Running a Home-based Business – Myths and Realities
I’m not alone. Lots of successful businesses were launched from the founder’s kitchen table or bedroom. With cost reductions a priority, it’s still the start up location of choice for most entrepreneurs. And it is the ultimate in convenience and flexible working, right?
While others hit the road at the crack of dawn to get to work, your home office is a short stroll from your breakfast table.
While bad weather leaves frozen commuters struggling to reach the office by midday, you’re warm and cosy and feeling satisfied with your morning’s work.
And at the end of the day, when frazzled workers are facing a weary train, bus or car journey home, you can enjoy a leisurely dinner before strolling back to your office to finish off.
There’s no dress code; so no last minute ironing of shirts and skirts; no office politics to distract you from the job in hand, and the only person keeping an eye on how hard you’re working – is you.
No staff meetings to reduce your productivity; no idle chatter across desks to wreck your concentration, and no office cliques to worry about being in or out of.
It sounds idyllic; comfortable, flexible and very cost effective – some of your domestic running costs can be offset against your tax bill – and for me it beats travelling to work hands down. But there is a knack to it and you need to create a structure and set some boundaries, or your home based business can literally take over your life.
Myth – ‘I work from home so I don’t need to clock off’
Without a daily commute to contend with, you can easily fit in an extra two or three hours work when you need to. And if you subscribe to the ‘time is money’ theory, technically the scope for extended working hours is a bonus. However, if you have a family, commitments outside of work, or just a life, it can be a source of friction.
Reality – Work rarely comes in at a steady pace; famine or feast is the more like it, so work longer when you need to and enjoy some down time when you don’t.
Myth – ‘I’m in the bath, but go ahead, it’s fine.’
Unless you have a separate telephone line for your business, there’s a good chance that someone you’ve spoken to in the course of your work will take liberties and call you back when they feel like it. People I’ve contacted to arrange an interview, and left a message asking them to call me before 5.30pm, have thought nothing of calling back at 8pm or 9pm to ask, ‘is now OK?’One sports instructor who I interviewed one morning for a magazine training article called me back at 11pm to let me know he’d thought of something else he wanted to say.
Reality – Set clear rules about being contacted about work, and be polite but firm when callers ignore them.
Myth – ‘Who’s going to see me wearing this old thing?’
I once scheduled a Skype interview with a businessman in Australia. It was 6am UK time, so who knew or cared that I was in my dressing gown? But as our PCs connected so did the webcams. Fortunately, my interviewee, who was preparing for an evening speaking engagement and also wearing his, saw the funny side of it.
Reality – Semi formal or at least respectable dress should be the order of the day.
Myth – ‘I’m 100% productive in my working day because there are no distractions’
True apart from the door to door salespeople/second-hand clothes collectors/religious representatives, who smile gleefully at you through the window while you point angrily at the telephone clamped to the side of your face that you are obviously using. The more you point and try to wave them away, the more they grin, wave back, and then ring the doorbell again. One crucial conference call was delayed because of a lady who called to ask if I wanted an appointment with Jesus.
Reality – Simply ignoring the doorbell makes the dog, if you have one, bark louder and the caller more persistent. A sign in the window saying ‘No house callers’ seems to do the trick.
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Tags: business, entrepreneurs, flexible, freelance, home, realities, start-ups