Whether you’re an entrepreneur starting your own company or a former corporate employee venturing into freelance work, the freedom of working from home can present its own set of challenges. While the productivity advantages, flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and lack of daily commute can all add to the appeal of moving into a home office, “working from home” is sometimes associated with chaos or unprofessionalism.
Many people hear the term “home office” and visualize pyramid marketing schemes or someone trying to work off a kitchen table with kids and pets everywhere. This can make them hesitant to work with someone who operates out of their house.
Presenting a professional image can help you avoid being pigeonholed as someone going into business as a hobby or distracted by home life during working hours. With a little advanced planning, adherence to simple ground rules, and a few tools, you can create an appropriate customer- and client-facing exterior.
1. Maintain a professional online presence
A businesslike online presence is the first step to a professional appearance for the at-home worker. If you run your own business, a simple and clean website is a must. Whether you work from home for yourself or a larger company, create professional social media accounts. Privacy settings on personal accounts can help keep your home life separate from work and maintain a polished presence for work contacts who want to connect.
2. Create a professional workspace
You need a dedicated place to work and take calls, including video conferences. Even if a screened-off corner of a room in your house is all that is available, you can still present a professional, organized appearance. Keep clutter, kids’ toys, and personal items from intruding into your workspace. An even, light-colored backdrop behind your desk chair will allow you to participate in video calls with confidence.
3. Dress in professional attire
It can be tempting to work in pajamas all day, but dressing for success when working from home can have significant positive benefits. You’ll feel more focused, be more productive, and have that much-needed dividing line between your professional and personal life. This one simple trick can help you “flip the switch” on work mode once you are done for the day and help you enjoy your off-the-clock time.
4. Use professional tools and systems
You’re a business professional, so use tools meant for business. Consider investing in the following (many of which can be itemized as deductions on your taxes):
- A computer or laptop solely for work use and a secondary hard drive backup
- An ergonomic office desk and chair to protect your health and help your posture
- A virtual phone system, like Grasshopper, that is capable of handling all your inbound communications
- A professional accounting and invoicing system to keep your finances on track
- A paper or digital planner for maintaining your schedule and tracking tasks
High-quality tools can help you maintain a professional image while also keeping you organized and productive. For example, when someone calls for a work-related matter, a virtual phone number can send them directly to the device you are using at any given moment. This can help reduce missed calls and let you maintain your at-work persona, even if you’re on the road or in the field.
5. Keep professional work hours
It can be easy to slide into “always-on” mode when you work from home – but sending emails at three in the morning can come across as unprofessional. Unless it’s a real emergency, set boundaries and expect others to respect your time. A professional system can route calls and emails to voicemail, direct them to an answering service, or deliver an automated response dictating when a reply can be expected.
Presenting yourself as a professional while working from home isn’t hard — all you have to do is think of yourself as a professional and act accordingly. With the right set of ground rules and appropriate business tools, colleagues and clients shouldn’t even notice that you’re conducting business out of your home.
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