Working from home is a dream for many of us. It cuts out the need for an expensive and time-wasting commute; it allows you to set your own schedule and dress code; and it means that you won’t have the stress that comes with a boss breathing down your neck. But this isn’t an easy transition to make, especially if you dive into it blind. Let’s examine how you can build your career from home and make a success of it.
The reality of working from home
Let’s start with a bit of a reality check. Are you sure you want to do this? You might imagine that you’ll be sitting in your dressing gown, communicating with a raft of polite, communicative clients who pay you promptly to do intensely rewarding work. But this isn’t always what happens. Moreover, working from home can often blur the boundaries between your work life and your home life, which can lead to stress and burnout. And let’s not forget, that you are literally on your own. For many people the isolation can be hard to deal with; some people miss the social interaction they get from working in a fixed location with other people.
If you’ve already left the workplace, to bring up children, study or care for others, then the transition might not be quite as shocking. What’s important is that you plan ahead, consider your options, and ensure that you have financial security enough to take the plunge.
How Should I Prepare?
If you’re going to be working for yourself, then you won’t have the luxury of a guaranteed income to fall back on. And thus, it’s important to build up a reserve of cash, or buffer fund, that you can fall back on during tough times. Ideally, you’ll want to have enough money available that you can survive unsupported for several months. That way, you won’t be worrying about short-term cash flow, and you’ll be able to concentrate your mind on actually making money. If you need finance to get started, then small business loans can be invaluable. Alternatively there are a wide variety of home-based businesses that you can start with little money.
When you can suit yourself, it is important to implement a clear structure to your time and space. Have a dedicated work space and work regular, set hours as much as you can. Of course one of the advantages of working from home is having the flexibility to take off for a picnic on a sunny day, but around those exceptions you will have to be more self-disciplined; routine is your best friend for that.
Software and online services can help to fill the support-staff and colleagues gap. Plug into accountancy, CRM and project management software and you will feel like you have a support team even if you are working on your own. Online freelancer platforms like Fiverr and PeoplePerHour are a great way of tapping into slices of support, as well as being somewhere you could promote your own service.
It goes without saying that without customers you do not have a business. Marketing to new and potential clients is the most important element of your business. There is a huge amount of marketing that you can do from the comfort of your home office: social media promotions, Linkedin networking and email newsletters. And do not forget the good old telephone; in this age of virtual connections a conversation by phone is still a much more powerful and impactful way of communicating.
Face to face marketing is more powerful still. If it is an option for your business, take every opportunity you can to get face to face with potential customers. Whether it’s a pop-up event to sell and get nuanced feedback, a networking meeting or a professional association, make sure that you get out regularly.
Working from home can be a joy or a nightmare. It’s much more likely to work for the best if you are realistic, well prepared and ready to stay visible, keep in touch and promote what you do.