There are two major categories of people who work from home.
First, there are employees who work either full-time or part-time from their own home. Many companies are starting to allow workers to work from home one or more days a week, and this trend is still growing, especially for the millennial generation.
Second, there are the self-employed who own their own business venture or start their own small business and get to set their own schedule.
Either way, there will be an adjustment for anyone who starts to work at home. For now, we’re going to focus on the growing number of entrepreneurs running home-based businesses.
For the last four years I’ve done all my work at home with a very minimal amount of accountability. Here are some tips I’ve learned about adjusting to working at home.
How To Achieve Success Working A Job From Home
When I talk about successfully working from home, I’m not going to talk about how to make bundles of money. I’m going to talk about how to keep a good healthy personal life and a healthy family life, while being effective on the job.
First, set clear boundaries.
When you start to work from home, you will find what were clearly two worlds have now collided into one. In order to help balance the work and personal life, you must clearly communicate and set boundaries.
For example, in my house we have an understanding that, even though I’m around, I’m not. The only exception is if there is an emergency.
In many ways, this is a dumb guideline. However, I’ve felt a lot more at peace since my spouse and I agreed on setting these boundaries.
Next, designate your work space.
There must be a physical place where you ‘go to work’. It can be your home office, your guest room, a corner of your bedroom, the dining room, or some other area where you will not easily be disturbed. In my case, it is a home office.
Even though I can hear things outside my office, there is something to be said about the sacred office space. There is a mental trigger when I enter the office.
You must have this clear home area and work area distinction. If not, it will be impossible to get away from work.
Certain things like shutting down the computer at designated times and keeping the computer out of the bedroom are important ways to have clear space distinctions between home and work.
Find a way to mentally transition from home to work.
Several days a week, I come home after doing some visiting outside of the house. During those days, my drive home is a time for me to mentally switch between business mode and family mode (a switch I don’t always make too well, honestly).
However, on days when I come out of my home office, I need some ‘transition time’. Typically, this means I take 10 – 15 minutes alone before engaging with the family.
Communicate with your family.
It’s not uncommon for my family to walk by my office. Sometimes, they just miss me or want to see if I’m busy for a moment. While I enjoy being with my family, I know without clear boundaries they will always be in my office. Communication is essential here. Communication keeps eveeryone on the same page and avoids stress and hurt feelings.
Use work phrases.
Using ‘work phrases’ is another way to switch from family mode to business mode. I simply say, “I’m going to work now.”
In a lot of ways it seems silly, but it is an easy way to communicate that I’m going to be occupied in a certain way.
Get separate phone lines.
People who have a work related question should be able to call me directly. My family is far too busy to be playing secretary for me.
On the other hand, when friends want to call my spouse, they should have a line to get in touch with her without interrupting me. There are many ways to do this inexpensively. I suggest looking into Ooma, a VoiP service that works over the Internet. It’s inexpensive and easy to use.
Keep accounts separate.
If you work for yourself, keep all your accounting separate.
Poor financial organization can be costly when you work at home. Keep all your business receipts and expenses for tax season. (Editor’s note: Here is how Ryan manages his small business finances).
Keep strict hours.
This probably isn’t for everyone, but in our case I have ‘post hours’. My spouse knows when I’m going to work and when I’m coming home. No one told me what time I should start or finish, but we both feel much better having designated hours.
Enjoy lunch at home.
Working from home has some amazing benefits. In my case, I get to eat lunch at home with my wife and kids almost every day. Be sure to take advantage of the unique opportunities associated with working from home.
Take a nap every day.
I should have been born in Europe. The Europeans don’t think someone is lazy because they take naps.
About six years ago, I started taking a ‘power nap’ during lunch. Actually, I have no idea what a power nap is, but I usually sleep 15 minutes during lunch 3-5 days a week.
After eating lunch with my family, I get a quick nap and head back to work. If you work from home, you should consider adding a nap to your work schedule :). Sleep and renewal is not a sin.
4 Challenges Faced by Solopreneurs Working from Home
Most days, my “job” is a dream. I’m a work-from-home, solopreneur, freelance writer, so I get to make my own hours, and even choose my clients. On top of that, there are days that I don’t get dressed until lunch time.
However, even though I don’t have to choose between being a stay-at-home mom and a working mom, there are some downsides to being a solopreneur working from home. Before you decide that starting a home business is your preferred career path, consider whether or not you could handle the following challenges:
1. It’s hard to quit sometimes.
When you work in an office, it’s easier to separate work time from the rest of your life. However, when you work from home, you have to learn to separate work from family time. It’s tempting, as a solopreneur, to think that you have to be productive all of the time.
This attitude can affect your family relationships, though. Learn when it’s time to quit, and understand that you don’t have to be productive all the time; you can stop for fun – and to maintain relationships with your family. Finding that work-life balance is especially important when you work from home.
2. You can get lonely as a solopreneur.
Sometimes, when I’m in my home office, working away, I get a little lonely. My son’s at school, my husband’s teaching at the university, and there’s no one to talk to. While I normally like working on my own (it’s why I’m a solopreneur, after all), there are times when you just want someone around to share your thoughts.
Many telecommuters find themselves lonely when they first stop working in an office and have to get used to the lack of companionship. When I feel a little lonely, I plan lunch with a friend, or I turn to my Skype mastermind group. They’re great about responding to my random thoughts.
3. No benefits.
One of the advantages of working for “the man” is that you get access to benefits. There are a number of perks that come with working for a company, rather than being self-employed. Subsidized health insurance, paid vacation days, and a workstation are all perks. Some employers offer discount child care services, and perks like reduced-price gym memberships. A solopreneur has to cover all these costs. You have to buy your insurance (if you don’t get benefits from your partner’s work), and you have to make sure you buy all the equipment necessary to set up your home office and run your business.
Many solopreneurs are surprised at how much they actually received from the employers, beyond pay, when they have to take care of it on their own. Make sure you have the ability to make up for the loss of benefits when you make the switch to working from home.
4. You might hit career roadblocks.
When you leave the rat race, you might find that you end up with career roadblocks. Even someone working from home as an employee can find career issues due to being “out of sight and out of mind.” When you start your own business, you are removing yourself from the career ladder.
If you want to resume at some later time, you need to find ways to keep up with colleagues. Continue networking so that you are still connected if you want to get back into your industry later. Make sure that you regularly update your resume, and keep developing new skills. Make sure that you keep up with developments in your industry. Your stint as a solopreneur working from home can be a benefit to you – if you play it right.
5 Big Tips for Entrepreneurs Looking for Big Wins
Even though solopreneurs and small business owners have challenges, as described above, there are many opportunities and avenues for success.
It’s easier than ever for almost anyone to be an entrepreneur. Thanks to technology, it’s possible to start a small business with a global clientele.
However, before you join the ranks of entrepreneurs, it helps to know how to increase your chances of success. Lomesh Shah, the founder of NonProfitEasy, has 5 tips that entrepreneurs can use to increase their chances of success:
1. Test Your Ideas
The first thing to do is to make sure that your idea is going to work. “Entrepreneurs cannot be afraid of testing their ideas and thinking differently,” says Shah.
Before you get started, do some research. Is there demand for what you are selling? What price points are likely to provide you with success? Can you get feedback from people you know and trust? Do what you can to make sure that your business is likely to succeed by testing your concept and reviewing your ideas.
2. Stay Passionate
One of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur is passion. It can be difficult to maintain your motivation if you are not passionate about what you’re doing. “Motivation is directly proportionate to the passion one brings to the idea,” says Shah. “You still have the lows and the highs, but you’re better prepared to ride the waves and enjoy the ride.”
If you can connect your entrepreneurial efforts to your passions, you will be more likely to hang in there, and more likely to succeed. You should also consider moving on to something else if you feel your passion flagging. There are many serial entrepreneurs out there that make it point to start different businesses, building them up and selling them before moving on to the next project. Figure out what works for you, and consider moving on if necessary.
3. Save as Much Money as Possible
Shah suggests that you boostrap your business for as long as you can. Once you start spending money, you are likely to find more ways to spend even more.
“Get your financial house in order first, then bootstrap it as long as you can and be prepared to occasionally spend ahead of revenues,” Shah says. You want to make sure that your finances are such that you are prepared for running a business. And when you’re an entrepreneur, you also have to learn to make do in some cases. You don’t want to wreck your fledgling business by making poor financial decisions or by spending indiscriminately.
4. Put Together a Solid Team
One of the things I’ve learned in my own business journey is that your team is an essential part of your success. I’ve been happy with my business partner, and we look for people with the right skills to help us out. From hiring a virtual assistant to farming out graphic design work, it makes sense to invest in the right people. They can help you by taking care of some of the more mundane work while you focus on the big picture items and doing what you do best.
Shah suggests looking for people who share your passion, and who aren’t afraid to work hard. He also thinks that it’s a good idea to look for people who are highly skilled at what you want them to do. Hire good people, and your business is more likely to succeed.
5. Know What You’re Willing to Give Up
In many cases, success as an entrepreneur means a certain level of sacrifice. Sometimes, you need to be willing to sacrifice, whether it’s your own money, or your time. You might need to make sure that your family is on board, since sacrifices might also include entertainment and vacations.
Over time, though, you can build up your business to the point where you have more flexibility and options. If you manage to stick with it, entrepreneurship can ultimately lead to financial success and a great deal of freedom.
Let’s Talk About Your Home Business: Are You Providing a Product or a Service?
When you start a home business, it is important to understand the distinction between a product and a service. This is because this distinction could affect how you are paid. Consider:
- Most people pay for a product before they receive it.
- Most people pay for a service after they receive it.
One of the biggest frustrations for someone like me, running a freelance business out of my home, is that what I do is seen as a service. No one wants to pay me until after I have done all the work and delivered the finished product. (See that? I’m referring to the results of the services I provide as a product.) This is something of a sticking point for many writers, graphic designers and others who provide services. After all, when you pay for a product ahead of time, you may not see it first. It may not work as advertised. But you still pay ahead of time. If you shop online, there is no guarantee that the seller will even send you the product even though you have paid. Is that so different from paying for someone to write a blog post before they write it?
In my case, a rough compromise is often reached. I am often paid for what I write, even if it isn’t published yet. This arrangement assumes that my time is, in fact, worth something. Even if it takes for-ev-er for someone to take what I’ve provided and then publish it. At least I’m paid, even if the post or article in question never sees the light of day. (Of course, if I’m not paid, I reserve the right to take it and offer it elsewhere.)
Getting Paid Up Front for Services
The easier thing to have done, looking back, is to position my services as products. After all, my clients do end up with something that they “own.” They can do what they want with it. They don’t even have to put my name on it if they don’t want to. So, when I first started I should have branded myself as a purveyor of products, rather than of services. This is hard to do for the ongoing blog content I provide, since I might not always provide the same number of posts each month. However, for some projects, like writing press releases or ghostwriting books, it is easier to argue that I am providing a product that should be paid for — at least in part — up front.
For large projects, it is especially important to receive some payment up front. I learned this hard way when one client didn’t come through with a $2,000 payment for work done. That was quite a blow to my business and my family’s monthly income. Now, for large projects, I like to be paid at least half up front. At the very least, I expect payment every two weeks (or even every week) for ongoing projects of significant amounts. This way, I’m not spending hours of my valuable time, only to be cheated out of what I’m owed.
Being paid in this way, though, means that I have to be willing to make requested changes to some of my work. If someone isn’t satisfied, I need to be willing to make changes. Just like someone might return an item they are dissatisfied with, my clients can ask me to alter the finished product (there are limits to how much of an overall is made, though).
In the end, it’s all about convincing someone else that you have something of value, and that you can be trusted to deliver it in a timely fashion.
Here’s A Little Advice to Increase Your Chances of Home Business Success
Thanks to technology, almost anyone can start a business. I started a home business as a freelance writer almost 10 years ago, and it’s been a successful endeavor. However, you can’t just start out and expect success to appear. If you want to increase your chances of success with your home business, here are 5 tips to consider:
1. Make Sure Your Family is On Board
It also helps to show up and keep regular hours!
Realize that running a home business or other type of small business can be time consuming and difficult. In some cases, it can even be expensive. Before you get going, you need to make sure that you have the necessary support system in place. Is your life partner on board? Can you work around your kids?
Before you get going, you need to make sure you are work from home material, and that your family is ready to help out and support you.
2. Consider Your Business Organization
After a couple years as a sole proprietorship, it came to my attention that it might make more sense for me to organize as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) with my husband. Others that I know have organized a S-Corps. In some cases, it makes sense to stick to the sole proprietorship organization. Carefully consider your options, and do what you can to figure out which setup works best for you.
Understanding which legal structure is right for your business requires that you think about whether you want to expand and hire employees down the road, as well as the tax implications of your business.
It also requires that you consider that you might need to separate your business assets from your personal assets. Most home business owners are fine starting out as sole proprietors for a year or so.
However, once you start finding increased success, it makes sense to re-think that situation. Research the possibilities, or talk to a knowledgeable accountant or attorney with experience in small business matters.
3. Remember to Pay Your Taxes
Many home business owners neglect the tax question. I know that I didn’t pay attention to self-employment taxes when I first started — and I received an unpleasant surprise.
As soon as you start a home business, you ned to think about taxes, and remember that you will be subject to the self-employment tax. The easiest thing to do is set aside a monthly amount designed to cover your tax bill later.
If you expect to owe $1,000 or more to the IRS come tax time, you are supposed to make quarterly tax payments. The government has a convenient electronic payment system that can help you out, and you can get help from an accountant if you have questions.
You don’t want to find yourself in financial trouble later because you forgot about taxes. And don’t forget that your state expects you to pay as well as the federal government. Here are more tax tips for freelancers.
4. Get the Right Business Insurance
Realize that you might need business insurance, even if you have a home business. First of all, not all homeowners and renters policies cover home office space.
You might need a rider to ensure that your home business activities are covered. Other types of business insurance include general liability, errors and omissions, business interruption, malpractice, and business owners. Think about your business, and the services you offer.
Consider what would happen if something went wrong. From disability insurance to health insurance, make sure that you are covered individually, and that you have the right business insurance.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Your Money
Sometimes I still have a hard time asking for my money. As a home business owner, you need to make sure you get paid.
For large projects, I ask for a portion of my fee up front, since I want to make sure that I get something for my efforts. You also need to be willing to continue to ask for money if a client is late in paying. It can be awkward, but this is your livelihood, so you need to stand up for yourself.
Make sure you are paid, and work on asking for what you’re owed. Otherwise, you won’t be able to maintain your home business.
Can You Improve Your Results with Mindfulness?
One of the problems that many of us run into as owners of home businesses or small businesses is that there seems to be too much going on.
It’s easy to get distracted.
One of the ways to find better small business success is to take a step back and practice mindfulness.
Dr. Romie Mushtaq is a neurologist and a mind-body expert. She believes that mindfulness can help you focus better, increasing your productivity.
If you want to better your small business results — or even boost your productivity results in your “regular” career — some of Mustaq’s tips can help.
1. Forget the Multitasking
Studies show that multitasking actually leads to less productivity. Multitasking doesn’t work, and it can slow you down.
Instead of multitasking, Mushtaq suggests that you focus on a single task for a specific amount of time. “Resist the urge to answer the phone every time it rings,” she says.
This goes for email, checking your Facebook, or any other interruption. Figure out which tasks are most important, and concentrate on those first.
Do one thing at a time, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish.
2. Take a Break
In many cases, we have a hard time focusing because we are starting to feel burn out. This is especially true for me at times.
After a while, it’s hard to focus. If this is the case, it’s ok to take a break. In fact, a break can help you break through the doldrums holding you back. “Offering your sense pleasant and different stimulation rewires your brain for relaxation, and reduces the effects of stress hormones, which helps to unfreeze your creativity center,” says Mushtaq.
Studies also show that taking strategic breaks can help you refocus your energy to tackle the task again later. I know that I am often ready to get more done if I take a break during the middle of the day to exercise, eat lunch, and relax a little bit.
Your break can also be improved with the help of medication. Even if you simply close your eyes and breath deeply for two minutes, you can gain some of the benefits of meditation and refocus.
One of the ways you can take advantage of planned breaks to help your focus and productivity is with the Pomodoro technique.
This technique provides you with a way to focus intently and then take timed breaks. This keeps you from getting too involved with your break, and it also helps you re-center yourself so that you can move on to the next task.
3. Learn to Delegate
Sometimes, you need to ask for help. In your own small business, this might mean delegating some tasks to others.
A couple of years ago I hired a virtual assistant to help me with some of the more mundane tasks that were taking up my time. I knew that I needed to free up time for more important and difficult tasks.
“Have compassion for yourself, and reach out for help,” suggests Mushtaq. “This will not only allow you to focus on the tasks that most need your attention, it will reduce your stress.”
As your small business grows, it becomes especially important to be mindful of the tasks that are going to yield the best benefits for you down the road. You want to be able to focus on the things that will provide you with the best return for your time and effort.
Asking for help so that you can focus on the more important items is essential if you want to succeed.
Learn to be aware of your work environment, and your needs as a small business owner. Practices like meditation, exercise, and sufficient sleep can help you better focus your mind so that you are able to accomplish more in the long run.
Time To Get Real Honest: Are You REALLY Work from Home Material?
One of the benefits I have as a freelance writer is the fact that I get to work from home. I enjoy working from home because it fits my personality. My small home business is doing well enough to pay the bills and leave some left over for things that my family enjoys. And I have the flexibility to work (mostly) when I want, and to choose which projects I engage in.
Not everyone likes working from home as much as I do, though. There are challenges associated with working from home, and not everyone is happy to do it. My husband doesn’t really enjoy working from home. He’s done a bit of it in the past, but he gets more benefit when he goes into an office.
While it seems like there is a lot of focus on starting your own home business, the truth is that it isn’t for everyone. Here are some of the things to consider before you quit your “real” job to work from home.
How Do You Deal with Distractions?
We all have a hard time dealing with distractions from time to time. However, it seems that, for many people, there are fewer distractions in an office. After all, you don’t usually have access to a TV in the office, and there aren’t usually children begging for your attention when you go into work. Plus, if you know that your Internet usage is monitored, you’ll be less inclined to surf for hours at a time.
To successfully work from home, it’s vital that you figure out how to manage your distractions. Summer is hard for me because my son is home more. That means that I sometimes send him to day camp, or encourage him to play with his friends so I have time to work. I also have to force myself to avoid social media, and relegate email to specific times of the day.
When you work from home, you don’t have the fear of someone else “catching” you in the act when you succumb to distractions. Instead, you have to come up with your own system of accountability, and do your best to shut out distractions and keep on working.
Are You Self-Motivated?
There are days I’m just not motivated to work. I think this happens to everyone. But you have to be able motivate yourself when you work from home. You need to be able to kick yourself into gear, even when you don’t have to. There’s something about an outside job that kind of forces you into a corner. You know that if you don’t show up, or if you don’t accomplish certain things, you could end up fired.
With a work from home job, it’s not exactly the same impact. It’s true that you know you won’t make as much money if you don’t force yourself to work, but that consequence seems a little less immediate. When the only person threatening you is you, it’s a little harder to take the threat seriously in the moment. If you are going to successfully work from home, you need to be able to motivate yourself, and find ways to work even when you don’t have to worry about getting fired.
Can You Handle the Merger of Work and Home Life?
Even when you set boundaries, and delineate an office space in your home, there is still going to be that overlap between your work life and your home life. This is one of the reasons my husband prefers to have a “regular” job in a more traditional setting. He likes to go to work, complete his tasks, and then come home and relax, and not think about work. He hates it when he has to grade papers at home.
I see anytime as potential work time. While I’ve had to learn to shut off the work impulse to some degree, I don’t draw that line between work and home. If I have free time at home, I sort of feel like I should be working — even if I’ve already done a lot of work.
And, at the same time, I like that freedom. I like the idea of shrugging off work some Wednesday so that I can go on an adventure with my son, even if it means getting up and working on Saturday. I integrate my work schedule into my home life schedule.
Do You Have a Back-Up Plan?
One of the great things about working from home, and running your own business, is that you have a great deal of flexibility. Your dress code is flexible. Your schedule is largely flexible.
The types of jobs you take can be flexible.
However, there are some issues that you can run into when you work from home, and these are not so flexible. One of those issues is what to do if your Internet is not available.
Do you have a backup plan?
Technology has been a boon to me; it has provided me with a way to provide for my family while working from home. But what happens when the Internet is not accessible? When you rely on something being available to you in order to get your work done, it is important that it is always there for you.
A day (or two!) of lost work can be costly, throwing off the family finances — especially if an important deadline is missed, and a client looks elsewhere as a result. Recently, I found out that I need a back-up plan for working from home.
In my case, when the Internet goes down, it becomes necessary to find someplace else to work. I don’t have a laptop (I work on a desktop), so I can’t just go down to the local wi-fi hotspot at the coffee shop. But the time limit at the library is one hour per day. So that limits me as well. My recent back-up plan consisted of doing what absolutely, positively had to be done right now in order to meet my commitments, in the hour available to me at the library. Of course, once had access to the Internet again, I was able to hop back on and get more done. In order to avoid this travesty, I think that I might need to buy a laptop — or at least a serviceable netbook — so that I am not unprepared.
Regular Jobs As a Plan B?
A back-up plan isn’t just necessary for those who work from home, though. Even those who work more traditional jobs may find themselves needing a back-up plan. What happens if your car breaks down and you can’t get to work? Do you know the public transit schedule? Is there someone you can ride with? Do you have enough “personal leave” to cover unexpected emergencies?
The recent recession has taught many that lay offs are not the only threat to income from a regular job. You also have to worry about reduced hours. Do you have some other way of earning money in case your hours (and your income) are cut?
Income diversity — cultivating multiple income streams — is one way to help you prepare for unexpected income reductions. An emergency fund can also be helpful as a back-up plan to a loss of income. It may not completely replace your income, but it can help you get through a tough time.
In the end, it is important to consider the factors that could impact your income, changing the way your money moves through your personal economy. Consider what could go wrong, and then create a back-up plan that can reduce the impact.