Busting the Home Biz Myths

Rob Spiegel sets the record straight on these five home-business myths.

Don’t believe all the guidelines and hype about running a business from home. Some of the rules, set out in books and columns such as this one, are sound. Others are hype, horse-hockey or oft-repeated nonsense. Here’s a short list of what’s true and what’s false among the work-at-home myths.

Dress Up Like You’re Going to a Meeting
The most common myth says you should dress up like you’re off to a pricy lunch meeting even though you’re working from home. This is the most-frequently-propagated myth in home-business literature. No, you don’t have to dress up in meet-the-client clothes to call prospective clients. Supposedly, when you’re sitting in your living room in business attire, you’re more likely to sound professional over the phone.

Come on, a client-contact call is about attending to your customer’s needs. If you can’t focus on their needs while you’re in your bathrobe, you have bigger problems than the way you’re dressed. Calls to vendors don’t matter at all. You could be sitting in your vendor’s office delicately draped in garbage bags and your vendor doesn’t care. When you’re calling a customer on the phone, focus on your customer with all your attention and you’ll sound perfectly professional.

Fighting the Commotion in the Background
If you’re selling – no noise. If you’re buying, who cares? There is a hard-fast rule about the noise of children in the background when you’re making business calls. If you’re selling, any commotion in the background is impermissible. If you’re buying, the whole house can be coming down around you and it’s just fine with the caller on the other end. One trick that solves this problem without resorting to daycare is hiring a teenager to distract the kids during phone calls. The kids still get the benefit of being at home, while the sitter helps keep your sell time quiet.

Not All Genders Are Equal
Unfortunately for struggling at-home moms, men seem to have an easier time communicating credibility in the biz-at-home setting. If you assume there is equality between the genders, you do so at your peril. Women repeatedly tell me it’s more acceptable for a man to have the sound of small children in the background. They say a man’s professionalism is not as likely to be questioned when kids scream. I’m getting this information on a hearsay basis, but women insist it’s true. They are adamant that a man is more likely to be forgiven, even praised, when a client overhears kid noise, particularly if the customer is a woman. I don’t know this first hand, of course, but I hear the same story continually – women have to work harder to establish the credibility of their at-home enterprises.

Home Is Cheaper for Everyone
This one’s true. Whether you’re an at-home employee or you’re running your own business, home is the cheapest place on earth. If you’re trying to convince your boss that you would be more productive at home, explain that it will also cost less to equip you at home than it does at the office. The savings in office space alone is tremendous. The cost-savings argument might help you overcome your boss’s need to watch you work. Don’t underestimate the powerful need employers have to watch their minions plug away. It takes a big bag of great arguments to overcome this age-old, tenacious need.

The Hidden Devil of Procrastination
Procrastination is the greatest enemy of at-home productivity. Some work-oriented tasks are more pleasant than others. Reading the Wall Street Journal is infinitely more fun than answering all those emails. When it comes to making cold calls, scrubbing up kid-glop on the kitchen floor is significantly preferable.

The best way to get past the business-killing roadblock of procrastination is to put your least desirable tasks at the top of your to-do list. Promise yourself a dish of ice cream when all the tough tasks of the day are done. Believe me, you’ll enjoy your favored tasks with a delightfully clear conscious if you get your cold calls over first.

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