You’ve taken the plunge and decided to start your own business and work from home. Congratulations, you are among a very fast growing trend of American small business owners that are working from home. But wait, before you get busy making calls and connections networking to get your first clients, you need to understand what it takes to work from home successfully.
Here are a few secrets on how I grew my locally-based marketing company to serve clients across the U.S. all from the comfort of my home office in the northern suburbs of Dallas, Texas.
1. Set Your Routine
My first secret is setting a routine that works for you and your clients. 8 am to 5 pm doesn’t work for everyone, especially if you work with clients abroad. Establishing a routine that you can commit to will help you know it’s time for work and work only. Believe me when you first start working in your home business you will need this routine as distractions will be abound. Also your clients will know when it’s a good time to reach you via Skype, email or phone. Be consistent with your business hours, people like to know when they can contact you to conduct business. Additionally, it gives your new home business a sense of stability when you’ve got a good routine in place.
2. Plan Ahead
Planning my day in advance has been paramount for me working successfully at home. Knowing what deadlines or calls to make at the start of my work day keeps me focused and I get more work done. I also try to do similar tasks in sequence to achieve a greater workflow. Be sure to allow some flexibility in your schedule as we all know things happen beyond our control. In the beginning, I wasn’t always so organized and I wasted a lot of time fluttering around from one project to another. However, I found over time, the system of planning my days works well for me in my home business.
3. Stay Focused
Having a dedicated space is essential; specifically a home office with doors allows me to stay focused, because yes, I am easily distracted. I know when I’m in this space, it’s for business and I concentrate on getting the job done. I work traditional business hours, to ensure my clients can contact me, again this works for my business. You will need to discover what works best for yours. It is also necessary to minimize other distractions like email notifications, unsolicited calls and viewing the status update your best friend just posted on Facebook or Twitter : ). Save these activities for later in the day after you’ve accomplished several tasks.
4. Organize it and Have the Right Tools
Organization is essential and it’s no secret. I don’t care if the rest of my home is an absolute wreck, but my home office and files have to be organized so that I can easily access files and accomplish whatever task is required.
The environment you work in should be conducive to the work that you actually want to achieve in that space. I believe you should make your home office (even if it’s a dining room table or small corner in your home) as comfortable and inviting as possible so you’ll actually want to be in the space. My home office is one of my favorites places in my home, I’ve taken the time to make it an environment I want to work in. I have all my equipment within arms reach along with photos and objects that I enjoy seeing. Having the right equipment is also paramount, a great and comfortable chair, large monitor, desk/work surface, reliable internet connection and file storage, etc. If you’re running a business, you need to invest in the right equipment and software to get the job done, remember everything does not have to be new. Buy used until you’re able to invest in new equipment.
5. Get Out and Chillax!
Just because you work from home, doesn’t mean you have to be at home to work. Changing your scenery by going to secure WiFi hot spots, aka the local Starbucks, library or a park, is a great way to break up the monotony of being at home. I’m sure I’ve spent a small fortune buying coffee and tea while working on my business at Starbucks but it has also brought me some meaningful connections by networking with other business owners and a great change of scenery.
When you’re starting out you will probably work a lot more than 40 hours a week to get your business ramped up, but you still need some down time. Last, but very important secret, you have to take breaks throughout your work day. I take mental breaks by chatting with friends on the phone, Skype or instant messaging. I also use instant messaging to collaborate with other entrepreneurs, which can be very helpful if you’re working through a problem. A physical break is equally important, get up and walk around. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a problem, took my dog for a walk and came back with the solution.