Image Source: Celeste Twikler

Over the past few weeks a few people have asked how I manage to stay motivated as a self-employed individual, working from home. Usually the question is phrased as: "I don't know how you stay focused at home; I would just watch Ellen."

Fair enough! My short answer is that I stay motivated because people are giving me money to supply them with a product, and I have to deliver. I'm also motivated because I enjoy the challenge I've set for myself. I enjoy my work-from-home setup, and also, I want to earn as much as I can.

With that explanation out of the way, the rest of this post is for those who are in a similar position, that is, self-employed and working from home.

If you find your work interesting, it's easy to stay motivated

Working from home isn't like being forced to sit in a chair and write a school essay! That would definitely be torture. If you enjoy your work, you just get up and do it, because you want to. I'm not working from home because I'm a lazy homebody; I work from home because the work I'm doing motivates me, and the job I was doing in the office, didn't.

If you're working from home and you find yourself distracted by daytime TV, maybe you're in the wrong game. Working from home isn't right for everyone.

My home job isn't all fun! There are mundane parts to my business, but that's where these next two points come in...

When you're responsible for your income, it's easy to stay focused

For the four years while my business was just a side hustle, the money I made was merely a bonus on top of my regular wage. Now that I'm fully self-employed, I'm responsible for how much or little I can earn. That's not something you take lightly! The phrase 'time is money' becomes important, and it's naturally easy to stay on track. It's not all about money, though. When I switched to self-employment I set myself a pretty big challenge, and I'm motivated to achieve my goals.

When customers rely on you, you have to focus

I take payments in exchange for my product, so slacking off isn't an option. It's easy for me to stay on task because I have contact with customers on a daily basis.

I place high value on good customer service. Part of that is getting back to my customers as soon as possible. I find that my customers are responsive and happy when I get back to them promptly (thus, more likely to want to work with me!). Providing great service makes me feel happy, and is a reward in itself.

Getting organised, and setting up your systems, is key

Getting organised is the most important thing you can do for your business. You have to take the time to establish a system.

Filing system

Since my business employs a staff of 1 (me), I'm the manager of Marketing, Communications, Accounting, Legal, Product Development, Photography, Dispatch and Procurement. I have a well-organised hard drive, with folders for every 'department'. My well-organised folders contain well-organised sub-folders. Not going to lie, it's a thing of beauty.

Work is much more enjoyable when you're not surrounded by chaos. I liken this to baking. Over the weekend I baked a couple of semi-extravagant birthday cakes. For the first cake, at some stages (the past-my-bedtime stage) there was buttercream on every surface of the kitchen, cake batter splattered over my clothes, and chocolate shavings on the kitchen floor. Not so fun. For the second cake, I cleaned up as I went, regularly wiped down my work surface, and lined up everything I needed. Much more enjoyable!

Chaos is stressful. When you have a good system, work is enjoyable - things just flow, allowing you to work at your peak. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Image Source: Letterfolk
De-clutter and plan

Since deciding to expand my business, the ante has been upped. Beforehand, product development and marketing were just floaty ideas in my head - now I have to take them seriously.

The first few days after leaving my full-time office job my head was spinning with everything I had to do. My brain was crammed with all the ideas that had been bubbling away for YEARS that I hadn't had time to pursue. I didn't know where to start.

I wanted to get creative with my product development, but I knew that it was more important to hit pause and make a plan.

BUT FIRST: I allowed myself the time to catch up on 'life admin' - those little jobs, paperwork, and odds and ends that pile up over time. The purpose was to de-clutter my workspace and clear my plate so I could focus on my work.

Create a master planner and set a schedule

Once I had de-cluttered, the next crucial step was to make a mind map of all the tasks that I needed to action. Once mapped out, I devised a way to categorise the work and divide it up into focus tasks over a week. I then made myself a planner in Excel (with pretty pastel colours, of course).

My planner covers both business work, and 'life work', by which I mean housework, washing, grocery shopping, gymming, processing bills, etc. I include my 'life work' in my planner so that 1) the sheets get washed and 2) crossing things off a list delivers a nice shot of dopamine.

In terms of business work, my planner covers both daily office tasks (the stuff I have to do every day - checking email, etc.) and a focus task for each day of the week. My focus tasks at the moment include social media education, product development and website development. So for example, my focus task on Tuesday will be education. On Thursday I will work on the website.

My planner also includes tasks that only occur once a month, such as checking my product supplies, and following up with customers about the next month's orders.

It was crucial for me to map out this plan, as it ensures I'm covering all bases. I didn't want to work on the website for two months while completely ignoring product development. My plan ensures that everything is ticking along. It has the added benefits of 1) providing variety 2) reminding me that I have PLENTY to do, and that there is no time for Ellen!

Image Source: UrbanHeartHomes

Using tools and tech to manage your plan and stay accountable

Setting the plan is one thing - the next part is gathering some tools to keep yourself accountable.

My master weekly planner is my guide, but in reality, my schedule varies depending on how many orders I have to fill, my personal appointments, workshops or expos, and errands I need to run. For that reason, I just use my master planner as a guide to create a tailored plan for each week.

I create my plan for the week first thing every Monday morning. I use this A3 weekly planner pad from Typo to map out my week. It's fifteen minutes spent on Monday morning that gets the week off to a flying start.

Another tool that I love is Wunderlist - an online to-do list. I use this to keep track of my ideas and non-urgent tasks. You can create however many different categories you like, and within these categories, you add your tasks. I have lists for 'life admin' (update passport, prepare tax return - that type of thing), lists for product ideas, marketing ideas, ideas for blog posts, etc.

I review my Wunderlist every Monday morning. I cross off anything I've done, and then I try to incorporate a couple of awaiting tasks into my plan for the week.

The long and the short of it

Amidst filling orders and building a business, there's not a lot of downtime. I usually start my workday earlier than I would start at the office, and finish a little later, often because I'm engrossed in a task (other times because I have a deadline). I take a lunch break when I'm hungry, and I'll either sit outside in the sun, or zone out with the TV while I eat. Working from home means I have flexibility, and it means that if it's a sunny day, I can step outside for a bit, or have a cup of tea with my Mum. This is part of the reason why I wanted to try working from home. It doesn't mean I'm a lady of leisure (don't call me that - I'll bop your head) - I work hard.

I hope this provides a bit of insight into the mysterious world of working from home, and can be helpful for those who are also self-employed. Let me know in the comments if you have any tips of your own, or want to share your challenges or triumphs of working from home.


After visiting Thailand last year I was inspired to reduce my plastic consumption. We visited the island of Koh Lipe, where plastic water bottles have been banned. Instead, the island's hotels and merchants only sell 'Trash Hero' metal water bottles. Across the island, hotels and eateries provide free stations for refilling your bottle with purified water. This is such an inspiring initiative, especially considering the revenue that the island could be making from the sale of plastic water bottles.

This is the type of sacrifice and action that we all need to take, to make a dent in the problem of plastic waste.

Because, really, if a small, second-world tourist destination in Thailand can rally the whole island, any excuse we come up with is pretty weak.

You know what plastic does? It friggen sucks, that's what.

Plastic doesn't break down in the environment - EVER! 'What about recycling?', I hear you ask. Props for sorting your garbage, but unfortunately, most plastics are only good for one round of recycling, into a lower-grade product at best. After that, it's off to join the rest of the plastics in landfill, where they'll stay - forever. By comparison, glass and metal are not degraded in the recycling process and can be re-purposed over and over again.

Every bit of plastic that you've ever used still exists. Think about that. Mind blown?

What doesn't go to landfill ends up in waterways. It's estimated that 100 million sea mammals die each year from consuming plastic. And that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. :(

Read on (or skip to the tips) because there's some easy (dare I say, super fun) things you can do that won't require you to grow dreadlocks or knit your own underpants, etc.

You have to do something, though. If not you, than who? Because it's not going to be the ignorant dumbhead buying the 24-pack of plastic water bottles every week.

Yes, there are occasions I find myself at the supermarket without a calico bag in which to place my packaged shit. It takes time to retrain old habits, after all. Make your decision to change though, and gradually you'll become more conscious about your preparation, and your choices. I actually find it a pretty fun game now to look for alternatives (woot!). And I feel pretty swish about myself when I do.

Here are my top tips for reducing your plastic footprint:

1. Look for non-plastic packaging at the supermarket. Buy sugar and flour in paper, not plastic. Grab your OJ in a cardboard carton. Your oats in a box. Seek out condiments in glass. A super fun game for the savvy shopper ;) It could also be a fun game for the kids (if you want to be at the supermarket for 5 hours). 

2. Gather your veggies sans plastic bags. There's no need to put each individual piece of fruit in a bag. I put mine straight in the trolley, but you could bring BYO box, too. Choose veggies that aren't wrapped in plastic. Bananas don't need to be wrapped in plastic! THEY ALREADY HAVE A WRAPPER. Opt for a whole tomato, rather than a punnet of baby toms in plastic. You get the idea.

3. Collect yourself some cute calico bags. You have permission to leave your green Woolies bags at home when you go shopping for clothes. In fact, please don't tote those around like makeshift handbags. Much daggy. Very faux pas. Keep a calico number in your car and what-not for spur-of-the moment shopping adventures. 

4. Revamp your takeaway beverage habit with a reusable cup, like KeepCup. Better yet, save your pennies, invest in a mug, and make use of your office coffee machine.

5. Bake homemade cookies and save the planet at the same time! Nuff said.

6. Explore the wonderful world of cloth nappies. I can hear the mamas laughing through my screen, but I'm still going to try these out if and when the time come for me to be a mama bear. Google 'eco nappies', 'cloth nappies' or 'bamboo nappies' - the options seem to be endless, and some of them are pretty stylin'. Have a go at saving disposables for trips out of the house - every stinky nappy counts (it kind of hits home when you realise that the plastic from the nappies you wore as a baby, still exist.)

7. Get back to basics with beauty. From bamboo/charcoal toothbrushes to Lush shampoo bars, there are many ways we can pare back the cosmetics cupboard. A jar of coconut oil is a versatile bathroom staple that can be used for hair treatments, lip balm and an in-shower moisturiser. Try replacing bottles of shower gel with a bar of dreamy charcoal soap (my fave here). Give my homemade lemongrass sugar scrub a birl. 

8. Re-usable containers are your go-to for storing leftovers. Reach for your Pyrex or Tupperware before the cling film or snap bags. 

9. Peruse the supermarket for eco laundry items. It's a plastic nightmare in those aisles, but if you look carefully, there's usually at least one (often only one!) non-plastic packaged version. Think laundry detergent and dishwasher powder. If stuck, another option is to buy in bulk or in concentrated forms.

10. Put down the bottle of Fiji Water. I repeat, put down the bottle. That pretty label may look eco-friendly, but oh, it's not. The simplest tip of all: get a reusable water bottle, and refill it from the tap. When you want to treat yo'self to a soft drink, try the options in aluminium or glass.

11. Look for plastic-free alternatives such as icecream in boxes, wrapped in paper, rather than in a plastic tub.

12. Invest in quality-made products that last such as wooden/steel garden tools and ceramics, rather than plastics that crack and have to be replaced.

13. Rethink gifts for children. Kids get given a LOT of stuff, often in the form of plastic. For tactile/educational toys, look at alternative options made from wood and textiles. Books are always a wonderful idea, as is something they can use outside. Get creative and help them make a cubby out of a cardboard box (they'll love it) or take them on an outing as a present, like a trip to the movies.

14. Go plastic-free when entertaining crowds. If your party calls for disposable dinnerware, choose cardboard or bamboo plates and festive paper straws over plastic. 

15. Be a creative gift giver. Before you get to the checkout, try to think about the practicality of the stuff you buy. Maybe the gift of an experience would be well received? It's hard to go wrong with a voucher for the movies, a nice restaurant or spa! 

Thanks for reading, and happy converting! Do you have any other ideas for going plastic free? I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below. X

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Image: Letterfolk

Hey guys. It's been a hot minute since I've updated this space with any degree of regularity, but if you'll humour me by stopping back next Monday, I'm intended to post on a weekly basis (!).

I've missed blogging, but between an engagement (mine), wedding (also mine!), renovating, moving house, working in the city, and juggling my own business, writing for fun was kicked to the curb.

Thanks for stopping by, though. This space is probably looking a bit tired at the moment – might have to freshen it up soon but for now, time to get down to business.

Two new changes have allowed me to free up some time for blogging. 1) I've decided to make the time. 2) I've left my corporate job to focus on my own business.

I've been working in corporate desk jobs for the past decade and it was time to explore a new mode of work. If not now, when?

Four years ago I started a hobby business, Little Bow Thief, which I re-branded last year as Sweet Tilly Flint. The bizwah has been ticking along surprisingly successfully for such a niche side gig. It's always had room to expand, but I haven't had the time to do it. Juggling both my day job and Sweet Tilly Flint meant that I was working a lot of nights and weekends, at the expense of my sanity, and ability to spend weekends the way they should be spent – having fun and making memories!

We (husband and I) had been talking about the idea of me turning my side hustle into a full-time hustle for a while, but in the end it was my frustration with feeling boxed in at work that led to the final decision to test the legs of this business. Enough talking. Enough speculating. Time to see what the business can do, and what working from home is really like. If I never tried, I would never know. So here I am, full-time hustling. Eeeeep!

Today marks the beginning of my third week as a fully-fledged self-employed business chick. Over the past couple of weeks I've had to curb the urge to get lost in all the creative ideas in my head, and instead have focused on getting on top of general life admin (all those pesky jobs and papers that no one ever has time for) – plus taking care of orders as usual. I've also taken the time to draw up some solid work schedules, focus tasks and plans to move the business forward. It hasn't been easy to pump the breaks on crafting, but when there's a tonne of background work to do, de-cluttering and planning are key. I've got schedules for my scheduling and lists for my lists, and I can finally see myself edging forward. Case in point: today's blog post was brought to you as a result of my impressive new schedule. *pats self on back*

That's a little about where I'm at today. 

On the blog, over the next few weeks I want to  show you how I feng shui'd my home workroom, glimpse at my first impressions of being self-employed and working from home, and talk a bit about going plastic-free (beyond plastic-free July). 

Until next Monday!