5 Tips to Help You Run a More Productive and Less Isolated Home Business
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: July 12, 2012, 7:21 am
If you run a home-based business, you probably are an object of envy for your family, friends and neighbors. “You’re so lucky!” or “I wish I could work from home” are probably familiar phrases to you.
Whether your hours are 9-5, or 6-3, the home can be a low-cost haven of productivity and efficiency, giving you the opportunity to balance the demands of work and life without the pressures of a commute or the costs of a commercial lease.
Home business owners also tend to be more successful than their counterparts. Although difficult to track, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 70 percent of home-based businesses succeed for at least a three-year period (compared to 29 percent outside the home business ventures).
However, running a business out of your home is a skill, and it’s not for everyone. Success requires tenacity and self-discipline. With no boss to answer to or traditional workplace structure to keep you on track, it’s up to you to make it work. And it’s easier said than done.
Here are some tips to help you dust off any cobwebs and optimize your home business routine and productivity.
Run Your Office as Virtually as Possible
Home businesses can benefit enormously from merging offline and online systems. Online software apps that automate timesheets, invoicing, payroll and administrative functions can help keep costs low and help you stay efficient. Virtual systems also help you manage remote employees or interact with independent contractors. For example, tools like FaceTime, Skype, and DropBox all make communicating easy and cost efficient – if not free! For more tips, read this guest post from SmallBizTrends.com’s Anita Campbell: 4 Ways Technology Helps You Run Your Business.
If you find yourself buried in administrative tasks, a virtual assistant (VA) might be able to help. My regular window cleaner uses a virtual assistant to manage appointments, take calls, and take care of the client-side of his business while he’s on the job. But VAs can also be handle all manner of administrative and marketing support. Rates vary from $25-$100+ per hour depending on the assistant’s experience and the type of help you need. Check out the International Virtual Assistants Association for a directory of certified VAs.
Master the Art of Time Management
Without the structure of the workplace, many individuals feel rudderless. This is something your business can’t afford.
Good prioritization skills and a formal schedule will help you keep an eye on the future needs of your business, your clients, inventory, and the inevitable variables that arise. Chart out important tasks such as client deliverables, tax deadlines, and billing cycles in blocks of time. Set aside uninterrupted time to focus on tasks that demand it. If priorities shift or urgent tasks sideline you, revisit the schedule at the end of the day and make adjustments.
It sounds simple, but carefully managing and planning your time is critical to staying on track, keeping clients happy and reducing your stress. A well-tuned schedule will turn mountains of work into chunks of time that are easier to navigate.
Have a Proper Workspace
It sounds obvious, but if you have children, pets or other family members at home, operating your business from the kitchen table isn’t the best strategy (it also won’t qualify you for the home office tax deduction). At the same time, it’s not healthy to be holed up in a basement all day long. Find a workplace that fits your routine, is intrusion-free during work hours), and ergonomic, and set boundaries with your family so you aren’t disturbed. There’s nothing more embarrassing or unprofessional than being on a business call when dogs are barking and kids are screaming!
Get Out and Network
One of the most challenging aspects of running a business, yet perhaps one of the most critical to its success, is mastering the art of stepping back. The day-to-day grind can be all-consuming, but there’s nothing like networking – whether it’s at the gym or with a local business group – to help you look at your business with fresh eyes. It also helps counteract the isolation that many home business owners feel and can help keep you motivated.
Organizations such as Small Business Development Centers and local Chambers of Commerce offer regular networking opportunities for business owners that are worth looking into. For networking tips, read 5 Tips for Tentative Networkers – How to Make Connections Online and Offline.
Social Networking and Other Distractions
There aren’t many things you can’t accomplish these days using your phone, laptop or tablet, but these tools are also loaded with distractions. It might be a good idea to remove non-related work games from work computer, clear your browser of social media bookmarks, and move them onto your tablet PC or home computer.
If you use social media as part of your profession or to market your business, take advantage of the scheduling services in many free social media tools and line up your posts at the beginning of the day. Schedule time throughout the day to check in and interact with your followers, but limit your participation to professional “social” activity during work hours, just as you would be expected to do in any workplace.
Have questions about hone-business ownership? Post them in the SBA Community Home-Based Business Discussion Board.
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General small business tips and tricks.