For over ten years I’ve operated my business from my home office.
I can say without hesitation that I’ve had my share of successes and failures in trying to master this work arrangement.
Working from home can be both the best and worst situation you might face in your career. Running a writing business from home presents its challenges. And if you are a mompreneur with young children scampering about it simply compounds the situation.
But don’t fret, it is possible to run a business and a family harmoniously under one roof. The following are a few of the top success factors I learned the hard way, lessons I’ve learned that help me to be more productive when working from home.
1. Doors are your friend
Your best option for a high productivity home office is to set it up in a room with a functioning door. If you have the luxury of a completely separate room, then use it. However, most home offices are located in a shared space.
Be mindful to choose a room that is relatively quiet during your scheduled office hours such as a spare bedroom or a den. Taking a corner of the kitchen or main living area should be your absolute last choice as it will make you too accessible to everyone in your family.
I fooled myself into thinking that I could keep an eye on the kids if my desk was in the kitchen. Wrong. The kids, pets, mail carrier and the home phone kept me constantly and easily distracted. And it’s a bit difficult to sound professional with a screaming baby or barking dog in the background.
2. Office rules are your friend
Setting the rules for you, your family and your business up front will save you significant time and headache.
Rules for you
- Establish and keep regular business or working hours. If you had to go to another office, you would need to arrive on time. Same goes for your home office.
- Don’t answer the home phone during working hours. If you had to go to an office, you would not be home to answer it. Same goes for your home office.
Rules for your family
- When the door is closed, do not come in because I’m working. You will have to work hard to enforce this rule. Take time to explain it to your children. I used the “only if you are bleeding, a bone is protruding, or the house is on fire” can you come in as guidelines. At almost any age your children will understand. And your spouse will, too.
Rules for your business
- Use this question as a test for absolutely everything: If I was at an office would I be doing this right now? Apply it to things like doing laundry, washing the dishes or weeding your garden. I wrote this question on a piece of paper and posted it on the wall near my desk. It is invaluable in keeping me on task.
3. Schedules are your friend
This is an extension of tip #2. It’s counter intuitive to think that a strict schedule is freeing, but it is true. Create time blocks in your schedule for daily tasks such as marketing, phone calls, writing, research, administrative tasks and even a relaxation break. Then stick to it (which is the hard part, by the way).
If you truly commit to an hour of marketing you will not only accomplish something; you won’t get to lunch and be wondering where the morning went.
Close unneeded programs on your computer, turn off your phone and stay focused. One important note: commit to ending your day at a specific time or you will find yourself working very long hours.
Bottom line: Stick to a schedule and your productivity will blossom.
4. Meetings are your friend
One potential downside to working from home is that it removes you from the social aspect of a large office. You know yourself best and know how much face-to-face time you need to function well.
Personally, I need to get out and interact with live human beings at least once a week to maintain my sanity. To you, the idea of complete isolation might strike pure joy in your soul. Regardless of your personality take time to schedule face to face meetings once a week.
This concept may sound odd but putting on professional clothing, fixing your hair and makeup, and preparing for the meeting all have a positive effect on your mood and outlook. Too much time being isolated and working in casual mode can take a toll on your energy level and creativity.
Working from home is among the best things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. As a mom to two teenage children, it allowed me a great deal of flexibility when they were still young. Give yourself the time and permission to try a few things, make a few mistakes and master your domain. It’s well worth the effort.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Susan Baracco is a serial entrepreneur who works as freelance content marketing copywriter helping B2B service and technologies companies stand out in their market. Susan’s history of success in sales across a diverse set of industries makes her a go-to resource for effective marketing strategy and sales content. Connect with @takemywords on Twitter.
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