It sounds ideal, doesn't it? Conference calls in your pajamas, doing laundry in between talking to clients, saving money on all those work lunches! But is working from home always a perfect situation? Here are some things to watch out for if you're already working from home, or things to think about if you're considering making the move. This is work, this is home. Keep your office and house as separate as possible. Create an office that you really enjoy walking into and that has everything you want in one area.
Organization books call it a "zone": an area of the house having one purpose. Hello, is anyone there? Some home workers - both telecommuters and independent business folks - report isolation as a challenge. There's no one around to bounce ideas off of, or complain about the boss! One way around this is to make an active effort to get out - meet for coffee or lunch with business associates or clients, attend networking meetings in your area. You'll get your dose of adult company, and maybe some good business contacts, too. It's how much? Many home workers who own their own business are surprised to find out how much "benefits"- health insurance, sick leave, vacation time - actually cost.
When you're calculating prices for your services, don't forget to include these items in your planning. Do they take you seriously? Some clients may be predisposed to view you as less than "professional" if they know you are working from home. This is certainly changing, but just in case, make sure everything about your company is "professional" - voicemail, website, and marketing materials. And don't forget your appearance! Keeping yourself on track.
It takes a certain amount of discipline to work at home - either for yourself or as a telecommuting employee. You are responsible for your schedule, and while this is certainly a major attraction for many home workers, you do need to make time to get everything done. Some people split their days into a daytime block (4-6) hours and then a nighttime block (2-3) hours, so that they can be with their families.
Throwing your hats in the ring. As a home business owner, you have to wear a lot of hats, especially when you're first starting out. You'll be fulfilling all these roles: Human Resources, Information Technology, Accounting, and Marketing - and that's in addition to doing the "work" you're actually paid for. Make sure you budget time, energy - and money - to take care of these other functions.
Yes, I'm here, but I'm not here! The other side of the "isolation" coin for business owners working from home is boundaries. If you're not careful, work can "invade" your personal life. Make a schedule and stick to it - know when you're working and when you're being part of your family.
Let your family know that just because you're physically present doesn't mean you're "available." Save here, spend there. The good news is you'll probably save money on automobile wear-and-tear, gas, and business clothing by working from home.
The downside is that you'll need working capital to begin your business and also for unexpected emergencies. (Remember #6 above - You're the IT person, and if your computer dies - guess who's paying for a new one?) Susan, let go of your brother's hair. One of the key reasons many people give for wanting to work from home is to be able to take care of children, but be realistic about what you really can accomplish if you're caring full-time for one or more children.
When they're small, you're doing everything for them, and that's time-consuming. As they get older, they can do more for themselves, but may also want more of your attention. Yes, you have flexibility with your hours, but if your plan is to work full-time hours from home, you'll almost certainly need to factor in some "non-you" childcare hours each day. You have now entered the business zone. In many cities, townships, etc., you can only legally run a business from your home if your neighborhood is zoned for business.
Many small business owners are able to operate "under the radar" as long as neighborhood traffic is not impacted. Others always visit clients at the client's place of business, so the only "business" they're conducting at home is the actual work to produce their service or product. Check your local laws to see what's needed. By and large, most people who work from home really enjoy the freedom and flexibility it offers. But not all.
Before you quit your "day" job, or get new business cards printed, make sure working from home is the best choice for you, your family, and your business!.
© 2005 A former Wall Street trader, Maria Marsala is a nationally known speaker, consultant and author of Corporate Secrets for Small Business Owners. She helps CEOs and Presidents reach new levels of profitability in record time. Visit www.CoachMaria to join SIMPLE Ezine and gain access to an one-page business plan audio.