For more than a decade, I ran my small business from my home. I loved it. I’d boast about my “one room commute” to friends when they’d complain about being stuck in commuter traffic. My business eventually outgrew my home office, but I still work from home regularly, so over the years, I discovered a number of secrets of success in running a small business from your home.
These seven tips will help you succeed too:
If you have a separate room or garage you can turn into an office, that’s ideal, but it’s not always possible. What’s important is to carve out a space you can use regularly, and almost exclusively, as your office. It should be in a place where other family members aren’t coming and going during your work hours. My first home office was a corner of my dining area where I put a desk, a filing cabinet, and my computer. Even if you have to use one end of your dining room table, try to have a space without too many distractions.
One of the most difficult tasks for people who run a small business from home is establishing a clear distinction between work life and home life. It really helps if you establish a work routine that makes you, your family, and others conscious of when you’re working and when you’re available. That doesn’t mean you have to work from 9 am to 5 pm; just establish real working hours. And yes, as part of your regular hours, you can carve time out of your day to pick up kids or go to the gym—just let everyone know that’s part of the plan.
Today, the work-at-home entrepreneur has a whole bunch of options if they need to meet customers in person, to get work done without the distractions of home life, or just to be around other people. You can bring your laptop to a local café, just be respectful of the owners and other patrons. Or you can find work spaces, meeting places, and conference rooms to rent by the hour, day, or week through many co-working spaces, such as WeWork, Liquidspace, or ShareDesk.
I love kids, but let’s be real. Kids are noisy and demanding. It’s not realistic to expect to get work done with kids coming in and out, wanting to be driven places, needing a snack, wanting attention. Consider making child care arrangements depending on your children’s ages and the nature of your work. Whatever your arrangement, develop a structured routine for your kids that keeps them busy (and out of your hair) for a set period of time each week so you can get work done.
A dog or cat makes working at home less lonely. But just as you can’t have a screaming child in the background when you’re on a call, you can’t have a barking dog—at least not often. If your dog barks a lot and you have to make calls, put him/her in another room while you work.
Having out-of-town guests visit can be delightful, but it’s also likely to be a strain on your work-at-home routine. Guests think since you’re home, you’re available. Let them know in advance how much time you’ll be able to spend with them. Put this in the most positive light: “I’m delighted I’ve been able to cancel my meetings for Thursday afternoon to spend with you. Until then, I’m sure you’ll enjoy exploring the city on your own.” If you need to, make up a list of sights or keep brochures on hand so visitors can find ways to entertain themselves.
It’s easy to get distracted when you work at home and start spending too much time on social media or solitaire. Instead, use apps to keep you focused and block out distracting sites and games, such as Freedom, Cold Turkey or Self-Control.
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2018
This article originally ran in USA Today on July 11, 2018