Ah… the dream of working from home. Is it truly a dream? Sure being able to work in your pjs or at any time of the day, even doing a little bit of laundry while you are working on that order could seem like a piece of heaven. This would especially look promising to those who go to a cubicle and have a 9-5 job everyday.
Remember the grass is greener quote? That’s right. Working from home has its fallbacks too. Not everything is peaches and cream. Sure you save a ton of money not having to commute or buy coffee or even go out for lunch, but you don’t really leave the house either. Sometimes you don’t adhere to that end of the day bell and stop working. Eventually, if you are like me and own your own business, you are CONSTANTLY working… or at least your brain is.
Never fear there are some really great tips out there that can help you not go into “work overload.” The first order of sanity- boundaries people… we need to have boundaries. Business Insider has a great article from Bankrate.com called “How to Successfully Work From Home.” Which gives some key points like setting a schedule, dressing for work, checking in on a regular basis. If you are telecommuting these are great tips. You want your employer to know that getting the job done at home will be executed successfully and that you can be trusted to honor whatever expectations that the company has for you. When you telecommute, it is very important to know that you are setting up boundaries with your family, and that whatever hours that you are working are not “talk to me anytime” hours because you are home. Also making sure that you are communicating with your staff and/or boss regularly to show that progress is being made and that you are meeting the set goals.
Now telecommuting is one thing, but working from home in your OWN business is an entirely different fruit. When I first started my business in 2012, I though whoohoo! This is GREAT! No more cubicles, or lurking bosses, and NO MORE TRAFFIC. Running my business from home has its perks- being able to have a flexible schedule, get the job done early if I had insomnia, coffee just the way I like it and most of all I was running the show.
What we don’t realize (I especially didn’t) is that in some way or fashion we crave order… aka a schedule. Even if it is a loose one- wake up, eat, go to bed. It is how our bodies regulate and how they can bounce back if something changes. I remember after the 6th month of being in business, work was pouring in. I was the new kid on the block, charging super low prices (we’ll talk about that in another post) and everyone wanted a piece. I quickly burned myself out. I had suddenly became late with turn around times, and not as creative as a graphic and web designer should be. I tried to answer every inquiry with an hour long conversation, put my everything into the business all the time and then suddenly… the dishes weren’t getting done and we were eating off of paper plates and my son was down to his last pair of underwear… no bueno.
Since then I still have not perfected the art of running your business from home but I have developed a few tips that may help you in your journey.
You need a place to work. Not the sofa, where you will fall asleep, or the bed… if you are serious about your business you will know it is not that type of party. A desk, a computer a worktable, whatever it is- you need to create a workstation for yourself that will not have you all over the house looking for things to get the job done.
Set a schedule. Yes I know this is why you signed up to join the workforce at home- do whatever it is that you want, when you want. Again, not that type of soiree if you are serious about your craft. Figure out a time to check emails, fill work orders, send thank you’s, go to the post office, make calls, and most importantly take a regular scheduled hour each day, even an actual day to work on JUST your business. It’s vital that you keep the freshness going and fix what isn’t working- and you need to make time for that. Also, set a time to STOP. Not “save that for later” or “I’ll take a break and get back to it tonight” You need to be able to shut down the work mode part of your brain and enjoy life.
Get up from the desk on a regular basis. Here’s where experts might disagree with me a bit. If you have a load of laundry to do, get up and put it in. Your body needs to move every so often to get the blood pumping. It’s just like when experts say when you are in your 9-5 cubicle – “get up and walk to the water fountain” same idea, different task. So if you need to wash some dishes, or clean out the litter (cuz you left it marinating a little longer than you should have and it’s distracting you more than anything because you can’t breathe) go for it. Just don’t let it interfere with getting what you need to get done for the business. I usually average about once every 1-2 hours to just “walk away,” especially if you are in that creative industry and need to foster spectacular ideas.
Set yourself up to succeed. In this day and age, technology is at our fingertips. It is also so plentiful that the cost of most of it will not break the bank. Make sure that you set your office area up with the equipment that you need to fulfill your orders, requests, emails, and any other business related activity that may come into play. If you can’t afford and accountant get quickbooks, lawyers out of the budget- find a prepaid service, or exchange services. You don’t want to lose out on an important project because you didn’t have the simple things you needed to get the job done right.
Get to know your work-style. Some of us work under pressure well, others need to plan out every step of their day… their life in fact. Find out what (and be honest) works for you. This is not an ego-centered task- it is a get down to the basics, your core and be truthful with yourself mission. If you know that you aren’t going to get up until 10am, and even then you are a little slow to churn the butter- then set your hours from 11-7pm. Or by appointment. If you know hat your organizational skills are crap, and you just put papers in one big pile… then take 30 mins a day to sort and file. You know yourself best, don’t get involved in a process that isn’t going to work for you. Nobody says that you can’t tweak it along the way.
Set boundaries. This is for friends, family, clients, EVERYONE. For some reason, people tend to think that because you are working from home that you have all the time in the world to talk to them, or help them, or do something. Nip that in the bud right now! Seriously, if you have to screen calls (except for school or your partner’s work) do it. It will save you from the “obligatory conversation” and you will actually be able to get some work done. And refrain from calling anyone not related to the business. It is not setting the tone and giving mixed messages.
Ask for help. With a gazillion people in the world, you do not have to carry the burden of your business by yourself. Even if your family and friends aren’t that supportive, you can hire out- there are sub contractors waiting to help you. In addition to hiring out, join communities that are along the same lines of what you are trying to do. Whether it be in your field or other entrepreneurs. Hearing the accomplishments and challenges that they have gone through can really help, besides that you may get the support that you need from them.
Take care of yourself. This by far is the most important tip of them all. I always like to correlate this to when you are on a plane and the first thing you are told is if there is any trouble you are to put your mask on before you help someone else right? Same applies here. You will not be good to anyone if you burn yourself out, or get ill. When that happens, you are the sinking ship, especially if you are just starting out. Make sure you have a backup plan in case something happens. Most of all take care of your health and mental well being, the point of owning your own business is being happy and sucessful.
However you choose to work from home, know that nothing will be perfect. You just have to take it one day at a time. If you have any helpful suggestions for people who are or want to work from home please comment below!