More people than ever before are opening small businesses out of their homes, as the pandemic has truly changed the way we work & live. Technology continues to improve as well which makes it possible to buy and sell nearly anything over the internet.
As home businesses become more widespread, more and more entrepreneurs are inclined to do this, but there are some misconceptions about working out of your home, not the least of which is that it will be somehow different or easier than working in a regular office.
Though it’s obviously a different environment, it doesn’t actually change that much, and in fact, there are unique challenges to overcome when you start a home business.
If you’re just getting started as a home business owner, prepare yourself with these ten points to have a better idea of what you’re getting into.
1. It’s Not Easier Just Because You’re at Home
When you work a regular job, everybody dreams about being able to work from home because it seems so wonderful to never have to go anywhere to do a job and just work in the comfort of your own home.
It is more convenient, to be sure, but anyone who does it- quickly realizes that there isn’t much of a difference. The first thing is that your workload isn’t any less because you’re not in a normal office. There aren’t any corners that you can cut because you’re still running a business, no matter where you are.
Understand that stress levels can also be just as high, if not even higher, when working from home. Although it seems counterintuitive, the home setting may lower your stress at first but not in the long run. This is not to mention how isolating it can be, which we’ll get into later.
2. There Has to Be a Dedicated Space for Work
Your working space must be completely separate from your living space. The two just do not mix. If you combine these spaces into one, then you’ll find that you’re less productive, and it can breed distractions, as well. “Going into work” every morning helps you to maintain a healthy work-life balance. So, blending your spaces not only adds distractions, but it can also affect your mental health.
3. Not Everybody Can Handle It
Whenever you tell someone that you work from home, they say, “Oh, you’re so lucky!”, but it’s not always a cakewalk. This is probably the biggest misconception. Yes, it is absolutely a luxury; however, for most people, the shine wears off pretty fast.
It’s extremely appealing at first for obvious reasons, but at some point, you will find yourself beginning to miss going out into another location for work because when you spend every moment in the same place–eating, sleeping, working, living, without ever leaving the building–it can become very frustrating and stressful. It can start to feel like a cell; cabin fever especially sets in during the winter.
4. You Won’t Have More Family Time
If this is the reason you want to work from home, then you’re unfortunately in for a surprise. Since you’ll be working in the same building where your family lives, it seems like you will have more quality time with them, right? Not exactly.
Again, you have to remember that the amount of work to be done and the amount of time you’ll spend doing it doesn’t change. Of course you understand that going in, but it’s easy to overlook that fact.
So, you won’t be able to see family for any meaningful amount of time, and you can also end up working long hours at times, the same as you would if you drove to an office every day. You will be nearby during the day, though, which is great in case they really need you. It’s just really important that you make sure you set your hours, which we’ll address in a later point here.
5. You Have to Set Boundaries with Your Family
Speaking of family issues, it’s a good idea to have a sit-down with them and let them know what your schedule is going to be like. Explain that your office is strictly for work and that you can’t be distracted unless it’s important.
Taking care of young children while you’re trying to run your business is also pretty much out of the question. If you don’t have a choice, then it will probably be very difficult for you to manage all of that at the same time. It’s not a bad idea to consider investing in child care.
The bottom line is that, while we of course want to be closer to our families, we have to do our best to arrange the time we spend with the business and with family so that they don’t blend into one another because it can become a challenge.
6. Run Your Day Like Any Other Job
Fortunately, entrepreneurs are usually self-motivated and self-starting by nature, and those qualities are essential to running a home business. When it’s time to work, walk into your office and sit down at your desk. If you begin to just work at different times, randomly, then it tends to not feel like work anymore, and you can become less productive.
7. Set Working Hours & Stick to Them
Setting your daily working hours is one of the most important things you will do as a business owner working from home. This speaks to the practice of creating structure within your day wherever you can, which you will find makes a huge difference to keeping yourself productive and generally sane.
You can burn out fast if you don’t have consistent set hours for work because without this, you will end up working all the time, which causes extreme levels of stress, especially in the long run. Set a time when you will quit every day, and stop at that time. This also allows you to set aside time to spend with your family. A lack of structure in any area can be detrimental to your health and productivity when working from home.
8. You Need to Get Dressed for Work
It’s not something you really think about when you’re planning your home business, but it’s actually a helpful point. This is another practice that goes along with keeping your workspace separate.
For some people, it makes no difference to them what they’re wearing or how they prepare for the day, but you may find that, psychologically, wearing sweatpants to work changes your motivation. Again, it can affect your productivity. Wake up, get dressed and ready for work, and sit down at your desk.
9. Get Out of the House When Possible
As we mentioned previously, working from home feels great at first, but over time, you may start to feel quite isolated. This is especially true for those who live alone. There’s virtually no reason for you to ever leave the premises, and that can lead to some degree of anxiety, and even depression. Ever seen The Shining? :/
You have to break up the day, and you have to find ways to remind yourself that there is still a world outside of your house. Even with our current situation due to Covid-19, there are some things you can do to relieve stress. Go support a local restaurant & grab lunch to-go, facetime a friend, or grab an iced latte & take a short outdoor walk. Just make sure you get out every once in awhile, so that walls don’t start closing in.
10. Learn How to Manage Remote Employees
If you have a small business that you’re running out of your home, then you may have employees who are working for the business remotely. Managing employees who work remotely is different than managing on-site employees. First of all, they, themselves, need to be driven, self-motivated people.
You’ll want to monitor their workflow and output carefully because since you’re not there to see what they’re doing, the way you can see how they’re doing is just to watch the work they’re putting out. It’s arguably a better indicator of employee performance than actually being there.
Staying in constant communication with remote employees is also essential. There are great tools available now for workplace communication, such as Slack, which is messaging software that lets you instant message during the day, send documents, or any other media directly through the app.
You can also just check in periodically with phone calls or meetings. Keep in mind, also, that a business also has to address certain legal and liability requirements such as insuring the workspace of remote employees. It’s definitely a good idea to consult an attorney to make sure you’re hitting all the legal bases.
So, there are some useful points that will give you an advantage as you start your journey of running a small business out of your home. The takeaway here is this: Expect the unexpected because the grass is generally not greener when working from home.
It is a tremendous luxury to work from home, but remember that you will still have a business to run. As long as you create a conducive working space and treat it like any other office, then you can be enormously successful running your business from home.
Stay tuned for the rest of the upcoming articles from this mini-series: ‘Starting Your Home-Based Business’!
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.