Posted: August 07, 2013
Top 10 ways to get the most from working at home
Build your business -- and keep your sanityBy Michael Schmidlen
Working from home sounds like every entrepreneur’s dream. But what does it really involve?
Can you really work in your underwear and take long lunches? Can you actually get work done and be more productive than you would be at an office, without being constantly distracted?
What's the best way to pace yourself, so you don't get burned out?
And how can you avoid talking to the dog, the cat – or the walls?
Working from home is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my more than 30-year sales career. It has given me a personal/professional balance and the freedom to create a multi-million dollar international business on my own terms.
Here are my top 10 tips on how thrive while working from home
1) Have a dedicated “work area” and invest in technology. If at all possible, try to set up a separate area in your home as your office. Invest in the best technology that you can afford and update it as necessary. If you have kids or pets, try to keep them out of your work area if they will distract you. If you constantly work on a computer as I do, buy a good, quality chair – it will make a world of difference.
2) Have a schedule (just like a “real” office job). To maintain both a professional image and mindset, establish a regular workday and convey this information to your clients/customers. I’ve worked from home for more than 20 years, and many of my clients don't know I have a home-based business unless I share that information with them. Perception is more important than reality, and your mindset is everything when it comes to getting things done. The temptation when you work from home is for family to come to you with momentum-killing tasks. Have a set of ground rules for your family and ask them to respect your work schedule.
3) Network! Network! Network! It is extremely important to maintain regular contact with your clients, your peers and your friends so that you can not only maintain your sanity but also keep your social skills sharp. Starbucks has become my “virtual office” over the years, and I regularly meet both vendors and clients there. Join industry groups that will allow you to network with others in your industry to share ideas, leads, information, knowledge and tips and tricks. Resist the temptation to insulate yourself in your home office. Working from home can be comfortable and most growth and action occurs outside your comfort zone.
4) Take Regular Breaks. No water cooler? No problem! I regularly go outside and water the grass. I also try to go to the post office once a day to check my mailbox to pick up checks from clients and to mail invoices. I take shipments to UPS and FedEx, make deliveries to clients, go on sales calls and shop for supplies. Break up your workday. It helps you to maintain your sanity and gets you out of your comfort zone.
5) Exercise and eat well. It’s important to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. Eat regular, healthy meals and snacks. Hydrate upon waking and throughout your day. It will give you energy and keep away unwanted pounds.
6) Have a life. Once you start working from home, there's always a huge risk of your work spilling over into your home life. Always close the door to your work area – literally or figuratively – at the end of a business day. All work and no play make you dull boy or girl!
7) Work on yourself as well as your business. In our competitive world, it is increasingly important to keep your knowledge and skills current. Invest in yourself as well as your business. It's one of the best investments you can make and typically has the best return on investment as well. Spend at least an hour a day reading something, and focus on improvement.
8) Organize your workspace and make yourself comfortable. You spend the majority of your waking hours in your workspace, so don't skimp on your desk, chair and technology (monitor, computer, printer). A comfortable environment is a productive environment.
9) Utilize outside resources. As a “Homepreneur”, you may be the master of your domain, but that doesn’t always mean you’re an expert in all aspects of your business. Be it finance, accounting, legal, payroll services or marketing, there’s likely to be an essential area (or many) where you can benefit from outside expertise. I have outsourced many business functions over the years, including payroll, legal, accounting, graphics design, marketing and web design. At the same time, keep tabs on all aspects of your business. Just because you have a virtual assistant helping you doesn’t mean you can ignore that part of your business.
10) Pay attention to the way you work, and adjust accordingly. After you have set up or reorganized your work space, see if there’s anything else you can do to improve productivity. Do this evaluation on a regular basis. Be very critical of your time management. Ask your significant other for an honest assessment. Don’t allow yourself to get too comfortable. Time well spent!
Michael Schmidlen is a serial entrepreneur who has successfully run his multi-million dollar home-based business for 20 years. Michael is working on his first book, “Memoirs of THE Underwear Entrepreneur," where he shares his many business experiences and unique stories. The book is designed to be a blueprint for other small business owners, would-be entrepreneurs and startups to beat the overwhelming odds to create a successful, thriving small business model.