How to Work From Home
With information technology readily available, more and more Canadians are choosing to forego the morning and evening commute in favour of working from home. According to Stats Canada, in 2008, 11% of employees worked from home, 1 percentage point more than in 2000.
When it comes to self-employed workers the figures are more impressive. In 2008, sixty per cent of those who were self-employed worked from home, for a total of 1.8 million workers.
For many, it just makes sense. You can control your own schedule, have greater access to your children, and cut your transportation costs by working at home. Plus, there are tax benefits available if you’re operating a home-based business.
But, as the sous-chef said to the maître d’, it’s not all gravy. It’s hard to turn off the mommy/daddy radar when your kids are small, even when you know they’re in good hands. I mean, there you are, right in the middle of composing a light-hearted look at the history of the T-shirt, and you suddenly hear a blood-curdling scream emanating from the kitchen. Pretty hard to carry on typing – you drop everything and race downstairs, where you find your three-year-old has just been told she can’t have chocolate chip pancakes for lunch.
By the time you lay down the law with the toddler, pour a cup of coffee and make your way back up to your office, your stream of thought has been disrupted and it takes you another 20 minutes to get back on track. If it’s one of those days where this happens 2 or 3 times, you’re likely to seriously reconsider your decision to work from home.
Don’t. At least, not without giving it the good college try. For the benefit of those considering the work-from- home model, here are 7 tips for making it work:
1. A room of one’s own
Virginia Woolf was right. Whether you’re a writer, artist, inventor or computer programmer, you need your own space to work. Yes, you can work on the dining table, carving out a space between stacks of laundry and the breakfast dishes. But better to claim a spot (preferably with a door that can be shut) where you can work. Some people need a window; some don’t. A desk with drawers, a phone, a laptop and some place to stack your books – and a door to shut yourself away from the rest of the house.
Once you start working from home, you’ll be amazed how easy it is not to work. At least, not to work on the things you should be working on. You’d be surprised how many things pop up to keep you from getting down to work – dishes that needed doing, floors that needed mopping – you name it. (Another reason not to work at the dining/kitchen table where you’re likely to be surrounded by reminders of your failures in the Suzy Homemaker department.)
3. Bums on seats:
Maybe you’re not Hemingway … maybe you don’t have the discipline to get up at 5 every morning and write till 3:00 or whatever. But establish a time that works for you – try to make it before noon – and have yourself sitting down at your desk each day at that time, concentrating on your work. And don’t let anything short of a major emergency interfere with your schedule.
Which brings us to:
Don’t tweet – or twitter – or text. Not while you’re working. Technology is wonderful but it’s provided us with so many ways to waste our time. Just checking your email and Facebook messages every morning can take a half hour or so. It’s hard to resist, but if you really want your time to be productive, leave the social networking till after the “hard” stuff is done.
Don’t do any of the following:
a. Answer your phone – it’ll just be someone trying to sell you something;
b. Open your mail – it’ll just be someone trying to get you even further in debt;
c. Answer your door – it’ll just be someone trying to convert you.
5. Tell your friends:
When you first start working from home, one of your major challenges will involve convincing people that you’re actually working, and you aren’t available to take calls, go for lunch or socialize. (This won’t always be a problem; eventually your friends will get the message or you may simply find you have fewer friends.)
On the other hand:
6. No man – or woman – is an island:
Working from home can be lonely. It tends to suit writers, who are a pretty antisocial bunch for the most part. Most people, however, miss the collective chatter of the workplace. Make a point of getting out on a daily basis – go for a walk, join a book club, walk the dog, meet up with a friend for coffee or a drink (after your work is done.)
7. Be kind to yourself:
Nobody, no matter how wonderful/creative/organized/deranged he or she is, can be 100% productive all the time. You’re going to have your good days working from home, your not-so- good days, and your downright terrible days. Just like working anywhere else. A lousy day working from home doesn’t mean you’ve made the wrong decision – it’s just a lousy day.
Here are some more off the cusp tips about how to stay sane and motivated while working for yourself.
Remember what you love about what you do.
It’s easy to forget what made you start your own business in the first place. Working for yourself will never mean you get to do exactly what you want to do and only that. There will be administration, taxes, business planning, marketing and a myriad of other tasks to think about. In this case, when you feel like you’re not doing what you love it’s time to step back and remember what it is that set you on this quest to freedom in the first place.
Don’t make it about the money.
Money (or capital we should say), is the lifeblood of any business. Without at least some coming in, the business won’t survive. But that doesn’t mean that’s all it should be about. Remember the first principles of what your business is about: what market are you serving? Who are your customers? How can you make your customers lives better? Focusing too much on revenue can make you forget your primary objective: satisfying the needs of your customers.
Don’t get bogged down in minutia
There are many components to running a business, so it’s easy to get sidetracked by something of little consequence. You may get hung up on some detail that needs fixing and before you know it, you’ve spent a month simply “tinkering”. An example is if you are building a website and decide that your design looks out of date or tacky. So you start tweaking it. Those tweaks become a total redesign. And at the end of it all you may have a shiny new website with lots of eye candy and neat-o functioning, but you’ve spent a good deal of time not adding to it that doesn’t generate new customers. Always be focusing on your core company mission and choose your battles wisely. Fix what you can, but if what your fixing begins to take time away from your bottom line, then it’s time to outsource that work or put it to the side.
Maintain proper hygiene (important!)
We have to throw this in here. While being your own boss does allow for certain areas of flexibility, it’s still important to maintain the semblance of a respectable human being. Shower regularly, get up at a reasonable time and dress just as professionally as you would a “regular” job. “But who do I have to impress”? you may say. How about yourself? You are the CEO, the boss, the founder and the president. So present yourself as one. Good physical hygiene goes hand in hand with good mental hygiene.
Don’t compare your self with others
If social media can be avoided, then avoid it as much as possible. Age is another factor that plays into our fears and insecurities. Great things are started by people of all ages in all walks of life. Everyone walks their own path, so it makes no sense to compare your life with someone else’s.
Realize that great things come over time
We live in an age when everyone wants what they want and they want it yesterday. Many people have grand plans and lofty goals, but when the desired results don’t manifest as quickly as they want, they give up. So don’t believe the stories of overnight success. Such stories are exceedingly rare and even the ones that are true are almost always the product of years of work and repeated failure.
Practice ways to relieve stress
Similar to practicing good hygiene, it’s vital to maintain a healthy mental attitude. You can do this by find ways to keep your mind calm and focused and not get paralyzed by stress. We have a very thorough article on tried and tested methods of stress relief.
Don’t be an island
Join groups of like-minded individuals. There are so many people out there with goals just like yours. Many of these people can become great assets to bounce ideas off of or even form partnerships with. Meetup.com is a great place to start.
Keep as active as you can – owning a business can become all encompassing. You can literally find yourself working on your business from the time you get up till the time you go to sleep. You may have a family, or friends, or even just other activities you enjoy. Remember that while having a business may be something you value greatly, there are in fact, more important parts of your life that also require your love and attention. Further, the most successful people in the world will always maintain that there business dealings are only part of their life and would be utterly meaningless without their hobbies, friends and family members that make their business all the more meaningful.
Remember that nothing is perfect, every choice a trade-off
When you start missing the comfort (or maybe social aspects) of having a regular job, keep in mind that every choice is a trade-off. reassess if this is what you really want. Having your own business is a truly rewarding and empowering adventure, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody. At some point you may decide that the stability of having a regular job with a consistent paycheck, benefits and regularly set vacation periods each year outweigh the risks and potential pitfalls of having your own business.