Working from home is the dream of many would-be entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t come without its downfalls. These 10 tips can help you conquer the challenges of running a home business.
A home business is a low-cost option for anyone looking to start their own business and be their own boss. While working out of a familiar environment may be enjoyable and relaxing, it can also be distracting and challenging in more ways than one. Here’s a look at how you can run your business from home without compromising on your work-life balance.
Define work and life boundaries
Creating a work-life boundary means the following:
- Not thinking about work when you’re home, and not thinking about home when you’re in your home office. Keeping your business paraphernalia away from your household things is a good way to start. It also helps if you use only a landline for your office calls instead of a cell phone to avoid mixing work and personal space.
- Not engaging in mindless instant messaging and Facebook chatting while working. Nothing kills time and clutters your brain more than casual, in-between and seemingly harmless instant messaging during work. If you use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social media to market your business, do just that and avoid Facebook chatting or Google talking with your friends between work.
- Letting your loved ones know that you’re not to be disturbed during work hours, and that you’re available only during certain emergencies.
- Not working out of a cozy, personal and intimate space in your home. If you have converted a spare room into a home office, great. If all you need is a laptop and plan to work out of your living room couch, beware! Working in a space in your home that you use for other purposes can lead you to become lethargic, distract your attention and slow you down. Assign a quiet area of your home as your ‘office,‘ setting up a table and chair, perhaps even a drawer or filing cabinet in this dedicated space. When you’re here, you must focus on work and work only. Note: If you want to claim a percentage of your home as a deduction on your taxes, the IRS expects you to designate a business area and conduct business and only business in this area.
Manage time smartly
When you’re working from home, one of two things can happen. Either, you spend so much time cooking and helping your kid with his homework that you’re not able to devote as much time to your business as you’d like to. Or you may have a hard time switching off your PC and getting off the phone with your client, much to the chagrin of your family. Here’s where smart time management can work wonders.
- Stick to a strict 9-5 workday where you work continuously for 45 or 90 minutes with a 15-minute break in between. Switching off your laptop at 5 pm opens up a full evening for relaxation, family time or a visit to the park or community club. You can fix a schedule in accordance with your business needs and personal convenience. For instance, if you have the flexibility to move around your schedule or you don’t feel the need to conform to any set hours as such, you can work three days and two nights a week or work a couple of hours early in the morning and then a few hours post-lunch. Regardless of how you plan your work schedule, stick to it religiously or you’ll keep wondering how time flies by so quickly every day!
- Make sure that you do nothing except work during work hours. Remember that it may not always be possible to get everything done, so each minute of productive work, whether it’s answering client emails or drafting an architectural plan, counts. If it helps, put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign to not just let others know that you’re not to be disturbed but to also stay mentally tough about resisting distractions.
- Initially, you can note down how much time different tasks consume, on a spreadsheet. You can then explore ways to speed up work (by using a faster tool or app/ learning a shortcut etc). Some home business owners even fill up spreadsheets in real time to stay involved, focused and motivated each day.
- If possible, spend a few minutes each day to plan the day ahead. Avoid starting your day without completing the time plan.
Get IT savvy
- One of the challenges of a home business is the lack of on-demand access to IT support when your printer acts up or your computer system crashes. It makes practical sense to learn how to troubleshoot common issues that could befall your IT systems and disrupt work. But if you’re not tech-savvy, find a business owner in your community who is and call on them when necessary. Remember, it may take an expert only an hour or two to fix something that would take you days to try to solve on your own. And, time is money. If you don’t know where to find outsourced IT support, ask other businesses in your community who they use.
- It is easy to miss the buzz surrounding your industry when you work out of a home office. Catch up with ex-colleagues over coffee to keep an ear to the ground and stay rejuvenated and motivated. You can also join online forums and attend professional development events to mingle with others from your industry.