Do you run a home-based business? You’re not alone. According to the United States Census Bureau, 52 percent of all small businesses are home based.
Given its cost effectiveness and convenience, having a home office makes a lot of sense. But working from home doesn’t work for everyone — particularly people who become easily distracted and who find it impossible to ignore their personal to-do lists when they should be focused on their businesses.
As the founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, I spend much of my time at the office, but I also work from home regularly, so I can relate to the challenges that home-based entrepreneurs face.
How can you ensure you stay focused when you have a home-based business? I’ve found the best way is to follow these seven rules.
1. Have a dedicated space for your home-based business.
Using the same family desk and computer that are shared by everyone in the house is a surefire way to render yourself unproductive. Find a space in your home — preferably a separate room — that you can dedicate to your professional work. It will not only give you a place to focus on your business, but it may also make you eligible for an additional tax deduction.
Set (and stick to) specific hours of operation for your home-based business — whether it’s 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or a split schedule like 7 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. This will help you stay on track, but also enable you to step away from work when you should be spending time with family and friends.
3. Plan your days.
Never assume you’ll remember everything you need to do or that you’ll be able to fit it all in by the deadline. If you don’t reserve time on your calendar for every task you need to tackle, you could fall behind schedule on what you’ve promised your clients. So much for building trust and gaining referrals! Planning your time can also help you recognize when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
4. Ignore the dirty laundry … and the dirty dishes … and the dirty floors …
They can wait. See rule No. 2.
5. Don’t pick up the home phone.
Sometimes it takes years before family members and friends understand that you aren’t at liberty to spend an hour on the phone in the middle of the day discussing the latest celebrity scandal. Unless you’re expecting an important personal call, resist the urge to pick up your home phone during your working hours. If there is an emergency, whoever called your home phone will most likely dial your mobile or work number when you don’t pick up.
6. Decline coffee meetings that aren’t business related.
And be especially wary of “pick your brain” appointment requests where there’s nothing in it for you and everything for the other person to gain.
Make sure that whenever you share your time and expertise, your business will benefit from the effort and exposure.
7. Refrain from using your personal social media accounts during work hours.
Social media is a powerful tool for home-based business owners. But while you’re tending to your professional accounts, it’s easy to get caught up checking notifications and responding to comments on your personal accounts. That could suck you into a very deep and detrimental rabbit hole that wrecks your work schedule.
Some rules were NOT made to be broken.
Discipline comes easier for some people than others, so identify your weaknesses and develop additional rules that will help keep you focused. To make working from home work for you, you may need to be the most difficult boss you’ve ever had. Your success depends on it.