By Carole Howell
After 30 years in a corporate office and now an independent writer and editor, I’m learning that working from home requires the discipline of a drill sergeant and the tools of technology.
According to Forbes, 52% of small businesses are home-based, and 28 million small businesses in the U.S. are self-employed with no additional payroll or employees. In other words, your staff is me, myself, and I.
The flexibility is a plus, savings on overhead and real estate keep costs low, and there are certainly tax advantages to running your business from home.
The downsides are that the lines between our home life and our work life seem to blur, and we have trouble breaking away from our work when we should be interacting with family and friends. The technology you need to stay in touch can be expensive. A home office can take up quite a bit of living space and, the most important downside: not everyone has what it takes to work from home. With distractions everywhere, organization, self-discipline, and self-motivation can be difficult skills to master.
You can make working from home work for you by applying these –tips:
1.Set the tone for work by getting dressed; no pajamas. Keep a morning routine that includes being at your desk at the same time each day.
2.Get up to date with technology. Use a smart phone to pick up your email while you’re in the line at the grocery store. Apps such as ooVoo video chat, note taking and organization software Intellinote, and word processing UX Write can keep you in touch and working efficiently.
3.Your home office should be fully equipped with desk, printer, fax,
and whatever else you need. If you don’t have a room to dedicate to an office, try to block off an area with a room divider or filing cabinets.
4.Use your answering machine as a personal assistant. Screen your calls and, during your designated work time, don’t be distracted by calls that don’t involve work.
5.To stay on track, many organization experts recommend dividing large projects into small ones, setting deadlines for yourself, and making to-do lists so you can check off finished tasks.
6.While you should take breaks every hour or so, don’t get sidetracked. Answer emails only at designated times during the day, schedule appointments for phone calls, meetings, and Scype, and stay off social media until after hours.
7.Just like a traditional office, work time is work time. If you need to make a doctor’s appointment or pick up a friend from the airport, arrange it during planned free time. You may decide to stop your workday when the kids get off the bus. Try to wrap it up by 5, and just like you would at a traditional office, leave work and close the door if you have one. Resist the urge to become a work-hermit, and make sure that you plan some social and physical activity to keep you in touch with the outside world.
8.Gently make it clear to family and friends of your work times and what that means. If appropriate, design a “do not disturb” sign to use when you’re on an important call or a deadline. This is not the time for drop-in chats and questions that can wait until you emerge.
9.Create boundaries for work and don’t leave it on the coffee table or on the kitchen counter. Keep your workspace neat, and your projects in file folders instead of in piles. Disorganization saps your energy and wastes work time.
10.If you need a more professional office and meeting space for meeting clients, consider leasing a virtual office or executive suite service. You can use it and you need it and you’ll share a receptionist, office equipment, conference room space, a mailing address, and other features that will give you a professional look without the overhead.
About the Author:
Carole Howell is an independent writer and editor in North Carolina. For more from Carole, visit her website at www.walkerbranchwrites.com.