6 keys for working at home

Yesterday afternoon as I was searching for TV weather news about our impending snowstorm, I happened upon The Nate Berkus show and a segment on a woman who was having a hard time organizing and maintaining her home based business.

I think this is a great topic to cover but they barely spent time on the meat of this woman’s issue. It would have been great to have taken more advantage of Tabitha’s expertise –I would have been interested in what she had to say, and I bet it was WAY more than what made it through editing the segments. I think Nate probably had more to say as well. I hope this woman got a lot of off camera help because honestly the on camera stuff wasn’t nearly enough. So let me fill in.
Here are 6 basic keys for working at home:

  1. Your spouse and your family need to agree to respect and honor your home based business. Cooperation is key especially if space and time needs to be set aside to work the business during family hours. Everyone needs to be on board. But, family comes first. This is why you have a home based business. There will be costs in money and time to the family, especially at first so they need to be willing to spend it. I do think that children can be involved in home based businesses. This is a good time to learn to respect and be good stewards of other people’s stuff, especially when it comes to inventory. It’s a good time to learn good communication manners, especially when it comes to answering the phone too. A professional attitude can be maintained by everyone in the family from the smallest to the biggest as part of their support for the business. Work hours need to be work hours, and written down and scheduled as Nate suggested, but honestly it should be a rare thing to cross over family time with work if kids are in school, or your spouse is away at an outside job. Even if you have a day job and a home based business part time, expectations for everyone need to be clearly stated. Family meetings to assess and discuss issues should be regularly scheduled.  
  2. Have your space organized and keep it organized. Allow time to put things away at the end of the day. Keep it contained and don’t infringe on the rest of the house if it can be avoided. Set and keep the example. Don’t think it doesn’t matter. If you aren’t naturally organized, ask a friend or family member who is to help setup your basic storage systems so it will be easier to maintain. Shelves, labeling, a file, desk, and lighting are just the start. A door that closes designates your work space and serves as the dividing line between your work time and family time. 
  3. Invest in the tools you need to do your job, then respect yourself and your tools enough to keep them tidy and in good repair. Buy the best you can afford and plan to maintain and upgrade as needed. This is an investment in better business. If one of your tools is a computer, as soon as you can you should invest in a computer that is a dedicated business computer…no homework, no games, no web surfing. Software to maintain business records can be expensive but it can also be free. Take a look at openoffice.org, and Google docs and tools for basics. Customer databases can be maintained in Access or Excel, or any of the comparable programs. Financial records can be maintained in any number of secure web based programs, my favorite being Quickbooks Online.
  4. Keep your business well managed, well documented, and secure. Be sure you follow your state and local laws for home based business. Be sure your housing development allows for this kind of use. Then be sure you are registered with the proper tax authorities. Have a separate bank account for money ins and outs. This is important. Don’t run any business out of joint accounts. The exception is if your home based business is working remotely for a company and your salary or income is joint income. Keep and maintain good files, don’t let things pile up. Keep money and records secure. Do your backups. Your motto after document document document, is, look out for number one: You/Your Family. If you aren’t financially savvy, get connected with someone who is right away. MANAGE your business, don’t let it manage you.
  5. Make yourself smart. Take advantage of all company offered sales and management training. Seek out and take advantage of training in the community, through your library, through your local business organizations, even through your church. If your business is any part sales, take a sales class or connect with top sales people and find a mentor. Don’t skip business meetings if they are offered by your company (Kitchen Gourmet, Avon, Home Interiors, etc), this is where you’ll connect with people and learn from them as much as you do from the company. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel especially if it’s being done well by others. Tap in.  
  6. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Pace yourself. Just because you work at home doesn’t give you license to lose track of boundaries, time, or hygiene. Have a professional attitude and work at building your reputation and business integrity. Don’t be sloppy. Represent.  

What does she know, you ask? My background includes several home based businesses over the last thirty some years. My husband and I have always had fairly unique skillsets so I don’t think we have ever worried about making a living. When we were very young and newly married, I had a home based sewing business and did everything from alterations to make rooms full of draperies. As a young mother, I was a fiber artist and sold my art in galleries and at art fairs. I also worked as a Home Interiors and Gifts consultant and did very well with sales. It was during this time my income was the only income so a lot rested on my home based business. After we moved to California I gathered my sisters and we had a business together making charming pillows, dolls, and other home dec items that we sold wholesale and on consignment. What’s remarkable about that is that we live in different states! My current home business is data focused, in helping people maintain their data. I currently have several clients that I either work remotely in their databases, or in web based applications. I find I am well suited to this work, and I like it much better than selling or producing a product.
Here are some resources I’ve found useful:
OpenOffice.org for creating and keeping business records if you can’t or don’t want to afford MSOffice.
Julie Morgenstern website, and books on time management and organization such as:

This post touches as briefly on the topic as they did on the Nate Berkus show. My point is if you are considering this step, be sure to think it through, get your family involved, and do it right. Be sure to listen!


About Robin Arnold

Reader, writer, gardener, geek, maker of homes in several states, now settled in Virginia with husband Bob, and Hazel and Wilson the tabby cats.
This entry was posted in Work & Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 6 keys for working at home

  1. jasonS says:

    Great tips here, Robin. This would save people a lot of headache and heartache.

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