Whether you’re thinking about starting a home catering business, a career in bookkeeping or copywriting, or following a passion like beekeeping or illustration, there are ups and downs to working from home.
You can read about more work-from-home careers here.
The advantages of this lifestyle are why many people choose it. A better work-life balance, greater freedom and the ability to set your own schedule can make a big difference in your working life as an entrepreneur. But there are also disadvantages to working from home, some of which may not be immediately obvious.
However, like all working environments, there are ways to optimise the way you work. “Optimise” is a bit of a buzzword I know but it’s a useful one, shorthand for improving both your productivity and satisfaction in what you do.
In this week’s guest article, Jo Thornley from BusinessesForSale.com lays out some of the challenges of working from home as an entrepreneur.
When you think of that one-minute commute to the kitchen table, low start-up costs, and the ability to re-scale as you grow, you might see the attraction to running your business from home.
Though there are lots of advantages, choosing to start-up, or even relocate, a business where you’re based in your own domestic empire is no guarantee it will be trouble-free.
But thankfully, there’s usually a work-around you can try. So, let’s look at some of the biggest challenges you could face as an entrepreneur working from home.
What could be the problem?
It’s true that working in your own space is comfortable, relaxing and liberating. So for many, these ideal conditions can make work productive and interesting.
It can also be lonely however, as well-worn routines become tedious and you start to miss the work community and culture.
Sometimes the very accessibility of your work is also a problem. It can become difficult to refuse tasks that eat into your leisure hours, and the very presence of work materials all around you can make it hard to feel like you’ve really ‘clocked out’ at all.
The fact that home comforts are so close at hand can end up as part of the problem. It’s no problem having a hot drink and/or taking a break, but when you switch on the TV and find there’s (yet another) film you have just got to watch, your work output is almost bound to deteriorate.
What’s the trick?
All this can signal a need to change your work habits – beginning with building some human interaction into your working day. You could, for example, focus on networking to expand the reach of your business – a win-win situation because it gives you contact as well as business prospects, and will also keep you rooted in the ‘real world’.
In addition, you can do some simple things to improve your work/life balance, such as dressing smartly/neatly before work begins each day, defining your work area, setting yourself a schedule, and clearly separating your work and leisure activities.
You must also set your work hours, both for your own mental well-being and also for the benefit of your family and friends.
Above all, make an effort to get out of the house to make sure your home doesn’t start to feel like a workspace you’re forever trapped in.
Designing your working environment
If there’s one change you can make to make a start on solving all of these problems, it’s to create a better working environment. If your work is going to be positive and productive, you need to give some serious thought to this. Clearing a corner of the dining table is a start, but this is not a dedicated work-space.
Whether you choose to have an office or just a desk in the corner of your bedroom, make a clear decision about where you plan to work. The advantage to this is once you sit down, you’ll know immediately that you should get down to work
Your workspace should also have plenty of light and there should be as few distractions as possible. So, for instance, keep all your work materials close to hand to avoid any unnecessary journeys and/or breaks in your train of thought.
3 ways to kickstart a business from home
Finally, we’ve looked at some solutions to the social and organisational challenges of starting a business from home – but what about the challenges of starting the business itself?
Reducing the setup time of your new business and ensuring you have the best chance of making a profit quickly are important considerations for many entrepreneurs. Here are three things you could consider:
1. Join a franchise
Buying into a franchise can be a great way to get into business. The advantage of starting a business this way is that you will be given a ready made brand to sell, along with the training and resources to succeed. If you have the time and dedication to develop to a franchise business this can be a rewarding and supportive environment to start a business in. However, you will often be limited by the brand identity of the franchise you buy into, and this route usually require significant investment.
2. Buy a business
It is also possible to buy an existing business. The advantage of this is that you are able to skip the usual phases of setting up and marketing your business. Don’t underestimate just how long it can sometimes take to establish a startup home business and move into profit. Buying an existing business often means that you can begin trading with an existing base of customers. But do remember to do due diligence on any business you consider buying – the owners are selling for a reason after all.
3. Find a mentor
Finding someone who’s done it all before is often easier said than done, but a stereotypical master-apprentice relationship is not the be all and end all of mentoring – quite the opposite in fact. Through your networking you’ll come into contact with other businesses that are further up the curve of their industry than you are – far enough not to be threatening. If you don’t have a traditional mentor figure to hand, learn from these businesses and the individuals who run them. Use their experience to your advantage. Most people are happy to talk about their successes, and how they avoided the dangers they faced. Use this to learn how to plan your business effectively, saving you time and costly mistakes.
The core message of working from home, for me, is to create a positive environment for productivity. No matter what industry you enter and how you decide to build your business, if you’re working from home, it’s in your best interests to make your workplace a workplace, in the best possible sense of the world.
Both you, and your business, will also be much healthier if you remember to keep yourself in touch with what is going on in the outside world.
This week’s article is a guest contribution from Jo Thornley at BusinessesForSale.com. Jo’s roles began at Dynamis with PR and communications co-ordination, producing editorial across all business brands. She earned her spurs managing the communications strategy and now creates and develops partnerships between like-minded companies.
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