Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Do's and Don'ts of working from home

So you are setting up a business. You have looked at the likely costs and income of the business and you are aware that money will be tight. You realise that you can do without an office, everything you need is right in your home. Confident you launch your advertising and start your business....

Six months later you admit defeat, poor a cup of tea and turn on Jeremy Kyle. What went wrong? The business was sound, the early weeks were so promising, but you have run out of money and jobs have tailed off. Reassessing the early days of the business you spot the one error you made.... You worked from home....

Not everyone can work on their own. It takes a certain amount of discipline and mindset that not everyone has naturally, however you can learn techniques to help. Whilst the costs of working from home are significantly lower than renting an office, the home has many distractions that an office does not have. Alternatively it is possible to close the office an leave at the end of the day, and we all need some quiet time.

So here are some tips on how to work from home successfully

DO Make sure your business can run effectively from the space you have. The box room may make a perfect study but if you spend all day tripping over piles of papers, or boxes of stock, you will soon get frustrated.

DO Have "Office Hours". Have a set time each day when work starts. Obviously one of the advantages of working at home is you can be flexible, but having a set start time helps put you in the mindset to start work for the day

DO Get out once a day. Sometimes when home and office are combined it can feel like you are trapped. Escape once during each day. Dogs are a great excuse, they are always happy to go for a walk. Walk round the block, run out shopping, go and see a client. Get some fresh air.

DON'T Get distracted by personnal chores. If you worked in an office you would not be able run personnal errands every day. If you must do them link them into the above. Treat it as a task to do in your lunch hour

DON'T The internet, just don't. If it is not work related then save it for lunchtime, or after hours. We all know how easy it is to lose track of time reading something that is ultimately pointless.

DO Use background noise. If you have always worked in big open plan offices surrounded by people it can be really offputting sitting on your own in a quiet room. A radio or TV is perfect for this. Daytime TV is remarkable short of content and makes fantastic noise in the background. But...

DON'T Put anything on that you want to watch and listen to. The new DVD is a not going to work. The Teach Yourself Spanish CD's may seem like a great idea to feel the silence, but you will neither work well, nor learn Spanish!

DO Have two phone lines. Both lines should have answer machines and the ability to turn the ringer off. There are times where you may wish to escape either phone line! The same goes for mobile phones.

DO Have a landline for the business. Landline numbers give people more confidence that you are not going to just vanish overnight. It is easy to get call forwarding set up to your mobile so you do not miss calls. Your business cards can have both numbers on them, but advertise the landline.

DO Check your insurance. Does your household insurance cover any home business? Probably not. Talk to your insurance company and arrange suitable cover. Cover for a largely clerical business is a minimal expense, provided you are not seeing clients/customers at home.

DO Claim your £3 per week "Use of Home Allowance" in your accounts. Or see a good accountant ( hint!) and talk about other ways of accounting for working from home.

DO Train the people you live with to realise that Working from home does not mean "Able to do all the housework and DIY jobs, oh and pop out to get...."

DO A tidy desk is a tidy mind, and stops the other half moaning so much. You are your own office cleaner. Do it regularly and keep your workspace clear.

DO Break the rules occassionally. Just not too often....

DO Find out what works for you. The more you can focus on the work the better. But ultimately what works for one person does not work for others. Some people get dressed in a suit and tie. Some have converted the garage so they have to "commute".

Have you got a Do or Don't please comment and let the world know.

Now if you'll excuse me I have an oven to clean, a huge stack of ironing, then I have to go shopping.....