As a freelance writer, all you really need is a laptop and some wifi. But your work environment is a critical factor in building a successful business. After all, workspace design can help – or hinder — your creativity, mood, and efficiency.
Not sure how to create a productive workspace? Keep reading! I’ve got 8 ways to design your freelance office so you can work smarter, not harder.
Written By: Katie Boyce
As a copywriter for the interior design world, I spend my days researching and writing on topics ranging from bathroom floor tile and paint color trends to interior design’s impact on human health and wellbeing. I chose this niche in part because I’m drawn to beautiful spaces. I could easily spend 75% of my life scrolling designer Instagram feeds and flipping through design magazines.
But what I really love about my work is exploring how thoughtful interior design elevates our lives.
It’s tempting to be skeptical, to assume this field is frivolous. Just another cog in the consumerism machine. And I’ll be honest, at the start of the pandemic, I went down this rabbit hole for a bit myself, wondering if maybe I should’ve chosen a more ‘noble’ profession.
But as we’ve spent more time in our homes than ever before, this year has reaffirmed what I’ve always known: our spaces matter.
Our physical environments have the power to shape our mood, affect our health, and boost (or thwart) our productivity.
- This is why companies spend billions of dollars on commercial office upgrades each year. Because happy, productive, and thriving employees build better businesses.
- It’s also why non-profits exist to design sanctuaries for children facing medical crises and people overcoming homelessness and poverty. Because they know a functional, inspiring environment is a powerful thing.
- And it’s why, as a writer and business owner, you owe it to yourself to invest some time creating a well-designed office space.
Thoughtful workspace design goes far beyond an ergonomic office chair – though that’s really important, too!. Your freelance writing space doesn’t have to be big or fancy. You don’t have to load up your online cart with new stuff. Honestly, with the right framework, you can carve out a legit home office in a corner of an unused guest room – or even at the kitchen table.
No matter where you choose to set up shop, these home office design guidelines set the foundation for building the thriving freelance writing business you dream about.
1. Choose a workspace with plenty of natural light
We spend about 90% of our time indoors. Ninety percent! That’s a lot of time in artificial lighting, which experts agree isn’t optimal for a successful working environment. So if you’re wondering how to make your home office more productive, then lighting is a great place to start.
Daylight in the office makes a huge difference in productivity and overall well-being. Workers in daylit spaces reported:
- An 84% drop in eye strain, blurred vision, and headaches
- A significant decrease in drowsiness
- An increase in overall productivity
Natural light also helps regulate hormone levels and circadian rhythms. This means you get a better night’s sleep and wake up more alert and ready to start your day.
But access to daylight isn’t the only consideration for a productive workspace. You also need to leverage window treatments and supplemental lighting to create optimal office lighting throughout the day. Too much can create glare and cause eye pain, and even trigger migraines. Too little light in your workspace can make you drowsy and wreck your ability to focus.
So, add a lamp or two to optimize your office lighting for both writing and video conferencing (more on that later).
2. Improve your office air quality with scents proven to improve mood and increase performance
All our time spent indoors has other negative effects, too. Indoor air quality has declined in recent years, in part due to chemicals and synthetic fragrances in the products we use. Household cleaners, lotions, perfumes, air fresheners…the list goes on.
Unless you’re a ninja at decoding product labels, there’s a good chance these toxins are hiding in your home. And that toxic air negatively impacts your productivity, concentration, and overall health.
So instead, opt for natural fragrances. Essential oils have gained popularity over the past decade, which is good news for you because they’re easy to find. Along with sweet-smelling air, many are reported to actually decrease fatigue and boost your productivity.
Skeptical? I was too. But clinical research has actually backed the claims around these 5 different essential oils when it comes to elevating performance.8 Here are the proven winners:
- Peppermint — prevents fatigue
- Sweet orange — boosts performance
- Spearmint — improves memory
- Rosemary — stimulates brain wave activity and increases focus
- Lemon — lifts mood
Whether you make your own essential oil room spray, use a diffuser, or light a naturally-scented candle, these essential oils might be the perfect simple solution to creating a more productive freelance office.
3. Adopt a plant for a happier workspace
It’s no secret that being unplugged and immersed in nature is good for our physical, mental, and emotional health. But most of us aren’t able to escape to the woods or a nearby beach for a mid-day work break.
The good news? Even the smallest doses of nature in your workspace can make a positive difference. Nature views from your office window, house plants, even pictures of greenery have been shown to reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve overall mood.
And this isn’t just anecdotal evidence:
- ICU patients reported reduced anxiety and lower doses of pain medications simply from looking at pictures of trees and water.
- Adding plants to an office space increased employee productivity by 15 percent in multiple studies.
- In Sydney, workers with plants in their office reported a decrease of stress and negative feelings by up to 60%.
Plus, caring for living things, even office plants, creates a sense of connection and purpose that boosts your mood. Houseplants have a wide range of sunlight and water needs, so choose the right one for your office.
Don’t have a green thumb? No worries! There are some seriously low-maintenance houseplants out there. Snake plants and ZZ plants thrive with low light and infrequent waterings.
4. Select home office colors that help you focus
The colors you surround yourself with have a profound effect on your mood, energy levels, and creativity, so choose colors for your office wisely.
Most experts recommend warm whites, soft greens, and cool blues for your workspace because these hues boost concentration, efficiency, and feelings of overall well-being. For a pop of color, add yellow accents. Color psychologists say yellow offices are ideal for writers and artists because they foster creativity and innovation.
Not sure how to pick the right paint color for your home office? Here are 5 designer-approved suggestions:
- Nickel by Benjamin Moore – soft grey with a bit of blue. Peaceful, light, and airy.
- Studio Green 93 by Farrow and Ball – almost black and oh-so-moody, this would make a striking accent wall or desk color
- Pointing by Farrow and Ball – a warm off-white for a light, bright space that still feels cozy
- Oval Room by Farrow and Ball – this mid-tone blue-green is so serene. Pairs beautifully with a range of wood tones or a pop against crisp white trim
- Lichen by Farrow and Ball – soft olive green for a neutral office that’s warm and inviting.
Any of these colors would make a home office that’s productive, peaceful, and perfect for writing.
5. Create a freelance workspace that inspires you
There’s a reason you decided to become a freelance writer. Maybe you:
- Craved more freedom to travel and live life at your own pace
- Wanted more time to spend with your family
- Longed for more control over your income to achieve your financial goals
Whatever your reasons, keep them front and center. Literally.
Incorporate your “why” into your office décor. Beloved family or travel photos. Postcards or maps from places you’re eager to explore. A picture of your dream home or a quote by a fellow entrepreneur that really resonates.
Add in other meaningful things, too – like books, memorabilia, and collectibles you love. Items that you’ll look forward to seeing every day.
And if you’re not sure how to hang or arrange your pieces of motivation, check out Pinterest or Instagram for a little inspiration. It’s not simply about building a pretty office space. Creating a workspace that inspires you to chase down your goals can actually help you achieve them faster.
6. Don’t forget to design your office space for virtual meetings
While freelance writers have always worked remotely, this year brought a new layer into our office design decisions: Zoom calls. Most people are now familiar with the tech, which means clients might be more inclined to hop on a quick video call.
So what does this have to do with your home office setup? As a freelancer and business owner, your professionalism and reputation are everything! Don’t be that kid with laundry piled up on the unmade bed in the background of your video chat. Take a little time to set up your space for Zoom calls.
Some things to consider as you design your home office:
- Lighting is key – Keep light sources (including windows) in front of you for optimal image quality and to prevent unflattering shadows across your face.
- Corral the clutter – This is sound advice for office design in general, but if you tend to keep a messier workspace, at least keep it off-screen.
- Balance professional and personal – Personal memorabilia adds warmth to a space, but double-check that everything on camera tells the story you want your clients to hear. (Ocean vistas from Bali? Perfect! That pic of you and your bestie rocking coconut bras in Hawaii? Maybe display that one off-camera.)
- Design with video in mind – Colors, patterns, and textures all translate differently on camera, so make sure you check out your setup on-screen before a call.
A clean, professional workspace speaks volumes about you as a business owner. Take a few minutes to view your background through the camera and adjust to make the best virtual impression.
7. Create that coffee house vibe in your home office
Coffee shops and cafes are famous for attracting writers. Even JK Rowling penned the first Harry Potter in a local cafe in Edinburgh. But why?
Well, first of all, lots of writers love the buzz. And there’s a certain ‘cool factor’ to working all day in a coffee shop if we’re being honest with ourselves.
But COVID has put a damper on that. That’s why creating the perfect writing environment at home is more important than ever.
To recreate the familiar coffee house feeling while working from home, follow these important steps:
- Get ready for the day. The psychology of this is clear – when you have a solid workday morning routine, you tell your brain it’s time to work. So shower, get dressed, and get ready like you normally would. Treat working from home like working from anywhere else.
- Create a ‘commute’. You travel to a coffee shop with the intention to work. Give your brain this same cue by establishing a pre-work routine. Take a walk around the block. Listen to a podcast. Squeeze in a quick workout. Find some clear marker to separate your home life from your work life so you’re ready to roll once you sit down at your desk.
- Make your favorite coffee house beverage. Spend a little time creating a delicious cup of coffee, tea, or a smoothie to start your workday. Daily habits like this can actually act as triggers for your brain to build the new habits you want – in this case, writing!
- Recreate the coffee house buzz. Turn on a great playlist to provide just the right amount of background noise. A quick search on your preferred streaming platform will provide hours of music to get you in the writing flow.
One of the best parts of writing in a coffee shop is the low-level constant sound. But if you’ve got noisy kiddos or barking dogs that might create more noise than you need, consider investing in some noise-canceling headphones to keep sounds at the optimal level.
8. Leave the workday behind
This is probably the most overlooked yet most important point. When you work at home, it’s hard to step away. But to be a successful freelance writer and business owner, you need to recharge. Both to give your eyes and back a break, but also to be inspired by the world and people around you.
I firmly believe that every good experience you have away from your work can be leveraged for your work.
So, set a work schedule that fits your life and your own natural rhythms. Then, stick to it. At the end of the day, walk away. Close your laptop, shut the door, and come back fresh the next day. You’ll return to a beautifully designed office space refreshed, energized, and excited to write.
Ready for a better office for your freelance writing business?
Together, these tips can create the ultimate writing space. But even one will make a difference. Pick your favorite from the list above to implement today and instantly enjoy a more productive workspace.
Looking for design ideas for the rest of your home? Check out this post for 12 easy home upgrades anyone can tackle without breaking the bank.