Working from home

Is teleworking or a home office right for you?

Planning a home based career? You will need to be aware of all the pitfalls to make it proftable. Here are some practical steps to help your business really fly.

1. Is working from home right for you?

Working from home can provide the luxury of few distractions but it can also make your days dreadfully dull. Removing the social perks of going to work helps you stay focused but can leave you lacking motivation and ideas. To find inspiration you will need to develop new support networks that keep you in the loop and make time to socialise.

When working from home you will be surrounded by the other parts of your life, which may make it all to easy to be distracted. If you're in the habit of doing bits of housework whenever you're in educate yourself to ignore it. Even in the most equal relationships one partner often has a keener eye for what needs to be done. If that's you, you can easily end up with two jobs, which have no starting or finishing time.

Treat your working time as seriously as you would time on an employer's premises make sure those you share your home with see it that way too. If you're tempted by the idea of combining working from home with looking after a young family think again. There's little else you can give full attention to if you've got a pre-school child in the house and it is just as valid to use childcare if you're working at home as it would be if you were working at an ofice elsewhere. Make the necessary arrangements.

2. Are you right for working from home?

Be honest with yourself about your abilities and ask people that you trust to be honest with you too. Do you have what it takes to be a business owner? Are you able to set goals and be self-disciplined? Do you have the flexibility and the confidence to tae calculated risks? Are you willing to market yourslef and your business? The answers to these questions will help to show you if you have the characteristics of an entrepreneur.

To be successful you need to be good at managing your own time and productive when you set your own deadlines. One of the biggest myths about people who work at home or freelance is that they are only temporarily self-employed, as a stopgap measure while looking for a 'real' job. That's rue for some but most are individualists at heart who have chosen to work independently or, once becoming involuntarily self-employed, discovered they like it. There will be the opportunity to expand your skills by picking and choosing assignments that interest and challenge you and it is often necessary to keep learning new skills to stay competitive. Evaluate your skills and education to decide whehter you need additional training for your venture but remember that once you are on your own you will have to meet the cost of your own training.

3. Be prepared...

You may have dreamed of starting a home business and leaving your current job for some time but before you make this big step consider the benefits of working for your current employer - there may be more than you think. If there are company benefit plans, see when they will increase in value and also investigate your company's pension schemes, share offers or insurance policies that wil no longer be available to you.

Experts recommend you save two years worth of living expenses, as this is the average time for a business to become profitable. A good way to do this is by trying to live on the bare minimum to see whether you can get by on less money and put the savings towards your new venture. More than 90 per cent of new business owners start part-time, allowing them to develop a business network of experts and contacts before being completely reliant upon income from the business.

Write a business plan and do thorough market research for your business idea to develop a customer profile and to see whether a market exists. Few new business owners escape a feeling of stress, so discuss details of your plans wity those closest to you and listen to their feedback carefully.

Plan your social and family time in the diary and be disciplined about keeping those 'dates'.

4. Market your company effectively

Calling potential clients for their views not only starts your market research but is a great opportunity to make contacts. You will not get a better opportunity to pre-sell yourself and your unique idea for a business.

Marketing comprises a number of disciplines inlucding direct mailing, exhibitions, survey / research, internet presence, public relations and advertising. Marketing is also about knowing yourself as well as existing and potential customers. If you fail to understand what type of customer buys your goods you cannot market your goods to them. Spend a few hours a week building marketing into your routine. Work out the motivations and habits of your potential customers, decide what needs and desires they have in relation to your business. Talk to existing customers, past customers and possible customers, find out about the latest technology and advances in your industry and look out for opportunities to promote your product.

Advertising is also crucial to the development of your business but know who you wish to target and advertise accordingly. If your potential customers demand quality choose an advertising medium to releft that. Understand what message you need to grab attention. It could be as simple as a restaurant promoting a sumer menu. Peolpe are attracted by new ideas.

5. Run your business efficiently

There is no point in getting up at 6am and finishing work at 3pm if you work most productively between 4pm and midnight. Unless you are delaing with office-bound clients all day, it would be better for you to structure your day around when you feel refreshed, focussed and alert. Decide before you start how much time you are going to give to yourself, your friends and your family and book it in your diary as you would with any other appointment.

Balance your dreams with realistic aims that you can work towards keeping focussed on your dream but remaining certain about what you can get done and by when. Whenever you work, get into good daily habits and setyourself some short-term and long-term targets that you aim to achieve. This will help you create a framework for your day, which, if you can stick to it, will make every day productive.

A successful business must expect to handle orders or queries at any time of the day or night but when you are working from home this can become a problem. If you'd prefer to avoid the web, think about a second answer-phone with a longer recorded message providing more detailed information for customers and use that number to channel queries. This way you can effectively monitor the effectiveness of new marketing strategies.

 

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