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How-to Guide: Working at Home

by Daniel Jones

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Establishing an online business that allows you the flexibility and convenience of working from home can be a lucrative, incredibly satisfying endeavor. Whether your goal is to become an eBay Power Seller, or just to supplement your income with a part-time home business, there are several factors to take into consideration to ensure telecommuting success.

The key to successful telecommuting is to treat it like a real job - because it is. When new home-based entrepreneurs fail, or have to go back into the mainstream workforce, it is most often because they get caught up in the perks of working from home and forget that working from home is still a job, just a better one! You have to put in the hours, meet deadlines, provide excellent customer service and stay motivated and focused, just like you would if you were working in an office or retail outlet.

Of course, you do get to enjoy all of the perks that come with working at home - setting your own schedule, avoiding long commutes, dressing comfortably and so much more - but the key to continuing to enjoy these perks is to ensure your work-at-home success by maintaining good business practices while enjoying your new lifestyle.

Once you have set up your home office, obtained your tax identification number and found the most cost-effective phone service for your home business, you can begin to focus on finding what works best for you in order to help you stay motivated and distraction-free, and what works best for your customers to keep them coming back for more.

One important step in creating a successful online, home-based business is to establish and maintain a work schedule. This will help you separate work time from personal time and to establish a balance - and boundary - between the two. Determine how many hours you need to devote to your home business each week and which hours each day will be most conducive to your productivity. For example, if you have children that go to school from 7:00am to 3:00pm, then setting up business hours between these times might be the best option for you.

Another helpful tip when establishing a work schedule is to keep a work calendar with self-set deadlines that will help you stay on track. Also, be sure to establish breaks for meals and other personal needs. While it's important that you focus on your work, it is also important for your health and wellness that you have opportunities to get up, stretch, walk around or take care of small tasks around the house that might be distracting.

Naturally there will be times when something comes up and you might have to take care of family or other personal business. Alternatively, there might be other times when you will need to work longer hours to meet deadlines or catch up on tasks that have fallen to the side; however establishing and maintaining a work schedule will assist you in balancing and separating your work and personal time.

While you are working to build your online business, keep in mind that your personal time is just as important as your work time. Just as you must devote dedicated time to your business in order to ensure your success, you also must devote dedicated time to yourself and to the important people in your life. When working at home, these lines can sometimes become blurred, which can lead to disharmony in the home, lower your productivity and inhibit your overall success, both personally and professionally.

Once you have established a schedule for working at home, you might find that your friends and family need a little encouragement to get used to the fact that just because you are working from home, that doesn't mean that you are now available to run errands, chat on the phone or entertain unexpected visitors.

One way to avoid this is to simply not answer personal phone calls or personal emails during your work hours. If you feel compelled to answer the phone because you know that they know you are home, gently let them know that you are working and ask if you can call them back after you have finished for the day.

While this might be difficult at first, you will find that establishing a work schedule early on will help you and the important people in your life view your home business as something significant, exciting and well worth your time!

Maintaining a work schedule and a healthy balance between your work and personal time also means limiting personal distractions that can easily take you away from your work. One way to do this is to keep a notepad handy where you can write down any personal tasks that you need to take care of later. This will allow you the comfort of knowing you won't forget to do them after work and the ability to better focus on your work, since your mind won't be constantly focusing on keeping a mental list of things to do.

Another great way to keep focused on work is to maintain a work area that is free of visual distractions. For example, if you run your online business from a corner in your bedroom, avoid piling laundry on the bed and make your bed before you start work so you won't feel compelled to stop working for a few minutes to make your bed or start laundry. Those few minutes can easily turn into a few hours once you start walking around and noticing other little chores that need to be done.

Establishing a quiet, distraction-free environment is imperative to your success as a home-based business owner. Aside from limiting distractions, staying focused and keeping the kids from tugging on your shirt every five minutes - which are all important factors when working from home - maintaining a quiet, professional atmosphere is particularly important if you have phone contact with customers.

Children or animals playing in the background, televisions blaring (or even turned down to a whisper) and other household sounds do not foster a sense of security in clients and make you look less professional. Also, keep in mind that most customers prefer to work with established businesses, so it is a good idea to not necessarily let on that you are working at home in your bunny slippers.

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