I love working as a solopreneur —especially from a home office, which is in the upstairs of the barn on my property. No traffic jams, no weather concerns, plus I get to spend time with my fur family and set my own schedule.
In fact, I’m not alone — more and more workers are turning to their home office to run a small business or solo venture. According to Inuit on Business Wire the rapid change in technology has shifted us away from the commute and into a new decade of working from home. The article points out that this has become the most cost-effective way to run a business today.
“This next decade will be the decade of the small business,” Karen Peacock, senior vice president of small business at Intuit, said. ” Industry-shifting trends like lower-cost, scalable infrastructure to start and grow your business, the ability to build a team with amazing on-demand talent, and data that helps you fuel your business and delight your customers are game changers.”
Running a business from home takes focus and discipline — one of the things that helps me is keeping actual ‘work hours.’ There’s a fine balance between managing your time well and operating in the freedom and flexibility of your day spent without having to drive to an actual office.
If you find yourself in a flex arrangement, are starting a new work-from-home business, or are adding to a regular job like many find themselves doing I have 10 tips that can help you stay on track.
Create a dedicated work space
You might not be able to have an actual separate building, but you can create a separated space in your home that says “Work Happens Here.” A separate space that ideally allows for a door that closes to distractions and maintains a professional atmosphere. If you’d like some creative ideas to start with head over to Pinterest and look up “creative work spaces in small spaces.”
Keep your personal home separate
I don’t work at home. I’ll check emails from time to time on my smart phone. But I try to keep my home as my place to unplug and unwind. Not only can this help accomplish your tasks, but it also prevents the need to leave your home in order to get away from work. Your home is your sanctuary —keep it that way, especially if have a family who needs your time, too.
Stick to a regular schedule
I like to work during the typical work hours — this might work differently for you. You may be a night owl, slow to rise in the morning and prefer working from 2 PM to 10 PM. Whatever your schedule is, make sure that you maintain one that you feel good about and can commit to rather than be vague about when you work.
Leave personal tasks for after work
Working from home does provide the flexibility to run out to the store when you want or meet up with a girl friend for a shopping trip. The key is to not make this an ongoing event. Keeping to your regular work schedule as much as possible will help you stay focused and maintain a professional outlook. Meeting with a potential client for lunch, however; is strictly business and can also be used a tax write-off for your business.
Have a dedicated voice mail system
If you don’t have a virtual assistant where you can forward your phone calls, use voice mail. Google Voice is one of the best free resources to start with if you don’t have a monthly plan available for your current budget. A simple rule that I follow is that I do not answer the phone while working on a project or task. Remember, you can always return a phone call, but the loss of productivity is gone forever!
Take a break or experience burnout
Have you ever been so focused on your work that the hours just roll right by? Taking a break or two gives you an opportunity to recharge — like going to a separate place to eat lunch each day or walking for 30 minutes outside. You’ll find that this refreshes your thoughts and then you can look forward to returning to the office with a fresh start.
Set specific work hours
Having set work hours and not going back to work to do that one more thing will allow you to stay on a schedule. If you don’t allow yourself to finish things up the next day you might just find yourself waking up in the middle of the night pondering what you need to get done.
Work as the professional you already are
There can still be a perception that working from home is more casual. Don’t identify yourself as “I do xyx, but it’s from home.” See yourself as a professional no matter where your office resides. It’s true that as we treat ourselves as the “CEO” we break the misconception that a solo business just a small venture. This attitude flows into every area of our business lives and can even affect the perception our clients have about us.
Network outside of your home office
Don’t forget about people. Working alone can be isolating. Yes, we communicate on social media, talk on the phone, use live chat and send emails. However, there’s nothing that replaces face to face time with colleagues, prospects and clients. Meet up with others at luncheon or evening events and don’t neglect your human interaction time.
Dress for the occasion
You may have heard about people who “work in their pajamas.” I may not have to dress up in full business attire – but I am dressed and mentally prepared to wear my virtual business hat during working hours. Keep the casual clothes for after work when you finally get to relax after a full day. It’s amazing how much our state of mind can change just by getting up and getting ourselves ready!
As a solopreneur running your own business you are the boss — you set the tone, pace, and attitude of your company. To be successful in business you need to treat yourself as a professional brand in order to grow. Working from home provides the added time and flexibility needed in today’s competitive work environment. With the right discipline and focus you can harness each day and move in a more profitable direction.
This article originally appeared in Susan Gilbert.