A friend recently decided to streamline and simplify her professional life by relocating her business from a traditional storefront into the finished basement of her family home. Great move, I thought. She’s got a loyal clientèle, a strong social media presence to attract new customers, and an effective on line store.
She’s also got a partner and two young children, so the change makes sense for her family too.
I know a thing or two about running a home-based business and a household. Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing has been based out of my home office since 2004.
Working for myself, and on my own, has given me a 10-second commute, autonomy, and the flexibility to walk my dog in the middle of a sunny day. But merging home and office can have its challenges, and definitely isn’t for everyone.
So here are five tips on how to make working from home a success.
Create a dedicated work space
I am fortunate to have a dedicated office. When my workday is done I close my office door – and it remains shut until I am ready to tackle the next day’s to-do list.
The biggest pitfall of running a home-based business is allowing your business to dominate your home. If you hope to achieve any sort of work-life balance it’s vital to create a space that separates the personal from the professional.
Don’t work on the sofa. Don’t work in bed. Don’t work at the kitchen table. Even if you live in a bachelor apartment, set up a desk and chair and call it your office.
Don’t eat lunch at your office desk. Don’t watch Netflix on your office laptop. Your work space is for work. Your personal space is for family, friends, and relaxation.
(Still not convinced? Then ask your accountant about the benefits of claiming a home-office deduction on your tax returns.)
Create a work schedule
With your office only steps away, it’s easy to work at any time of the day and night. Having the flexibility to arrange your work schedule around your family schedule is great. Never taking time off work to spend with your family, not so much.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re busy. If you’re an entrepreneur and a parent, your schedule is probably in overdrive. If you’re an entrepreneur and parent with a home office, you may never sleep.
You need – and deserve – time off. Decide how much you want to work and when you want to do it, and then stick to your schedule.
Remember – if you answer client emails at 11 pm, that’s what they will come to expect. Unless it’s a real emergency your reply can wait until the morning. You’ll sleep better. They’ll probably email at a more reasonable hour the next time. If not, it’s time to find a new client.
Just do the work
With the kitchen just steps away from your office, it may be tempting to take a break and empty the dishwasher. Or fold the laundry. Or pick up your son’s dirty socks.
And with no boss looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to lose a morning to Facebook.
If you don’t have the self-discipline to focus on your work without the threat of being fired, then having a home office may not be the best choice for you. Getting up from your desk for a quick break or having a proper lunch at your kitchen table (or out with friends) is fine – but losing your day to housework or social media is no way to grow a business.
Dress for success
Working from home means you can roll out of bed and hit your desk in your pajamas. Right?
You may not need to wear a button-down suit to work from home, but you should still dress in a manner that makes you look and feel like a professional.
Find your tribe
Working from home means you don’t have to face the creep in the next cubicle or deal with a narcissistic boss. But it also means you miss out on the camaraderie of a traditional work environment.
If you’re a social person, a home-based business may not be for you. The truth is, working from home can be lonely and isolating, and you may find yourself having long conversations with the family pet.
It’s important to make an effort to get out of your home-based office. And this means more than just going for coffee with your friends. You need professional colleagues who can offer advice and support. You need new customers, who won’t find you if they don’t know you exist.
Set aside a few days each month to attend meaningful networking events, or join a professional organization.
There are also plenty of virtual groups on Facebook – and they can be a wonderful resource – but nothing beats meeting people face-to-face.
Maintaining social interactions is good for your mental health, will keep you motivated, and will help forge the connections you need to enjoy long-term business success.
If you work from a home office, share your biggest challenges and helpful hints in the comments below!
Nicole Laidler is passionate about helping people grow their business, one word at a time. She is a story-based copywriter, marketing & website copywriter, blogger, and content consultant based in London, Ontario, and the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing.