5 tips on how to make working from home a success

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.

Skye

Being able to take this beauty on a mid-day walk is one of the many perks of working from home!

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.

small home office

A home office doesn’t have to be large, but it does need to be a dedicated area separate from your personal living space.

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.

Doing dishes

Your dirty dishes can wait until your workday is finished….

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?

Wrong.

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.

Networking

Make time to get out and meet new people!

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. 

 

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5 tips from the mompreneur trenches

Like most women, I wear many hats. Wife, mother, small-business owner.  And like many women these days, I run my business from home.

I guess that makes me a mompreneur – and part of a growing trend.

In fact, almost 34 per cent of small businesses in Canada are now solely or partially owned by women, and chapters of MOMpreneur Canada are popping up from coast to coast, including right here in London, Ontario.

Balancing work and a family can be a juggling act - especially for a mompreneur!

Balancing work and a family can be a juggling act – especially for a mompreneur!

Juggling work and family is never an easy task. And when you’re a freelance writer, work is ruled by deadlines – deadlines that don’t care about sick children, muddy dogs, plugged sinks and all the other day-to-day distractions and responsibilities that come with family life.

My decision to become a solopreneur was quite deliberate. I took a ‘traditional’ office job (in marketing and communications) so that I could qualify for maternity benefits, going out on my own shortly before my son was born.

That was almost ten years ago, and after a decade in the mompreneur trenches here are my top five tips to staying sane and productive as a work at home mom:

Accept your limitations
Before children, plowing through a to-do list seems as easy as 1-2-3. But once that baby is born just getting out of the house can be a major undertaking.  If you are working from home because you want to be around your children instead of sending them off to daycare, set realistic expectations and cut yourself some slack.

Yes, you may be able to work during nap time. But you may also need to catch up on your own sleep.

And you may not give birth to a napper – my son was a bundle of boundless energy right from day one. While other kids slept four to six hours a day, I was lucky to get him down for 45 minutes. Luckily, he loved hanging out in a sling while I was at my computer as a newborn,  joined me in my office in his Jolly Jumper later on, and started a morning preschool program as soon as he was old enough to be registered!

At one point, an office Jolly Jumper was a must!

At one point, an office Jolly Jumper was a must!

To be honest, I don’t know how I got any work done during those first few years – and I certainly wasn’t earning anything like a real income. But I did keep my fingers in the game.

And mom was right:

IT GETS EASIER…

…and I got more efficient.

Today, I am able to work a regular 6 hour day while he’s off at school – and boy can I get a lot done in those 6 hours!

Get out of the office
This may seem counterproductive, but carving out time for networking and just getting together with friends for lunch is one of the best things you can do to stay refreshed and motivated. It’s also crucial if you want to grow your client base and support network.

Be honest with your clients
I am always upfront about the fact that I am a solopreneur who works from a home office. And it’s never cost me a job.

Some mompreneurs don’t mind working nights and weekends, but that is not for me. My son plays competitive hockey, so countless evenings are spent at the rink.

Win or lose, watching the kids is always fun!

Win or lose, watching the kids is always fun!

In theory I could bring my work with me, but in practice that rarely happens. Watching the kids on the ice is too much fun – and socializing with the other parents is my ‘water-cooler’ time.

If I am up against a pressing deadline, I prefer to wake up before dawn to get things done.  If there’s really no time to take on a new assignment, I ask if the deadline is flexible. You would be surprised at how often people really don’t ‘need’ their copy by tomorrow!

If I simply can’t make it work , I am happy to suggest other freelance writers in my professional network – colleagues and friends who will return the favour!

Be honest with your family
If you need an uninterrupted block of time to finish a project ask your better half or other family member to help out with the childcare duties.  Arrange a play date.  Hire a sitter. Sometimes you can’t be everything to everyone. Especially not at the same time.

Make some me-time
You have undoubtedly read this before, but it’s worth repeating:

Make time to do something for yourself – outside of work and being a mother.

Me-time is not selfish. It’s a sanity savor. Despite my limited available work hours, I give myself permission to do an exercise class at least one morning a week – preferably two. Does it always happen? No.  But it happens more often than not.

As for working mom’s guilt? Just forget about it!

How do you achieve the right work / family balance?

To learn more about my work life, visit me at Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing.