Starting a business from home carries a lot of perks. You can keep expenses low, earn some extra income, ease into your new venture without having to give up your day job right away, and maintain a lot of control over your work environment.
However, there are also plenty of challenges inherent in working from home - many you'll never realize until you get started.
I've been working from home since 2005. The first few months were a bit of a shock, and I needed to make some big adjustments. I hope you'll be able to learn a few things from my experience, and maybe avoid a few of my mistakes!
Here's what I've learned along the way:
This is how people think I work. I'm afraid nothing would ever get accomplished if this was my regular work space!
When you start working from home, you may have visions of bringing your laptop out to your sunny backyard with a cool drink beside you, and lounging on your deck chair as you write up your marketing plans.
That sounds pretty great, it's a little fantasy of mine, but it is a far cry from how I really work.
Starting a business from home can be more a matter of sitting in your spare-bedroom-turned-home-office/craft-studio in the twenty spare minutes you have between dropping your kids at school and doing the dishes and letting your tea get cold as you work out the math to figure out how you spent so much money on supplies that month and try to resist the urge to shove all of your receipts in a shoe box and tell yourself you will most definitely organize them later.
Most of the time, it's somewhere in between those two extremes, and with some good planning, you can minimize the stresses. For me, the freedom to be flexible with how I use my time, and the satisfaction of building something that is my own from my own creativity and hard work is well worth it.
I started trying to work on my jewelry wherever I had space and do my computer work in an area that was completely open to family activity. Big mistake!
This is where I actually work. It's not as comfy as the hammock, but it is a good, quiet place to focus. And when I close the door, people know I'm working and need quiet time.
You might get away with having a less defined work space if you live alone and are very disciplined, but if you live with other people or are easily distracted and not naturally organized (sounds like me), you really need to find a dedicated office and/or craft studio space in your home.
Your office and/or craft room does not have to be expensive or huge (unless you need to accommodate large projects or equipment), but it is important to give yourself the space, tools and equipment that you need to work efficiently.
Another shock I had when starting to work from home was having no technical support and no administrative support. It's amazing how much you rely on your colleagues in a traditional work environment, and how much you miss those people when they're not there. Learning to work without administrative and technical support when you are used to a more traditional work environment can be a bit of an adjustment.
You are completely responsible for whether you achieve your business goals or not. That can be both empowering and daunting at the same time. You'll need to work to your strengths and find ways around your weaknesses to make your business work.
You truly need to develop an excellent self-knowledge to effectively run a business. It's crucial you're aware of your strengths and weaknesses so you're not held back by your 'blind spots'
Here are some things I've learned about setting business goals that are effective, motivating and help move your business forward.
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Sometimes, when you are self employed and don't have to report in to an office or store, it can be difficult to get friends and family members to respect the fact that you are, in fact, working and running a business.
I find people don't understand what I do all day, so they think I'm not really working. I often joke with a friend who also works from home, that we are going to start to tell people we are architects or lawyers, then people will believe we are really working on important matters all day at home.
This can particularly be an issue if you don't have a regular "day job" in addition to your craft business.
People may perceive that because you are the boss, you can skip work whenever you choose, and drop everything when they want you to help them out with their own scheduling conflicts. The fact is, if you don't develop and protect a consistent work schedule, you'll never develop your business to its full potential.
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