Working At Home

Doggone My Twitter Account

Home Office Twitter Guard Dog

Home Office Guard Dog

I was catching up with my twitter readings after getting behind by a week or so. Suddenly I realized that I had missed “National Take Your Dog To Work Day” on June 20th! For me, being in a home office everyday makes it taking both my dogs and my cat to work day. In fact Dusty (shown right) is usually not as quiet as he is in this photo. In fact while I’m trying to carry on a professional phone conversation, he is frequently trying his best to get my attention. And if he feels that I dare to pay more attention to my phone conversation than him, he will ratchet up the distraction until, when all else fails, the barking begins.

So I guess I missed an important holiday for my dogs, I still unwittingly celebrated the day with my dogs in my office. But I didn’t get them a greeting card so I guess it doesn’t count.

If you are fortunate enough to have a home-based business and get to work at home, pets can be a wonderful asset to your office environment. Just make sure they are trained that when you give them the evil eye that they know it is time for a nap or time to run upstairs to see what else they can get into while you conduct business. Nothing more disconcerting than talking with a client with a cacophony of barking in the background. Even though the playful barking may be music to my ears, there’s work to be done. Shhhh…  let’s celebrate your holiday with a nap on your bed!

Working in a Home Office in Winter

Home Office Comfort

I used to live in Florida and having a home-office in the winter wasn’t so much different than in the summer. Now that I’m in Connecticut I’m finding that winter takes on a whole new meaning with a home office.  There is a good article in Lifehacker today entitled, How to Beat the Winter Blues When You Work from Home. In it they cover many ideas and tips for being productive in the depths of winter in your home office.  But they don’t discuss office temperature control.

My home office is in the basement. In the summer, it is nice and cool and comfortable, regardless of how hot it is outside. In the winter, the basement is minimally heated so a space heater is needed to keep the frostbite away. 

I tried to put layers of sweaters on in order to save a few bucks on my utilities while working at home. Over time I’ve learned it is not a wise method to save money.  My typing fingers are still cold and stiff when the temperature drops. Because warm air rises, my feet and legs are uncomfortably cold. I’m easily distracted from my tasks due to a nagging discomfort that I’m trying to ignore.  Hot coffee, tea, and cocoa is a nice break, but when used frequently instead of working, it is time to look around your office for a better solution.

It is an important productivity strategy to have a comfortable environment in which to work. When I get “in the zone” of focused work, I need to be able to forget about everything around me, including the temperature, and keep my focus on my work. The longer I can do that, the more productive I can be.

So whether your home office has a distracting chill in it in the winter, or an uncomfortable warmth in the summer, remember that you will not be at your peak unless you address those temperature distractions. Fix them so you can focus on your customers!

Home Office Winter Commute

commute to home officeOne perk in having a home office  in the snowy and icy north is to be able to watch the traffic report on TV during a miserable snow event. Traffic is snarled up, cars upside down on the sides of the road. And yet my commute entails maneuvering around the dogs on the way to my basement.  I’ve spent enough of my life commuting to work to really appreciate my home office on days like today.

There are enough distractions in having a home office, watching the morning traffic report is one distraction that I really enjoy. Knowing that numerous others are having to face a daily commute makes my work that much more enjoyable.

So if you are in a snowy region, thinking about setting up a home office, you now have another good reason for doing so. You are much less likely to have an accident commuting from the TV in the family room to your desk in the kitchen! But try not to gloat in front of those less fortunate… it will be our little secret!

Tips For Working At Home

When working at a home office, it is best to sound professional rather than casual, even though you may be dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Here are some tips:

  • Be aware of background sounds when you answer your phone. Mute the TV, keep the dog from barking (good luck with that!), make sure children know that phone time is quiet time, etc.
  • Select a spot in your home that you can work on your projects without the danger of spilling beverages on it or getting a smear of peanut butter on the draft of a flyer you are putting together.
  • If you are working in a busy, active household, try to find a place that allows you to close the door while working.  It minimizes distractions and reminds others that you are really working and not just waiting for the next chatty family member to come in and start a conversation.

Do you have other suggestions to share? Share them below so we can all benefit!

What To Discuss Before Starting Your Home-based Business

I recently read an interesting article in the January 2013 Inc Magazine by Meg Hirshberg titled, “What to Discuss Before Conceiving a Start-up“. The premise of the article is that before embarking on your own business, whether a home-based web design business or any other, you and your significant other should (or must!) have a frank conversation about the business. This conversation should not be a polite sales pitch that you give your spouse about how wonderful things will be.

Rather you should address issues like, what happens if things don’t work out? If you can’t conceive of ever failing, you should think seriously about it. I’ve been in business long enough to know that the more something is a sure thing, the more likely you are kidding yourself.  Technology is volatile and if you think you are going to be in this for a lifetime, you are setting yourself (and your spouse) up for a surprise ending some day.

Sometimes what is worse than failing is just not succeeding. You are fighting to pay the bills. Some days you win, others you lose. A year goes by and you are still “just about there”. And another year… and another. Are you willing to acknowledge that your business is just not going to do what you thought it would? When would that happen and how would it play out. And what would you do after that?

How vulnerable are the assets of the family? Do you have a house? A car? Anything? What happens when that annoying client turns mean and sues you personally because their e-commerce site died for a day or so and, in their deluded mind, they feel they were on the cusp of making millions that day. Have you incorporated your company to protect your personal assets? Are you still liable because you tell clients you own the corporation, instead of protecting yourself by being a member or managing director?

Do you have, or are planning to have children? Some frank discussions should take place regarding how you will make sure you allocate enough time for them as well as your spouse. If your web design business is run out of your home, how will you separate your business from the need for attention that every child demands while you push to complete a project in time?

What does your end game look like? Are you going to run the business for 5 or 10 or 20 years, make a huge profit (you hope), and then sell it? If so, how will that play out? Or do you view it as a business that will carry you into a nice retirement project where you can continue to build and repair websites in between shuffleboard games? Take that a bit further and discuss what happens if you get unexpectedly squished by that Mack Truck barreling down the road? Is there any way to salvage the customer based you’ve developed so your spouse can either sell your business or, if there is any interest, take it over so as not to lose everything?

The article that Meg created is well written. For many of us, we had to learn many of those lessons the hard way. The advice she gives is good and the article is a good read for anyone starting out.

When Do You Get A Vacation?

As a home-based web designer first starting out, one of the last things on my mind was taking a vacation. I was so happy to get any work that I gleefully did the work at any time without hesitation.

As I found myself lucky enough to start  having a steadier flow of work, I still found it difficult to say no to a client’s need just so I could take a week or so off. It took some advanced planning so I could leave for a vacation without guilt.

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Organizing Your Home-based Office

If a train station is where the train stops, what’s a workstation?…”

If your workstation in your home-based office is where the work stops, it is time to take another look at it. A home office should have some means of separation from your home activities. If your kids or neighbors or spouse are constantly interupting, it might be that your workstation is not clearly defined. You should be able to let others know that when you are at your office, nothing but an emergency should interupt you. Continue reading

Is Your Home-based Web Business… At Home?

When I first started my home-based web business, I felt that it wasn’t a true home-based business because I seldom met clients at my home. I’ve seen many images of beautiful offices in the home and I kind of felt guilty because my home-based office is not all dressed up and ready for clients to visit. On the rare occasion that a client wants to meet me at my office, I scramble to make it presentable. But generally it is a “home-based office” rather than an office in my home. What’s the difference? Continue reading