I always want people to keep their overheads as low as possible when they’re starting a business, and starting up from home rather than paying out for office space can be a great way of doing this. However, starting a business from home can have its disadvantages as well.
Set clear boundaries
A lot of businesses are run by people who want to have a flexible lifestyle and working from home definitely suits this. If you’re a parent and you want to work school hours, and then do a little more after the children have gone to bed, working from home can fit really well with having breaks in your day, or working in the evenings.
Problems can come, however, when there are no clear boundaries between your home life and your work life. This can lead to working late because there’s no set home time when you’re already home, or the opposite problem of not getting settled into work mode because there’s always something that needs doing. Switch off your business mobile when you’ve finished for the day – I have a friend who has a mobile for business, and one for everything else, and come 5pm on a Friday, the business one is switched off.
Why we procrastinate
If you’re prone to procrastination, working from home can always provide excuses to not get on with the work in hand. Because procrastination usually comes about when we step outside our comfort zone, there is a big tendency to put things off when starting up a new business, so this situation can be double trouble.
Make sure that you get into an effective routine when you work from home – set out what hours you’re going to work, and have some kind of ritual which switches you between work and home life. One client who works from home finishes each evening and washes up when she finishes work. She says that this helps her to clear her head of thoughts about work and start thinking about the evening ahead. Another business owner recommended going out of the house in the morning at a set time and doing their to do list sitting on the beach, before returning to the house feeling energised and ready to get on with the day.
Working too much makes you unproductive
If you have the opposite problem of working too much and never leaving the computer, make sure that you do leave the house at least once a day. A little walk, going to the shops for a paper, or a midday yoga class will bear dividends because it will make you more productive than if you just grind away for the whole day. Remember that you need to move away from the computer and do something completely different every 45 minutes to avoid damaging your hands and because our poor little human brains can’t really concentrate for more than 45 minutes.
Get your own space
It’s important that you have some sort of dedicated space which is just for working. If you convert a spare room to an office make sure that it is an office not just a room with your computer in. Some people have built separate garden offices, which helps with the perception that you’re going to work now. If you have limited space, and have your workspace in a bedroom or a corner of the living room, make sure that it’s marked off from the rest of the living activities.
Psychologically it’s vital that you have an area which is specifically for work. Make sure that you have everything that you need within easy reach, it’s very easy to become disorganised if you don’t have a place for everything, and you’ll waste so much time if you’re constantly looking for bits of paper with phone numbers on or that file.
Look into small workstation units that incorporate filing and storage space and can be closed up when you’ve finished work for the day. Make sure that you keep your other life separate from your working life. If you worked in a “real job” you wouldn’t have a pile of ironing, or a bunch of toys sitting next to your desk would you? So don’t do it from your home either.
It will distract you and drive you crazy, and you need to feel fully professional when the phone rings with someone wanting to talk about that big tender, and that’s difficult to do with a giant teddy staring at you.
If you live with other people, ensure that they understand that you are at work now.
Close the door on them and forget about them for the time that you’re working.
This can be particularly difficult if you have your family around you. Partners and children need to know that you’re working and cannot be disturbed, and you need to prioritise your work and see it as important enough to take the time to get absorbed into what you are doing without worrying about domestic details.
Remember that you are important and that your business is important.