Running a Business from Home – The joys of running a home business
It’s great, or it can be, but after running my business completely from home since 2000 I think its time to dish up some of the things which can be less than optimum from time to time!
It can be a lonely place when you run a business without any practical support.
Your family may be there for you emotionally, but they’ll want you to be there for them physically as well. This is particularly true if you’ve left a day job to follow your dream because, in the past, you’ve been able to leave work ‘at work’ and family time probably played a big part in your life.
Hey! It’s Great! You’re Home All Day!
As a result, their expectation will be that if you’re at home you’re available – for a lift, or shopping, or to cut an untidy lawn, or to ‘come and have a coffee’ because a family friend is visiting.
None of these things impacted on your working life before, so they shouldn’t now, but you have to lay the foundations for success with your family as much as you do in your business. Planning every day in detail might not be possible, but planning your week can factor in some time for interruptions so you keep on track across 5 days with all you need to get through.
The Ground Rules – From the Start
- The first thing you have to do is sit the family down and explain that you’ll be working from home, but keeping standard(ish) working hours. Actually, you’ll need to tell them that sometimes your hours may be far longer than they used to be, so you’ll be available for less time, not more. Yes, free time costs when you are running your own business and in the early years (yes I did say years) don’t expect to be working 35 or 40 hours a week, you will need more unless you start your business with a lot of money to bring in help from day one. Most of us don’t, so bear this in mind when you are planning what hours you will commit to in your plan. Stuff takes longer to get going in the early years of your business, which means more time spent on and in your business.
- Find a place to work that’s out of the way. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people think that the kitchen table is a great idea because it’s close to the kettle. Buy a spare kettle!
- Friends and neighbours who know you’re at home will call for a chat or drop in. They’ll go out even when they’re expecting a delivery because they put your address down as the alternate. Stop them before they start – it may seem harsh, but it will avoid the resentment that will creep up on you. It won’t even occur to them that they’re taking liberties.
- School holidays can be a nightmare for the lone home worker. Even if you don’t have any children, other people do and the sound of squealing monsters (as you’ll come to think of them), when you’re trying to have a serious telephone conversation with a client, will undermine your confidence in the professional image you’re trying to project.
- Refuse collection is noisy. Be prepared for it by planning activities that the sound will have no impact on.
- Isolation. If you need to have people around you to function properly, working from home may not be for you. Many who try it can become obsessive about being linked to the world electronically and don’t stray far from their laptops and will always have a phone to hand. When every call, text or email may be a potential customer, being available becomes everything, but if your need for ‘inclusion’ extends to commenting on funny cat videos or holiday albums, maybe home-working isn’t for you.
Availability – Let’s Set Some Boundaries
Being available, though, isn’t everything. You know you’re available, but does anyone else? You may have decided against a website in favour of putting your efforts into serious and not so serious online networking, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, but what have you done to tell people what you do and how to find you? How do they know that you’re serious? Is your Gmail address your way of indicating that personal attention is part of your service or is what they see someone who’s failed to invest in a corporate-style email account? Availability and professional presence is vital but also set some boundaries on what working hours make sense. Exclusion of all outside activities and family life will be a fast track to burnout and illness rather than a thriving business. Planning to work 5 or even 6 days a week solidly is a recipe only for guilt – 9 hours of solid slog each day is not possible and natural breaks will always occur. We are all wired to work in bursts of intense concentration of 25-35 minutes and so time for breaks, exercise and fresh air is vital, as is time away from your business doing other things.
You Have to Spend Some Money to Grow a Business
What’s your marketing budget? What period are you going to spread it over and which paths will you follow to find the golden goose? You may not know anything about the Google Analytics services that your previous employer used, or marketing metrics, or ad design, or split testing an email campaign. Taking out Pay per Click (PPC) ads without understanding how they work will see you burning funds needlessly, possibly on a nil return because your advert wasn’t properly targeted. Learn first then implement, you will save time, energy and all-important cash by following that path than jumping in and spending blindly.
Planning for Action
To run a first business from home requires dedicated planning, resources and a clear set of objectives that you know are achievable through concentrated effort. If you expect it to replace an income rather than be a lifestyle business that just keeps you in Friday night pizza, you need to get real on the amount of effort involved. You should also start your marketing while you’re still in employment because it will probably take several months to achieve traction, depending on the business you are in – up to 6 to get income from marketing activity on a new website/venture.