One of the benefits of a home office is never having to wear a scratchy wool suit or pantyhose (unless you want to). The danger is that it’s easy to let that professional image slide if you spend the workday sitting on your couch wearing yoga pants and channel surfing in between conference calls. Follow these tips to maintain a professional image while working at home:
Stick to a schedule. True, working from home allows you to set your own schedule and gives you the flexibility to travel, take care of children, or otherwise tend to your personal life. But if clients never know when they’ll be able to reach you or if you sometimes sleep ‘til noon because you stayed up late watching movies, that can jeopardize your professional reputation. Your work hours will depend on the nature of your business and when you work best, but once you get into a schedule, try to follow it. And let your regular clients or customers know what those hours are. Being self-disciplined with your time means customers or clients can count on you and makes it easier to get work done.
Mind your social media use. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can be excellent tools for promoting your business and keeping in touch with old friends or colleagues. But if you get too personal or casual online, it can have an adverse effect on your business. Remember, anything you post online is public. Even if your settings are supposedly private, it’s easy for one of your contacts to take a screenshot or retweet something they find funny and/or offensive. Be friendly, but put on a professional face and always ask yourself how potential customers or clients might react to something you’ve posted.
Manage your incoming phone calls. If you use your cell phone for business and personal calls, remember to answer calls from unfamiliar numbers in a professional manner. Resist the urge to answer if you’re in a noisy bar or next to a screaming child. In fact, if you have young children, you should set up a separate phone line for your business and make sure you’re the only person who answers it.
Set up a separate workspace. Even if it’s a converted closet or a corner of your living room, having a space devoted to work helps you get into a business mindset that you’ll project to clients or customers. Having a designated workspace also helps you navigate issues of work/life balance. When you’re at your desk, it’s time to work. When you’re sitting on the couch watching TV, it’s time to relax.
Get out of the house when you have to. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like a professional when you’re surrounded by laundry that needs to be folded or toys that need to be put away. In those cases, it makes sense to work somewhere else, at least part of the time. It’s also smart to have a place outside of your home for meetings. Coworking spaces often let you rent conference space by the hour or the day. You could also partner with another small business to share meeting or office space.
The bottom line? Maintain a professional mindset and create some separation (physically and mentally) between your business and your personal life.© Copyright 2010 Ali Brown