Working from home definitely has its perks, but one of the drawbacks is that people sometimes think you aren’t really working that hard and therefore don’t take you seriously. Here are a few tips for counteracting the negative assumptions your customers might have about home-based businesses.
The home-based worker stigma was reaffirmed when Yahoo! In February of 2013, CEO Marissa Mayer ordered all Yahoo! home-based workers to the office. She gave them until June to begin working in one of its offices or risk termination. Why? The company memo said this:
“We need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. We often sacrifice speed and quality when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
The move seems a bit odd for a company in a field that has seen a 69 percent rise in home-based workers from 2000 to 2010. There are 13 million people who work remotely at least one day each week, and that number is rising.
However, it’s clear that even among the largest of companies, the stigmas and stereotypes attached to home-based workers are still present. If you’re a home-based worker, you’ve likely heard some of these: “It must be nice to be in such a relaxing environment.” Or, “I wish I could come and go as I please.”
In fact, the March 2013 edition of Money Magazine reports that an MIT study found bosses are less likely to attribute character traits like “responsible” or “dependable” to home-based workers. This, according to the study, leads to lower performance reviews to those working remotely.
You are a small business so what does an employer review have to do with your situation. After all, you are the employer. It has a lot to do with you because if we follow the logic a little further, somebody may be less likely to hire you for contract or freelance work if they’re holding on to those same misconceptions. They may hire the person working in the office only because they believe that he or she is more professional.
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You know that home-based workers put in full days. You don’t have the luxury of daily trips to the beach or a leisurely stroll down Main Street. The only way to fight the stigma is to prove it wrong. Here’s how.
If your clients are local, set up occasional meetings. Get together to discuss new work, gain feedback on old work, or help them brainstorm new strategic moves. In other words, form a relationship that takes place outside of a computer screen or cellphone. Fair or not, people will feel more comfortable and perceive that they’re getting better value if they have a relationship with you. Everybody wants to be liked.
If you worked in a traditional office, your boss or co-worker would either come down to your office to speak to you or pick up the phone and expect you to answer right away. That’s exactly what you need to do as a home-based worker. Make yourself easy to find. Drop the old idea of telling clients you’ll get back to them within 24 hours. Technology allows you to reply in minutes. Show them that you’re no less available than somebody who is sitting in an office.
Don’t focus on your home-based status. Unless you have a storefront or other business that requires somebody to come to your location, it doesn’t matter where you work. You’re a highly skilled professional who is more than qualified to do the work you’ve been hired to do. Whether you work from an office, your home, or a coffee house is not important.
If they ask, proudly tell them and show them examples of your work and offer to give them references they can call. Although you’re proud of your children, saying, “I work from home so I can take care of my children,” is best left unsaid. Show them that as a professional, you’re focused on your work when it’s time to work and focused on your family after hours.
The stigma of home-based workers is still alive although growing numbers of employers are happy to part with the costs associated with office space. The solution is simple. Show them that your work is professional, you’re reliable, you’re easy to work with, and your prices are reasonable.
A client wants a great product with great service at a great value. When you give it to them, they won’t care where home base is for you.