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Posted: August 07, 2013

Top 10 ways to get the most from working at home

Build your business -- and keep your sanity

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.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Well I haven't used Skype yet but just got everyone started using ZOHO CRM and hoping that will boost productivity. I'm also learning how to use PowerPoint to do webinars. Have any suggestions for webinar hosts? Are you outsourcing through Odesk? An operations consultant suggested that service but still trying to learn that as well. Thanks again. By Steve Felt on 2013 08 22
Steve - Thanks and glad you enjoyed it. Do you use Skype as a means of communicating with your staff (either video or messaging)? Are there any productivity tools that you could implement to manage your staff? Fortunately, I've been a solopreneur for the better part of the 20 years I've been in business, although I have had employees in the past. I now outsource EVERYTHING that I can... I've often said :Having employees is like having children you can't discipline" smile By Michael E Schmidlen on 2013 08 21
I deal with this on a daily basis as I work from home and all of my sales reps and support staff do as well. It has saved the company thousands per month in overhead but at the same time productivity has dropped due to the lack of "in the office" management. I do have a Regus virtual office for professional meeting space and use it in all parts of the city. Thanks for the insights though I will share it with my team. By Steve Felt on 2013 08 21
Great advice. I often don't follow number 5 as much as I should. Drinking water throughout the day really does help. By PS4 on 2013 08 13
Tricia- Glad you enjoyed this post. I have had the good fortune of working from home for the better part of the last 20 years and can assure you that I wish this advice would have been readily available when I first started in 1993! By Michael E Schmidlen on 2013 08 07
Michael, Great summary of some of the keys to working from success. I especially like #9. If you really want to accelerate the growth of your business, leveraging others’ expertise is essential. Sure, we're all smart enough to figure out payroll, accounting, IT ... but is this the BEST use of our time and talents? In hindsight, I wish I would have done more of this early on. By Tricia Akins on 2013 08 07
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