Many of us open up our own business for a variety of reasons. The lure of working for ourselves out of a home office, setting our own schedules and being near our families…it’s a strong one.
There’s a lot of upside when you work from a home office, but if you’re not careful, there are potential pitfalls around the corner.
The flexibility of working form home is a plus and a minus. The lack of a structure that often comes from working for others can get you in trouble. Failing to establish basic routines and systems to keep your business flowing smoothly is like building a house with no foundation.
The Importance of Routines
Being so close to your personal life can lead to blurred lines. It’s easy if you’re not disciplined in how you conduct business from home. What do I mean? Here’s a scenario that outlines how quickly you can lose track of what’s business and what’s personal.
You’re working at home and expecting a conference call. You’ve got your laptop and cordless office phone ready (it makes it easy to move from room to room). Fifteen minutes before the call, you start looking the file you’ll need. Uh-oh, where is it? You remember you had it with you in the kitchen, or was it the living room? So you scramble around and search from room to room, and then in the brink of time, you recall that the file is in the living room and grab what you need just in time for the call.
Crisis averted. Your call goes off without any further hitches, but you consider the near miss and decide once and for all to get your home office in order. Where do you start?
Designate a Space
When you work from home, it’s vital to have a designated space that you call your office—even if it’s only a desk in the corner next to a filing cabinet. Your files and office related information need a home of their own to avoid misplacing your items.
Establish a Filing System
Once you have a basic office set up, turn to your filing system. Most of us think about things in categories or groups, so consider a Category filing system such as: Administrative (supplies, forms, etc.) Accounting, Clients, Resources and Vendors. Replicate your Category system for your paper and electronic files, including your email. An easy flexible option is iPEP.
- A color coded system for your paper files and time appointments can make it easier to keep things together. In my system, Red is for Client related work. Make sure you choose colors that are easy to find. Don’t pick seasonal colors that won’t be offered again. You want to be consistent with your system.
- Start as you mean to go. You can print your labels using on line templates or invest in a label machine. Either way, again, consistency and neatness count.
So your office and your filing system are set up. Now it’s important to establish routines that will keep things running smoothly.
Schedule Administrative Time
- When you go into business for yourself, it’s really hard to spend your time on something that’s not billable. Yet it is the un-billable or administrative time that can save you money. Setting aside a scheduled block of time for key administrative tasks like bookkeeping, tracking expenses, filing, backing up your electronic files and identifying customer targets should be the backbone of your business. Block time each week for these important tasks.
- Some of us are night owls, while others get their best work done in the pre-dawn hours. Whatever your peak time, use it for your priority projects. Identify a 2-3 hour timeframe when you can really focus on getting your work done.
Keep Office Hours
- When you’re working at home, it’s easy for family and friends to assume you have a lot of time on your hands and are available to run their errands. Set your business hours as best you can and enforce them.
- Each day, schedule your office time. Let family and friends know when its okay—and when it’s not, for them to interrupt. If necessary, put a sign on the door “Work in Progress” so they know it’s not a good time to disturb you.
Having your home office set up and being disciplined about it will give you a productive place to perform in and let you maximize your time…and when you’re your own boss-time is money!