Working from home.
Being your own boss.
Choosing your own hours.
You got it—those are just three of the many advantages to running your own home-based online business, and they’re usually the first advantages that come to mind when people start daydreaming about escaping the rat race once and for all.
There are literally dozens upon dozens of advantages to running your own business, but a lot of people incorrectly assume that working from home means hardly working. If you want your home business to succeed, you’ve got to realize that’s just not the case. I definitely have a flexible schedule but I also put in my fair share of sixteen-hour work days. (Caffeine really can become your best friend!)
Create Rules and Guidelines to Follow While You’re Working from Home
If you had a regular job, your friends wouldn’t show up at the office unexpectedly, call you to go out for a snack at 2 PM or ask you to baby-sit for them during the day … but that stuff happens when you work from home.
People might accept the fact that you really do work during the day, but they also assume you’re always available to chat on the phone, go out with them at the spur of the moment, or do them favors because you don’t have to ask a supervisor for time off.
It’s understandable that stuff happens—I’d definitely help a family member during my “work day” if an emergency came up—but in order to run a successful business, you need to create rules and guidelines to follow while you’re working from home. There are a lot of things to consider in addition to your daily schedule, so I’ve created a list of information that business owners need to realize.
• Set regular business hours. If you’re going to work from home, you need to set regular business hours. They don’t have to be 9 AM to 5 PM, but you need to choose some sort of regular hours to follow each day, especially if you’ll be dealing with “mainstream” clients that are only at their offices during the day. A regular schedule will also help you reduce the urge to sleep until noon every day and help you avoid lounging around on the couch watching TV.
• Work during your business hours. Speaking of watching TV, make sure that you actually work during your business hours. It’s really easy to get sidetracked on StumbleUpon, YouTube or Facebook, but you need to tackle the projects that need to be taken care of. Especially if you want to pay your bills and eat!
• Tell people when you will be working. Don’t be afraid to tell friends and loved ones when you’re working, and don’t allow them to interrupt you unless it’s an emergency. Caller ID and voicemail were both invented for a reason—use them! You can check messages later. In my experience, if someone’s having an emergency situation, they’ll call back repeatedly until I pick up the phone.
• Create a dedicated area for work. It doesn’t matter if you stick a cheapie desk from Wal-Mart in a corner of your bedroom or you set up shop in your basement, but you need a dedicated area for work and work alone. This doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally take your laptop to a bookstore or a coffee shop to get some work done, but for the most part you’ll be working from home and you need an “office.”
• Organize your workspace. Even the tiniest small spaces can be completely organized and you don’t have to spend a fortune doing it. Keep pens and pencils in an old coffee mug. Keep your notebooks, books and magazines in a dedicated spot as opposed to tossing them all over the floor under your desk. If things are organized, you’ll be able to find stuff as soon as you need it and become more efficient in the meantime. Also, here are some tips for organizing up your workspace.
• Keep a paper trail of everything. We’re living in a digital age but it’s a good idea to keep a paper trail of everything you do. Write the date on your hand-written notes about projects and print things out if they are important. If you don’t have a file cabinet, buy yourself some banker’s boxes at an office supply store and keep them in your workspace.
• Track what you spend. Keep track of everything related to your business finances. This will come in handy when you try to make a major purchase that requires financing, such as a car, or when you try to lease an apartment or buy a home. You will have to prove that your home business earns money.
• Open a separate business bank account. A lot of self-employed people register a corporation or form an LLC for legal and tax purposes, but even if you choose to work as a sole proprietor you should open a separate checking account for business purposes. This will keep your earnings separate.
• Keep financial records. Separate bank accounts will help you out when it comes to bookkeeping. You also want to know if you’re “in the red or in the black.” Are you earning as much as you thought you were? Are you even making any money when it comes down to it? You’ll need these financial records when doing your income taxes, too.
• Build a nest egg. A nest egg is a good idea for everyone because we never know when our car will break down or when we’ll need to buy a new washer or dryer when the old one quits working. Nest eggs are especially important for self-employed people because they don’t get sick pay or vacation pay. If you get sick and can’t work, you won’t be earning money. If you want to go on vacation without working, you won’t be earning money during your trip.
Your Double Life
• Have two phone lines, if necessary. If you’re working in a field that requires people to speak with you on the phone, it’s a good idea to have a business phone number so clients, potential clients and any general weirdos out there in cyberspace don’t have your home phone number or your personal cell phone number. You can get a second phone number cheaply and easily with Magic Jack or Skype.
• Have separate email accounts. It’s also a good idea to use a separate email account for work purposes. It helps you stay organized and looks more professional. Besides, clients won’t want to receive emails from “snugglebunny1975” or “hotstudmuffin” or the like.
These are a few of the most important guidelines for running a home business. Some are no-brainers and I’ve learned others through trial and error. I can’t repeat myself enough, though—if you want your business to succeed, you’ve got to treat it as a business. Be organized, have rules and guidelines and most importantly, stick to them!Take Action. Get Results.
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