It is time for me to get my homeworking act together! I’ve let things slip. Last week my increasingly sloppy approach, to running a business from home, caught up with me and slapped me in the face. Ouch. I am still cringing with embarrassment.
At the beginning of the week my teenage daughter answered the phone. We have one phone line for work and personal calls. ‘Eh, hello’ she grunted, then she passed the phone to me, saying quite clearly: ‘it’s for you, a creepy sounding man.’ It was a new client.
The next day, I answered the door, in my pyjamas. It was 9.30am, I had actually been at work for 2 hours and was about to get dressed. Honestly. When the door-bell rang I answered it, as I was expecting a stationary delivery. But it wasn’t a delivery man. It was another client, who had decided to drop-off a package.
Amazingly both clients had a sense of humour and a good laugh at the situation. But I felt really stupid and vulnerable. And if you think about it I had made myself very vulnerable to not being taken seriously. I wasn’t taking myself seriously, so why should anyone else.
Time for a fresh start
Running a professional business from home isn’t rocket science. We all know what we need to do to avoid home-working hell. But it does help every so often to refocus. I’ve had a rethink and here is what I’m planning to do differently.
A garden office. My home is over-run by teenagers. I don’t have a separate space for the business and just as importantly I don’t have a space for me. I’ve considered alternatives like getting an office or a co-working space. But commuting, parking and carrying my laptop around still seem pointless costs. What I want and need is a quiet and separate ‘room of my own’, here at home. After a lot of dithering about the cost, I’ve finally been persuaded by another recently-retired freelancer I know who had a garden office for years. Now they rent it out as a self-contained flat to students and it has become an important contribution to their pension. It turned out to be a great long-term investment.
A second phone line. When I started working from home, the high price of a second phone line was a deterrent. But advances in internet-based telephony, VOIP, mean that it’s now very affordable. You don’t need to have a new phone line installed, all you need is a broadband internet connection. You can use a local area code or an area code from anywhere in the country and you can also take your number wherever you go. One friend is based abroad for months at a time, but her clients think she is still in her home town.
Office hours. Between 9 and 5 I’ll be dressed for work. It helps to improve work focus and mind-set. It also reinforces that separation between being at work and finishing at the end of the day.
Office hours and office dress are not for everyone who works from home. For many, being able to work at weird and wonderful times of the day is one of the main reasons that they are self-employed. That’s certainly the case for many of my mumpreneur friends.
But for me, right now, I do believe I need to put a tighter structure in place. I recently listened to the BBC ‘Reith Lecture‘ by Atul Gawande: “Discipline makes daring possible’, he said about the future of medicine. It chimes. It’s an important sentiment for any creative or innovative endeavour and for me right now. But from now on I will keep the daring for business strategy and ideas and spare my clients the thrill of seeing me in my pyjamas.