. This article told that how one can avoid these obstacles to work properly from home. Great job done by author of this article.