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Running a Home-Based Business: 3 Common Challenges and Tips for Success
Published on Aug 26, 2010
Read our article, 'Running a Home-Based Business: 3 Common Challenges and Tips for Success' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
To most people, working from home sounds great. In fact it's the dream of many nine-to-fivers and nearly every 7:00 a.m. commuter - which is probably why a Google search for "work from home business" yields 979 million page results. Who wouldn't want the freedom to set your own hours, stay in your jammies all day, spend time with the kids, take a break whenever you want, even get a snack (or a beer) when the feeling strikes? Sounds divine, doesn't it?
News flash: This is the description of a sick day, not a work day.
For the serious entrepreneur, working from home does have its benefits, and it has its pitfalls as well. Like anything in business, it takes dedication and planning to make working from home a success. Here are three common issues the work-from-home entrepreneur faces, and some tips to help overcome them:
1. Loneliness. While we entrepreneurs are typically independent types, we also tend to be "people people." We thrive on human interaction, especially with other like-minded adults. So when we suddenly find ourselves home alone much of the time, it can be a challenge. Even those little pleasantries at an office job - "Hey Frank, how are Bonnie and the kids?"; "Hi Sally. Love the new hairdo." - really do mean something to us. A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Michigan even showed that just 10 minutes of small talk improved study participants' cognitive abilities. It seems human interaction is not only a preference for most of us, it's actually necessary for us to be at our best. Success Tip: One great way to overcome isolation and loneliness is to participate in online forums. While it's not face-to-face contact, you'll be interacting with adults who are interested in similar subjects, and you just might form some valuable relationships. Depending on your business, relating with other entrepreneurs in person might also come from visiting clients. If not, be sure to attend plenty of networking events. You'll not only fulfill your need for human conversation, you're likely to pick up some business leads and great advice, too. Check out Meetup.com to find networking events in your area.
2. Others' Perceptions. Tell someone who's never done it that you work from home, and you might be surprised at what he or she thinks that means. (See sick day vs. work day example above.) For the most part, who cares what others think, right? Right - except that people (including your own family) sometimes think that because you work from home you have all the time in the world. Time to run errands for them; time to volunteer to head up committees; time to coach Little League; and time to chat for hours about whatever is on their mind at the moment. Success Tip: When you start working from home, make it clear to everyone you know (family, friends, etc.) exactly what that means. Let them know the hours you will be working, and make your expectations clear about how you plan to manage your time. Don't be afraid to explain to someone making demands on your time that you take your business seriously and don't have much more "extra" time than someone who commutes daily. If you're still having trouble with this, use caller ID to avoid all but business calls during your set work hours.
3. Staying Productive. At a regular job, where you work for someone else, you would probably never take a nap at work, no matter what the night before looked like. Of course, taking a nap without losing your job probably isn't an option. "Brick and mortar" entrepreneurs who go to their store every day are self-employed and don't have a boss to answer to, but they need to open at a certain time and might have customers and employees counting on them to show up and stay productive all day. Working from home though, having to be accountable only to yourself for how you spend your time, can be a test for many. For the home-based entrepreneur, it's likely no one will know if you sleep until noon or catch the last round of the U.S. Open on TV instead of working on your marketing plan. Success Tip: If you're not as productive at home as you think you should be, don't feel bad. This is a very common concern, and no one is suggesting that you're lazy or that you can't hack it. You just need concrete goals and a plan to achieve them. Focusing on the reasons you're in business for yourself in the first place can help you stay on track. Try breaking your long- and medium-term targets down to daily goals where possible. This will give you something to shoot for every day and help you keep your focus. And if you're having trouble getting your work day started, set an early morning business meeting with a client or colleague as often as possible. You'll be up and ready more easily, knowing you have someone expecting you. (And don't worry - you can always TIVO the Open!)
About the authorAdam Toren is co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com, one of the largest and fastest growing small business social networking forums for entrepreneurs, and a "must visit" resource for start-up CEOs, founders, aspiring entrepreneurs, mentors and investors worldwide, reaching an audience that very few can match.