Running a business from home? Tips to help you manage your time more effectively
Let me guess, you are relatively young and at some point in your life, you decided to become your own boss. So, here you are: another startupper running a business from home.
Benefits and Pitfalls of a home-based business
In the last few years, the number of professionals involved in a home-based business has increased significantly, especially among creatives such as web designers, (online) content writers, and graphic artists. This is indeed a smart choice, because it means you won’t have to pay any (extra) rent or incur travel expenses. Furthermore, it seems easier to organize and schedule your tasks from home, at least at first glance. If you work from the comforts of your own house, it is certainly easy to spend a few extra hours on finishing a project, and in the morning, you only have to travel the space of your house to reach your workplace.
However, at other times you might be wondering whether the lack of an actual office gives a bad first impression to potential clients or customers. If you recognize yourself in this, don’t feel bad about this, because a large number of people are facing the same situation. In fact, many startuppers experience a lot of stress and ironically feel that there is never enough time in a day. The key to tackle these type of issues is to establish a routine that works for you, so here we present a few useful tricks to can help you design yours:
Make a plan
If you are working from home, it usually means that your income is based on the goals you achieve, not on the actual hours that you spend on them. So, plan your days according to your projects and the tasks that they consist of so you can be more efficient in carrying them out. In this, assess the amount of goals you need to achieve in a week or in a month to sustain both your finances and your happiness, and make realistic daily to-do lists to reach these goals.
With realistic, we mean that you can meet these goals easily, even when unforeseen events ruin a plan or two (which always seems to happen). So, plan your most urgent tasks first and you will see that once you have finished those, the feeling of satisfaction will make you face your next commitments with a refreshed sense of lightness and clarity. So, plan, plan, and plan, but keep your mind open; the unexpected is always looming around the corner and you must be willing to reschedule your dearly crafted plans when a situation demands it.
Respect your Qualities and Limits
You have to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and, above all, you must understand what your natural rhythms are. Ask yourself: what part of the day are you most productive and when are you most creative? Are you a morning or a night person? In scientific jargon this is called your circadian rhythm – the natural rhythm that your sleep and energy hormones follow – and in business this is certainly not a trivial matter! If you are a night owl and you are most productive after 10 PM, schedule your production tasks after this moment and leave your social and creative tasks to another part of the day. Conversely, if you are more effective in the morning, start working as soon as you wake up and schedule your “me-time” later in the day. The freedom in organizing your working schedule is one of the best advantages of running a business from home, so make good use of it!
Furthermore, do not live like a barbarian and keep yourself healthy. Thus, don't skip meals or order takeaway (pizza) compulsively, but dedicate time in your routine to preparing nutritious meals and include sport and outside time as mandatory activities in your schedule. Given that your house is also your working place, be diligent in keeping it clean, functional, and organized – having a mess around you sucks out more energy than you realize, for your state of mind unconsciously reflects the physical environment around it. If you manage these things, you will definitely thank yourself later, but don’t be too rigid in this. Allow yourself to slack off once in a while too, so you can enjoy a good old cheat meal or that well-deserved beer; an 80-20 structure – with 80% dedication and focus and 20% freedom to slack off and indulge – works best for most people, but once again, assess yourself and find out what works best for you!
Do not live in a bubble!
If you isolate yourself by limiting business contacts to a few “trusted collaborators,” you run the risk of losing touch with reality. There is a huge difference between being optimistic and being delusional about your enterprise(s). In order to avoid the latter, it is important to establish and maintain meaningful relationships with other professionals in your industry.
Remember, a good network plays a key role in every successful business, also if you work from home. Thus, dedicate time to building new contacts so you can build and maintain a solid network: send emails, make phone calls, and join a (social media) group of startuppers and/or innovators. Also, see if you can participate in events and conventions organized by networking groups, because nothing builds trust and goodwill like a physical connection does.
Always aim to enhance your professional image
Let me be blunt: not all your potential customers, especially the important ones, are prone to be impressed by a home-based business. So, make an effort to establish and enhance your professional image. Above all, you need a catchy website, but don’t hold back on investing in a good logo and business cards, and make sure to keep your LinkedIn page up-to-date.
If you have meetings scheduled with potential customers, try to assess what kind of persons they are beforehand. Some people – especially creatives – tend to be more informal and they will appreciate to meet you in a coffee place or even a pub. However, if you have to cope with a big fish, it can be better to meet in a hotel lounge or rent a (small) room in a shared office space.