The notion of “being your own boss” is attractive, but it comes with its share of pitfalls. Cash flow, particularly with new businesses, is always a concern. You’re destined to work yourself silly—which you’re more than willing to do because, hey, it’s your business—but still there’s the danger of burnout and spinning your wheels. And the always-fresh challenge of working with many different clients/customers is invigorating, but at the same time it can be stressful, and there are always certain clients out there ready to waste your time.
Here are the nine immutable, definitive, absolute, and indispensable rules for avoiding the pitfalls of working from home.
- Schedule Me Time – Working from home leaves you in a job “gray zone” that you have to separate into black and white. You need to separate business from pleasure, and home from work. Schedule times when you order yourself not to think about work.
- Exercise – Most work-from-home jobs are sedentary. You’re often just sitting at your computer. Not only will mandatory exercise (such as a middle-of-the-day walk) make you healthier, it will give you a refreshing break from the monotony so you can recharge your batteries.
- Create a Home Office – Sometimes you can’t create a separate home office because of budget or space considerations. But, similar to Rule #1, it’s beneficial to separate your home and work lives. Creating a separate home office gives you a quiet and dedicated space to think and work.
- Work on a Schedule – Discipline is often elusive in the work-from-home environment. Why not roll out of bed at noon, play around until 5pm, and then do some work around 6ish (if the game’s not on). Resist such impulses. Create a reasonable hourly schedule, and stick to it.
- Dress the Part – Just because you can come to work in your underwear doesn’t mean you have to. Get professional and dress for success. The benefit is purely psychological, but it’s definitely a benefit.
- Work Means Work – There are so many great YouTube clips. “Did you see the one with the cat made from a PopTart flying on a rainbow through outer space?” NO! Stop the madness! When you’re working, you should be working, not lazily surfing through the web, watching TV, sprinkling in some housework, or anything else.
- Put a Chokehold on the Finances – Working from home can be dangerous to your financial health, whether it’s letting tax debt accumulate, fighting clients about invoices, or balancing growing your business with everyday expenses. Keep spreadsheets so you know where you’re at, pay your estimated taxes, keep a nest egg on hand, and don’t let money issues consume your business!
- Invoice Aggressively – There’s nothing quite like slow-paying clients to put a fly in the ointment. Get out in front of invoicing. Let clients know ahead of time when to expect invoices. Keep a list of receivables, and maintain a schedule of reminders for slow-payers.
- Keep Lists – Stay on target by creating a list each night of what to accomplish the next morning. Don’t make it ambitious, just doable. This will keep your work focused.
Any other can’t-do-without rules to share? List them below!