One of the biggest attractions to the business opportunity market is the idea of working from home. For some this is the only reason why they want to run their own business. Yet most people who work from home will tell you that the grass is not always greener and that there are a number of pitfalls to avoid when considering working from a home base.

Working from home can be one of the most rewarding ways to escape the daily grind of employment, even if you are still working for someone else but do not have to actually “go into work”. It allows you to plan your own time, get on with work unsupervised and very often be much more productive compared to working among the distractions of an office for example. On the other hand, many people miss the bustle and interaction associated with having other members of staff around them, and can feel positively lonely working alone at home.

Therefore, whatever business or home based employment you are researching, you must consider two main areas first before launching yourself into your venture:

  • Are you disciplined enough to work at home? Will you allow family members to distract you? Will you find any excuse to stop work to take the dog out? Will you have the TV on all day?
  • You are happy that you will be able to apply yourself to the work needed working alone at home – so how do you plan to balance this lonely working environment with some necessary interaction with other professionals?

Most people will not know if they can follow a strictly regimented approach to working at home until they try it. By setting a number of parameters early on it is possible to develop a routine that maintains the discipline. For example, ensure that you record the hours that you work, analysed into different areas that include:

  • Productive work (i.e. time that directly earns you money – for example an hour of a consulting assignment that pays you a fee)
  • Business development (essential work that helps you win work but does not directly pay you money – for example marketing and advertising)
  • Product development/research/secretarial and other business related activities

Your business plan may suggest that you need to work for at least 20 productive hours every week in order to achieve your target income. This may be 20 hours charged to a client, or twenty hours spent creating something that can be sold to bring in the amount of income that you business needs to earn in a week. It could be the time taken to find enough sales for you agency business that will again provide you with a week’s income.

Your business plan may suggest that you should be spending at least 10 hours every week developing your business, finding clients or new stock to sell. A minimum of a further ten hours may be envisaged by your plan to complete all the sundry other tasks needed in your business including administration, bookkeeping and developing new ideas.

Thus yo have a target of 40 hours every week to be spent working at your business. Now comes the part that makes working at home for yourself worthwhile! You can decide when you are going to do these 40 hours in total each week – and in fact it is a very good idea to set out a framework for this.

For example, you decide that you would like to work Monday to Thursday – starting at 8.30 when your wife leaves the house and finishing at 6.00 pm when she arrives home again from her own work. You need to take a half hour off for lunch and another half hour at 4.00 pm to pick up the kids from school. Another half hour at 11.00 am will allow you to read the paper and have a coffee without rushing.  So these four days will account for 32 hours work.  So far so good.

On a Tuesday, your wife takes the kids out to club between 7.00 and 9.00 pm so you decide that this will be your late working day. On Saturday your wife also works, usually taking Friday off (which is why you have kept this day free). Between Tuesday and Saturday you will make up the extra hours until you have your 40 in total.

This is a rather academic example, but you can see how you can fit your work around your chosen lifestyle – so long as you prepare a set framework and stick to it. Routine is the key. It is better to have set times when you know you can stop work because it is not healthy, even if you are disciplined enough to do it, to simply start work and keep on until there is nothing left to do. This approach will either gradually create a workaholic mentality – where you are consonantly at work – or it will nurture resentment of the business your are trying to establish.

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