By the time I took the plunge and joined the ranks as a home business owner, I had done my share of homework. I read the books, the magazine articles, and talked with other home office professionals. The message was the same…it takes discipline and structure to be successful in a home office. My reaction was the same each time…sure, sure, I understand, but I believe “thou dost protest too much.”
The short of this story is they were right and I was wrong. I didn’t believe the things I heard in my quest for information on home business. So after six months of a home office career what have I learned? I can honestly say that being a small business owner is hard. And being a small business owner in a home office setting is incredibly hard.
The good news is you can learn to be a good home business owner. I’m still in the early stages, but this is a “sink or swim” situation. There are bills to be paid and children to be fed – you waste no time learning what it takes to survive! Here is my top ten list for home office survival 101:
1. Define your space
Create an office space that provides privacy and few outside interruptions.
2. Get prepared
Telephones, fax machines, and copiers are a given, but don’t overlook the little necessities. Make sure you have a good filing system, accounting software that you’re comfortable using, paper clips, staplers and all other mandatory office supplies. Overlooking these little details can create minor interruptions that really impact your productivity.
3. Set a work schedule
It’s nice to have flexibility, but you are running a business. Establish working hours and designated lunch breaks to reinforce your business identity. This is important not only for yourself, but for your family, friends, and customers as well. Think of it this way: if you never knew McDonald’s would be open when you went by for a burger, you would probably start going to Burger King.
Read the article “How to Manage Your Time More Efficiently”
4. Establish a routine
Most employees have certain routines with work, such as playing a certain music CD in the car on the way to the office, or taking ten minutes at your desk first thing in the morning to determine your “to-do” list for the day. A routine gives you a level of comfort that helps transition you into your work day. Do the same in your home office. For example, I drive to a local store for a cup of coffee and then back to the office – it makes me feel like I’m part of the work scene. It also provides an adjustment period before my home transitions to my office. And it’s also something I don’t do on the weekends, so it further separates home and office psychologically.
5. Casual Friday
It’s nice to know you can lounge around in a bathrobe in a home office, but I don’t recommend it. Get dressed for work each morning to set the tone of a professional office. Celebrate with the rest of the working world with a casual dress code on Fridays.
Read the article What to Wear When You Work from Home
6. Business line only
In the need to watch costs with a new venture many home business owners are tempted to share their home phone line with the business. If at all possible, invest in a designated business line. It’s difficult to be professional if you’re also juggling personal calls, or intercepting calls for other family members. At the very least, consider some of the latest technology that allows you to efficiently manage business and personal calls.
Read the blog post What’s in a Business Phone Number?
7. Turn off the distractions
This seems like a given, but I’m a television junkie and I love having CNN as background noise. However, this doesn’t lend itself to a professional office environment and it can make it difficult to concentrate. This same rule applies to running the dishwasher or other home appliances that may be in close proximity to your home office space.
Read the article “Top 10 Distractions When Working from Home“
8. Your conference room
Meeting with customers or clients can be a challenge for a home office. If this isn’t a frequent occurrence, consider asking a friend to lend you professional office space for such occasions. You can also rent conference room space by the hour at office centers designed for this exact reason. If all else fails, make sure your home meeting space is a professional reflection of your business. The area should be clean and neat – this goes for the outside of your home, as well. After all, that’s the first impression a customer will have of your business.
Read the article Bringing a Client to Your Home Office and Privacy Concerns
9. Write a press release
It may not be appropriate to conduct a full-scale grand opening of a home business, but there is nothing wrong with a press release to announce your new business. A release to the business section of your local paper is a great way to make the business known to the community and lets friends and family know that this is serious, not just a hobby. Also remember to send press releases when you receive a new contract or achieve other important milestones.
Read the articles in our section Press Release
10. Forgive and Forget
Most importantly, know there will be days when you give in to a load of laundry or a round of golf. Playing hooky, as you may recall, is symptomatic of most work environments – not just the home office. So give yourself a little slack and then get back to work!
Read the article How to Keep Your Personal Life Separate from Your Home Business
Yes, these are very basic principles of a successful home-based business. Don’t be fooled though, you may be surprised at how difficult it can be to maintain them. Maybe I’ll have an advanced version in another six months. Oh, just in case you haven’t heard enough, remember:
Discipline + Structure = Successful Home Office
Original Publication Date: July 2000
Recommended Books on How to Survive as a Home Business Entrepreneur:
- Work at Home Now: The No-nonsense Guide to Finding Your Perfect Home-based Job, Avoiding Scams, and Making a Great Living
- The Stay At Home Tycoon
- Home-Based Business For Dummies
- Making Money from Home: How to Run a Successful Home-Based Business
- The 200 Best Home Businesses: Easy To Start, Fun To Run, Highly Profitable
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