With telecommuting jobs on the rise, and the decision to take on a freelance career becoming increasingly popular, working at home is becoming less of a life-long dream and more of likely reality for many people. It isnít exactly a cake walk however, and you do need to take this work as seriously as any other. Here are six of my favorite survival strategies for a successful work-at-home experience.
Not only does wearing a headset help prevent neck, back and shoulder problems, it provides you with the mobility to move throughout the house as you need to. Samples arriving for product reviews may need to be signed for, pets need to be let out into the back yard, and that time you used to spend standing in line for the photocopier at the office? You can now put it to use transferring laundry from the washer to the drier while youíre on hold for that tech support call.
There are a couple of different ways you can go with this. The old-fashioned style headsets with cords are certainly affordable enough, and can be plugged into a cordless handset that you can then slide into an apron pocket. This enables you complete movement around the house, and even onto the back porch if thatís where you prefer to work on pleasant days.
If you have a few extra pennies to spend however, a Bluetooth headset gives you flexibility not just at home, but also on the road while youíre on your way to the grocery store or waiting for the munchkins to finish up with soccer practice. Many phone calls donít require the need to take notes. Magazine interviews, brainstorming sessions with product reps wanting to sponsor a giveaway on your web site, or even touching base to agree upon a price for a particular freelance project can all be accomplished from the road. Of course, youíll need to navigate the subtleties of who youíre comfortable having on the listening end of a doggie barkathon in the back seat. Long-term contacts that you have a close relationship with are usually completely comfortable with that. Newer business contacts? Youíll likely want a quiet moment alone in the minivan.
Sometimes, it just isnít feasible to pick up the phone. Either youíve got a sick six year old home from school, youíre dealing with another client or youíre simply stuck in loud traffic. Whatever your reason, voice mail is as critical for work-at-home success as it is to any traditional office position. While youíll still need to return phone calls promptly, having a professional-sounding voice mail message system is worth its weight in gold. The budget solution that weíve incorporated is the Magic Jack. With a nominal up-front equipment cost and even more nominal yearly service fee, you can have an extra ďphone lineĒ that delivers messages directly to your emailís inbox. How cool is that? We had previously used another internet phone service, but it required us to be near the main box which needed to be used at our house if it was going to be at all convenient. With Magic Jack, we can take our extra cordless phone system and a simple plug in gadget on the road with us to use at any hotel room. Weíve even used at a campground with Wi Fi.
Iím all about going digital, but the truth is I find it easier to get a grip on my schedule if I still have access to a traditional day planner. While everyone has their favorite, my opinion is that no other system out there tops what Franklin Covey has to offer. They have every element I need to keep track of under consideration, and a space-efficient way to document it. While Iíd go with the larger, full-sized system if I could, the truth is thereís no way I have room for that and a laptop too. And the smaller systems are just way too tiny to be able to document the things I need to. So I roll with the mid-sized system that comes with a great carrying case. The extra pockets make carrying along extras like my Kindle Fire, extra Post Its and travel pens a breeze, and I have all the check lists I need to go along with my monthly calendars. Since I frequently travel and work from nearby coffee shops for a change of pace, having a day planner that works as easily on the road as it does from home was crucial. Franklin Covey definitely provides that for me.
Having the ability to spread out and jot down your ideas in a place that isnít already cluttered with day-to-day office paraphernalia will help to expand your business, solve problems in creative ways and develop ideas not easily covered on the pages of your notebook or legal pad.
Whether you handle this with a DIY Whiteboard, easel with a flip chart or one of the adhesive rolls that you can use to paper part of your office wall, setting aside an area to be explore ideas will help you feel like your work at home space is a professional one.
It isnít necessary to purchase the most expensive designer office furniture and storage systems on the market, but you do want to make sure you have the supplies necessary to keep your work space functioning efficiently. One budget solution is industrial shelving. Itís easily customized with extra shelves and pullout drawers to hold a variety of hanging file boxes, stacks of office supplies and even equipment such as photocopiers, printers and scanners. Another way to store office supplies without taking up a great deal of floor space is with a hooknook, a new modern-design storage solution from the folks at Flip and Tumble.
Whether you are able to set aside an entirely separate room, shoehorn a mini office into a closet or get by with a couple of lockable drawers and a clean section of countertop, itís important to carve out a command center for your home office. It doesnít need to be the largest space ever, but you do need to have a designated area for your most essential materials and files. If itís easier to have the house and business files in the same location, thatís fine. Just make sure you have things† secure enough that little hands wonít be moving them around.
Photo Credits: Amazon and Franklin Covey