Working at home

emwords: working at home

Contact the author, Elizabeth Manning Murphy, for more about working from home.

NEW: COVID-19 and the ‘new normal’ workplace for editors and writers

If you’ve always worked at home, you probably aren’t finding being at home most of the day too much of a hassle. But if you are suddenly finding yourself surrounded by other family members (partner, children) also working or learning from home, it’s not so easy. Here are a few tips that may help you:

Discuss priorities in the family:

  • Who has the greatest need of access to the landline phone? Decide on fair sharing or set up a table in a private space for the person with most need to talk on the phone, whether landline or mobile.
  • Who will take the main supervision role for children doing schoolwork at home? If it’s you, make up your mind to devote the necessary hours to this task to avoid arguments. Make school hours regular and include ‘clean-up’ activity at the end of the school day.
  • Keep your own editing or writing work separate from your partner’s or children’s materials. If you have the space, keep work materials separate from a main family area such as the kitchen table – keep that space for cooking, playing games and chatting.
  • Don’t fall into a ‘take-away’ trap – fresh food is always better, so have a big shop-up of fresh fruit and vegies once a week and set aside one day for cooking of nutritious food that you can freeze in single-serve packs; ready-cooked meals are treats (they are usually full of preservatives and other unwanted ingredients, so go easy on those, but do keep some in the freezer for when you’re just too tired to prepare dinner).
  • Get some exercise, at least a good walk once a day.
  • Keep up the hygiene routine: wash hands with soap and warm water frequently; maintain 1.5 metres distance from anyone else if you possibly can; wear a mask if you have to go out shopping.

All of the members of the emma team work alone at home nearly all the time or part-time alongside an office job. If you are having difficulty coping with the changed circumstances and your editing or writing is suffering as well, get in touch with us for a chat – one of us may have some more helpful hints for you. Before you contact us, read the ‘Our team’ page and then, in your enquiry, nominate the team member(s) you would like to contact, if you wish. We are not all trained personal advisers, but we are all editors or writers, or both, and we can chat and suggest further advice if necessary. Any conversations are strictly confidential. There is no charge for a chat.

Do keep well, keep warm, keep working and keep safe – we’ll all come through this disruptive period if we plan carefully and then stick to our plan as closely as possible.




Are you thinking of retiring from a full-time job? Or do you want to reorganise your work/life balance? Or are you finding it difficult to get a job?

All of these scenarios might lead you to thinking about freelancing – that is, going out on your own as a consultant in your particular speciality. If you are good with words, and can help others write more clearly, and can edit documents, you might think about freelancing as an editor.

Working on your own at home can be a scary prospect. But there is help available. There is no need to panic about quoting for editing jobs, setting appropriate fees for your work, being covered by appropriate insurance, sending invoices and so on.

If you would like help in any of these areas contact me and I will answer your queries and guide you through your freelancing set-up. If you are a member of a recognised society of editors, you may be eligible to join the Australian National Mentoring Program for editors. Also read Working words (see Books), particularly Part 3 ‘The business of editing’, Chats 12 to 21.

Tools that save travel

Remember when we had to travel great distances to meet clients? It’s still best to talk to clients face-to-face, but now we have Zoom, Skype, Google Meetings and Facetime. Now we can see each other, share screens and advise someone on what to write in the document they show you, even talk to several people at once – as in a small office conference. This visual facility is, to me, better than phone teleconferencing because it’s easy for the person in the chair to see who wants to say something – they merely need to wave to you. And it’s easy for participants to see each other and to join in a conversation – no need to keep on identifying yourself as you have to on a phone conference call – it’s obvious who’s talking or who wants to say something!

And editing can be done using Track Changes and sent back to the client as a PDF file, or whatever other format you agree. This facility has the advantage of having comment notes that you can use to explain your reasons for your edits – or, as I do, for mini lessons in English grammar which I then follow up in person if necessary. Only attempt this if you are qualified and competent to teach in this way.

Teaching itself has become inextricably intertwined with computers and the internet. Classroom lessons can be enhanced by showing students interesting material from a website. And distance training can be accomplished by means of interactive webinars.

These, and other tools, have revolutionised business, and particularly editing. We can work for clients in any part of the world, provided we’re comfortable with the client’s language. Or we can be available to distant clients, or clients who are restricted in their travel abilities, and I personally find this a good way to help clients who are not native speakers of English.

Research has also been made easy – you do need to learn how to discriminate between reliable and unreliable sources on the internet.

Let us not forget authors who want to self-publish. There are programs now to help them get their writing pretty right before it goes to an editor. If you would like to know more about these, contact me for details.

A small disadvantage: all this clever technology has shrunk the world to the size of a pea, and made us all think ‘instant’ – clients expect instant replies by email, and we need to be careful not to over-burden ourselves with ‘instant’ work – remember, we’re human, and we need rest periods!

Contact ufor help with Track Changes; Skype for meetings conferences, training; or with working with non-native speakers of English.