Home-based businesses can be both a source of freedom and frustration. While many people are successful at balancing the relationship between home and work, an alarmingly high number of home-based businesses fail because of factors that could’ve been avoided with some careful planning.
When giving up the corporate lifestyle and starting your own home business, you should consider the following tips to ensure your enterprise is successful:
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
A home-based business has many advantages, the most compelling of which is the ability to set your own schedule. Having the flexibility to work whenever (and wherever) you want is empowering and freeing. However, this freedom comes at a cost, when there is no manager looking over your shoulder prodding you to complete projects.
When you work at home, the temptation to watch a few minutes of television, run to the store, or tackle household chores can wreak havoc on your schedule, leaving you with a list of incomplete tasks. To avoid this problem, establish set work hours and don’t waver from them. Inform friends and family of your schedule, explaining that you will be unavailable during the times you’ve designated for work.
2. Schedule your family time.
Although many people starting home-based businesses want to be more available for family responsibilities, such as taking care of small children, they often find it difficult to juggle work and family. One way to meet everyone’s needs is to set up realistic schedules.
Plan to handle the majority of work-related business while your children are in school, or arrange for childcare during your work hours to give you the time you need to focus. It’s also a good idea to make a plan with family members for the division of household chores; will you be responsible for making dinner every day because you’re at home, or will someone else handle that? Being clear about the roles everyone will have in the home will alleviate future frustration and help you make your business a success.
3. Establish a workspace.
Particularly for businesses that are just starting, the dining room table often serves as the main office space. A professional workspace, however, can serve dual purposes: It allows you to more easily separate “work” from “home,” and it gives you a dedicated area to keep necessary materials and tools. Having dedicated office supplies and technology prevents you from wasting time and effort trying to track down errant staplers, lost files, and misplaced work. It’s also a good idea to keep your office space off-limits to children.
4. Leave home as necessary.
A home-based business does not have to mean home-bound. Working from home can keep overhead costs low, but it can also lead to numerous distractions and temptations, as well as feelings of isolation. When necessary, pack up your laptop and head to your nearest library, coffee shop, or bookstore for a change of atmosphere. While this may not be practical for everyday work, it can give you enough of a breather to keep you focused and productive. Plan to work “out of the office” once a week as an incentive to get projects completed and to keep you from feeling trapped at home.
By necessity, home-based business owners frequently become jacks-of-all-trades: CEO, graphic artist, marketing manager, customer service representative, and billing department are just a fraction of the roles you may have to play. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to outsource tasks that are beyond your skillset. Reach out to other home-based businesses that specialize in the area in which you need help. You might even consider arranging a barter to save even more money and time. One way to connect with other home-based businesses in your area is to join small-business networking groups.
6. Clock out every day.
Working at home can become a 24-hours-a-day/7-days-a-week job. When you never leave work, you might feel the need to always finish one more task. Give yourself permission to clock out every day, leaving the undone work for the next day. It’s also healthy to reward yourself occasionally with lunch out with friends or an early start to the weekend. Not only will you feel rejuvenated, but you’ll be also be more productive after you’ve had a break from work responsibilities.
Starting a home-based business can be the opportunity of a lifetime; it can also be a nightmare. The difference between success and failure is found in the effectiveness of your work-at-home plan. It requires some effort, but it isn’t impossible.