What’s Its Like to Work From Home (4 Years Update!)

Wow, it’s been almost four years since I work from home full-time. The last time I wrote about it, I was only one year in!

It’s still a little bit surreal. Like many of you, I grew up thinking that 9-6 working days is the default. It’s even more surreal when I remember that this work from home thing was an accident. The plan was actually to do a bit of freelance writing to make some extra income while I find myself a new, stable job.

Then somehow work turned to more work and I just never stopped and here I am? Sometimes I still catch myself thinking ‘ah how nice would it be to work from home wait Suraya you do work from home you dolt’. 

In any case, in this article I want to share with you the good parts about working from home, the bad parts and tasks I personally do as a work-from-home writer. I think it’s fair to say this article is written based on experience. Enjoy.

Work from Home: The Good

#1 – Generally saving money 

I really like this part. There are many areas where I get to save money, or do money-saving experiments. It’s brilliant. 

For example:

  • I find that I no longer need to maintain my car, so I gave it back to my dad (yes I’m privileged). My monthly transportation costs are now around the RM300-400 range via Grab and public transportation, as opposed to at least RM500-800 per month on car maintenance, not including the repairs
  • I get to make homemade meals, which tend to be cheaper and healthier than outside food
  • I don’t need to stock up on too many work clothes
  • Love love love adding small but satisfying life upgrades but on a budget. Like making fresh coffee at home instead of instant. Mmmm

#2 – The general flexibility is nice

I rarely use alarm clocks. Yes, it is amazing, not even going to lie about that.

And because I set tasks for the day without locking it to any timeslot, I don’t really care what I do for the day as long as I get shit done. 

My productivity level depends on my mood, which to be fair can be a good or a bad thing. Sometimes I’d finish my work early and reward myself with Youtube videos. Sometimes I procrastinate like crazy then use the deadline stress to force myself to work. 

#3 – The extra time is a blessing

I didn’t realise this until someone pointed it out, but people who work from home gained so much time from one single thing: no commute to work. 

(And sometimes we get extra time when we feel too lazy to change out of our pajamas too!)

And what do I do with this blessing? I waste it on social media smh

#4 – The possibility of working from anywhere!

The term commonly used for this dreamy-sounding lifestyle is digital nomad, which I’m sure you’ve heard. 

Personally, I used to like the idea of travelling while working – it still seemed like the perfect, responsibility-free life, mind you – but have since accepted that it’s just a matter of the grass looking greener on the other side.

Thinking about it, yeah I don’t really want to work while on vacation. I just want to chill and eat food and get fat. 

Plus I have two cats I love too much to leave behind. How can I not fall for them ugh. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I gave birth to two cats this morning

A post shared by Suraya Zainudin (@surayaror) on

#5 – Going to malls and offices at non-peak hours 

Going to crowded places during weekends now legit stresses me out. And when I get stressed out I get cranky and a bit bitchy. In my head, everyone who so much breathes near me gets cursed for seven generations. 

#6 – You can order stuff online and wait for it to arrive at home

I can confirm that this is really really nice (but a bit dangerous!)

#7 – Picking and choosing who you want to work and hang out with (and who you don’t)

This privilege is only available after you established yourself as a professional, after you start getting work inquiries and word-of-mouth referrals, basically after you can afford to say no.

Unlike traditional work settings, where you are forced to get along with annoying characters to get your workload done, being your own boss means you can always say no (politely) if you don’t want to. 

Pro-tip: make your own contacts list, comprising of people you can pass off jobs to. For example, sometimes when I have too much on my plate and receive yet another job inquiry, I would share the work opportunity among my contacts for free. 

It’s the best win-win arrangement- the client still thinks you’re reliable and your colleagues will like you for sharing work opportunities around. 

I would say the best perk here is definitely the ability to pursue genuine friendships with like-minded individuals and avoid the toxic crowd. I can’t tell you how much I value being away from people who love complaining and think everything in the world sucks.

Those who have these people as colleagues – I’m so sorry for you. Hang in there. Pakai earphones. 

Alright so far everything’s been good. Got bad parts meh, working from home? Goooot.

Work from Home: The Bad

Time to burst some bubbles. 

#1 – Work from home is only fun if you’re not stressed about money

This is the real truth right here. If you’re not financially secure, your house will feel like a prison. There’s no fun to speak of, just stress. Not knowing where your next paycheck is going to come combined with dwindling savings is like 10/10 in the modern-day stress scale. 

#2 – Work from home is only possible if you can avoid distractions

Some people resort to placing their phones in another room while they work so they don’t get distracted. Others make themselves a study or a den. However you do it, you need to optimise your surrounding to encourage something called ‘flow’. 

Sometimes I get angry when people say things like, oh stay-at-home mothers/fathers can still work from home and get supplemental income for the family. Kids are distracting af. Can’t focus. 

#3 – People think you’re free all the time

And may take advantage of you because of it.

Protip: Don’t call yourself a freelancer. The ‘free’ in freelancer somehow makes people think that your services are worth less than what it is and you’re somehow free all the time. 

Call yourself something else: founder, consultant, specialist, whatever. I notice that people took my work a lot more seriously after I stopped calling myself a freelance writer and started calling myself a communications consultant. 

#4 – It’s very hard to switch off from work

I’m writing this article at 2am on a Monday night. My brain is still on work mode and I don’t know how to get it to stop. 

#5 – No medical leaves, EPF contribution from employer or other employee benefits

Obviously. By now I’m used to it, and I make my own arrangements, but I remember panicking about losing my income while I fell sick once, early in the work from home phase of life. 

Protip: You can make voluntary EPF and PRS contributions and earmark those as retirement savings. Both also can get tax relief. 

Ok those should be all the good and not-so-good parts about working from home. Some of the points overlapped with the 1-year self-employed progress article, and I’m glad I’m finding it easier, not harder. Maybe it’s a simple case of me simply getting used to the hard parts, but I’ll take it.  

Work from home: A typical week 

What I didn’t expect after I started working from home is the surprising variety of my tasks in my to-do list. I thought I’d face the computer screen full-time. Not really. 

In a typical week, my tasks would include: 

  • Content creation and optimisation. Writing articles for RinggitOhRinggit.com. Generate and pitch content proposals to clients. Not all ideas made it into articles – I balance between what I want to write and what’s a good SEO strategy. I also update older articles to be more relevant
  • Business writing. I get everything from scripting to website copywriting to report-writing jobs 
  • Digital marketing. Ideating and scheduling posts for social media channels for Ringgit Oh Ringgit
  • Client management. Nurturing potential leads and giving updates on pending projects to existing clients
  • Project management. Hiring and outsourcing other freelancers to complete bigger projects, either my own or clients’. For example, Money Stories from Malaysians book series is one of my projects 
  • Social media engagement. Replying comments across all RoR channels
  • Attending industry-related events. Always good to learn new things. I’d call this networking but truth is I get too shy to talk to people I don’t know, so I stay quiet at the back
  • Administrative works. Preparing invoices and organising folders, signing contracts and scheduling meetings, replying emails and removing spam in website’s comment section, updating contacts list and doing deliveries. Things like that
  • Analytics and technical. Checking if the website and social media’s growth is on track. Make amendments to growth strategy if needed. Optimise website’s speed, layout, navigation etc
  • Networking. Mostly online, through various communities I’m part of

I have a nice routine going on now, rotating all of the above in a way that still balances my work/personal life. Getting that balance was tough. It was hard before it was easy somewhat tolerable. 

Do note here that my typical week as a work from home professional might differ from someone else’s, even if we could be working in the same industry*. Even so, I thought you could find this insight interesting. 

*My industry: Business writing, article-writing, digital marketing, website maintenance

The ‘path’ or someone who works from home

You know how you were blind to something and then once pointed out, that’s all you could see?

Yeah that’s what’s happening with me and this strange little community of work-from-home people.

I know people who set up home offices. Like really nice ones. One person did tech support. Another did party planning. Another did English tutoring to Chinese kids, with e-commerce on the side.  

I know people who decided to get an office to work from or return to the workforce because they actually got sick of working from home. For some reason or another the novelty wore off. I guess irregular paychecks is not for everyone. 

I know people who do the digital nomad-ing thing. In this region, Langkawi, Bali and Chiang Mai appear to be favourites. 

I know people who started working from home from necessity, not by choice. It’s just a way to save money on business expenses in the early stages. As soon as they could afford to hire a team, they moved to co-working spaces and offices.

I know work-from-home people who appear to travel a damn lot in order to recruit more people into their MLM. The irony is they used the work-from-home lifestyle as a bait.  

I know people who intentionally learn skillsets that would allow them to be able to make a living from home. Because they are sick of working for other people, and they just crave more independence. 

And I know other people, who, like me, rent their own place and double it up as their office. Sometimes we go work from cafes or co-working places just for a change of scenery, but mostly we’re quite happy being solitary.

Each of the above groups, while being part of the same community (so to speak), face their own set of challenges.

Last words

Tell me about yourself. Do you have work from home fantasies? Or do you currently work from home yourself?

If you’re the latter, let me know what you do and what you think of this article. How similar or different is my experience from yours?

The comments section is below. You know what to do 🙂

Further reading: 

Author

12 comments

  1. Hi.just wondering..how to u advertise your expertise (e.g:writing works and stuff) to cater bigger market and get more clients?are they any specific platform that u can suggest?i do some writing and proofreadings work at home but mostly by word of mouth and socmed.for students,small business owners,grad students etc..i love doing work from home and intend to improve my earnings.any suggestion?

  2. Great article. Especially love the part about SAHM. I’ve been a part-time work-from-home mom for the past 2 years, and I’ve been really lucky that my mother helps me watch my son while I work in the next room. But even so, I get constant interruptions from him and yes, kids are terribly distracting. I can’t imagine being a SAHM trying to work without any help. (Kudos to all the SAHMs out there!)

    I think for me, being a rather social person, the part I miss most about working from home is the lack of social interactions one would get from a workplace.

    Anyway, love your stuff, keep the good work going!

    1. Hi KS,
      Great that you get help from your mom! And you made a good point about missing social interactions. I guess work from home arrangement is better for introverts? I don’t miss workplace interactions at all lol. If I do miss human interaction, I’ll meet friends and go to industry events.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and all the best to you!

  3. I can so relate to this! I am currently attached to a couple of companies, working as part time, meeting them once awhile. I have flexible of doing work, however mood swings a lot! Discipline is another thing. Many projects to be completed till no time for personal life, yet during working hours, not being able to fully concentrate and efficient to complete the task. Work and life really messed up. Like now, im leaving a reply while having uncompleted task 😅

    1. Hi Jerome,

      How long have you been doing this? I notice that balance was harder in the beginning but easier as it goes along. By now I have routines that work already.

      You’ll figure it out 🙂

  4. Hi Suraya,

    I’m curious, were your parents actually business people? Do they instill business-minded philosophy in your upbringing? Did they encourage you and your siblings to be your own bosses? If you were to have children yourselves, what would you do to make them grow to love business?

    My parents were government servants and I have no background in business but my sister and I did try our hands in printing and homestay services. Been doing okay but not enough to quit our 9-6 jobs. What made you become certain/firm that you would be your own boss and never look back?

    Thanks Suraya!

    1. Hi Alena,

      Oh, interesting question. My mom’s a teacher (govt school) and dad opened engineering firm. They actually never encouraged me to open my own business. Until now my dad would casually drop job openings at so-and-so (big) company, why don’t you apply? I get where he’s coming from – he just wants me to be stable

      Maybe some theraphy session would help me figure out where this independence comes from

      Can’t comment on kids since I don’t have them and not sure if I wanna

  5. Hi Suraya,

    It would be great if you could share what makes you started working from home and the passion that keeps fueling you until today. A great inspire writing would definitely bring out many more young writers out there.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Calvin,

      The easy answer to that is what I do now makes more money than what I was paid before. Why would I sacrifice my flexibility and income to go back to paid employment?

      Of course if I didn’t make as much money, I’d happily rejoin. There are benefits to working in organisations too.

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