superdumb supervillain: Five Tips for Working at Home, Successfully

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Five Tips for Working at Home, Successfully

This is a guest post by my friend Kate Canterbury, a fellow Midwest dweller and ex-Austinite. Kate is also the mother of twin girls, a charming conversationalist and a branding and marketing consultant. She maintains a home office but admits to Skype-ing from bed. You can read more about how she is doing it all (some of it well) on her personal blog The Guavalicious Life. She currently works as a brand expert for Print Ninja.

Last year I started working at home part time. And by that I mean I added on a professional job to my full time work at home job of cleaning, cooking, and being my kids’ indentured servant. Since my girls had finally gotten a regular preschool and therapy schedule, I thought it would be a breeze. After all, I was already maintaining a successful local blog and a somewhat regular personal blog.

Boy was I wrong. Twelve months in, the disaster of my home, the ten pounds I had gained and my gray roots proved it. Something had to change. So in January, I stopped all personal blogging, finished up my current contracts and concentrated on getting my house and life organized.

What a difference! Now that my house is in order and my schedule organized, I have a clear mind (and space!) to work in.    

Define Your Hours: When you work from home, the temptation is to put things off to take care of the “emergencies” that crop up. That’s how I ended up working until two in the morning every night. Now my family, friends, and the girls’ school know that I am just not sitting at home eating bonbons, I am working from 9-12 and 1-4 and cannot be disturbed during those times.

Keep a Separate Work Space: My home has always had a lovely home office waiting for me. But for some reason I had decided it would be better filled with everything I didn’t know where to put. I am not going to lie, those things got moved to the guest room instead of disappearing. But now I have a defined space, with a door that shuts. This not only pleases my accountant (hello write off) and me (hello clear mind) but is a clear signal to my family that on Saturday morning I am doing paperwork, not finding their lost stuff.  

Learn to Say No: Stand in front of a mirror and say this ten times out loud: “Unfortunately I am going to have to say no; I just don’t have the time in my schedule.” I’ve learned that if I don’t preface it with “I’m sorry” or “I wish I could” people don’t try to guilt me into it.

Outsource, Outsource, Outsource: A lot of the work I do is also done by agencies and firms in town. To compete with them I have stepped up my game. Sure I don’t have in house printing like they do, but I do have an amazing online print firm that allows me to upload my custom design. Now I have high quality booklets for an incredibly low price. And I can produce anything from notepads to catalogs for my customers.

Constantly Network: The temptation when you can work in sweatpants is to just stay behind the screen. And while I do do a lot of networking on Twitter and Linked In what has brought me the most business is getting out of the house and talking to people. Look into organizations like Social Media Club. Call your local news outlets and let them know you are a resource in your area of expertise. And never stop talking! I met one client in line at the grocery store.  
I would love to hear what your tips are for keeping sane while working at home. Networking with my fellow work at home warriors is what keeps ME sane!

In accordance to the FTC Guidelines and the WOMMA Code of Ethics, I am disclosing that Kate promised to buy me a beer the next time I see her. Man, I have to institute these tips ASAP!

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