5 Things You Need to Know Before Working from Home

how-to and resources Dec 03, 2018

Working from home may sound easier than going to an office. No commute. No "business attire." No incessant chatter from the person in the next cubicle.  But it definitely comes with its own challenges. After all, working from home is still working.

Before you begin, it’s a good idea to make a thorough and honest assessment of both your personality and your environment so you minimize unpleasant surprises and set yourself up for success.  You need to have a plan, self-discipline, and motivation along with a good workspace and an idea of potential impediments. 

1. Assess Your Self-Discipline

First and foremost, you have to be disciplined. It’s hard to overstate the importance of being a self-motivated worker. If you’re going to make it on your own, you’re going to have to be a good manager and a good employee. You need the strength to tell yourself what to do and when to do it, and then you need to follow through.

It can be hard to keep your juices going, but sometimes it can also be hard to stop them. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in your home-based business that it impacts your other responsibilities. Being aware of both of those aspects of self-employment is crucial.

There is another problem that can really wreak havoc on your time and productivity: spinning your wheels. Sometimes you can get deep into a project and lose track of time on insignificant details. It’s essential to pay attention to time sinks. In the same way you should take care not to “throw good money after bad,” don’t throw good time after bad. When you realize you’re wasting your time, cut your losses and move on.

2. Find Your Niche

There are numerous ways to determine what type of work you will do. I recommend that you brainstorm ideas using some of these questions.

  • What will make you the most money given the time you are able to dedicate to work?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What do you receive the most praise for?

Maybe you have received lots of compliments on your wooden bead necklaces, but they take you an hour to make, and you can’t charge more than $15 for them. That may not be a good option. Maybe programming would make you a lot of money, but you don’t have a particular interest in it, and the time it would take to train would be substantial. Maybe you have children or a disabled family member at home, limiting the time you have available. Answers to these questions should give you a good point of departure for exploring practical solutions.

3. Consider Your Impediments

There are so many advantages to working at home that it can be easy to overlook the disadvantages or temptations. The fridge is close by. You never need to “get dressed.” People (and animals) in your house may be very distracting. Sometimes it’s better to take off to a coffee shop or a co-working space to avoid distractions and boost your productivity. Those cost money, but a couple of expensive cups of coffee may be the cheapest rent you ever pay for an office away from your home and dedicated/uninterrupted time to work.

4. Set Your Priorities and Boundaries

It’s one thing to get stuff done, but it’s another to get the right things done. Prioritizing (and sticking to those priorities) may be the most important thing you can do to ensure that your time is best used. It’s so easy to get distracted by the easy things or fun things. You need to focus on the tasks that will make your business the most profitable.

As important as it is to know what to work on when, it's important to know when to work and when not to work. Setting aside official work time and official relax/play time is important for your own mental energy and is an important trigger for your family too. Yes, the point of working from home is to be flexible! But if you never set limits, you will be mentally and physically drained, disappointing clients, your family, and yourself.

5. Optimize Your Environment

Having the right equipment is important. But having it all configured in a way that will help you get going and stay going is even more important. Maybe you need to have activity around you. Maybe you need silence. Maybe you work better with music; maybe better without. The point is to determine those things and optimize them to allow you to be at your most productive. This is one place where those of us who work from home have a great opportunity to excel or fail.

Typical work environments are built to maximize workers’ output. Employers often pay big bucks to offer their employees good office equipment and an environment to help them attain that output. Individuals often don’t think about these things because they aren’t working “at scale,” and they don’t have the money for that kind of equipment. But it really can have an impact on your productivity and even your health.

If you think you can’t afford it, get what you can when you can. Don’t be afraid to buy good quality items used, especially when it comes to office furniture. Also don't underestimate the value of a dedicated space. Not everyone has a separate room in the house to turn into an office. But even a table in the corner of your bedroom can work! Having a clear boundary between work space and personal space goes a long way to keeping you focused and productive.

Our Take

Working from home is really about knowing yourself, what works for you, and what you know will help you be at your best, like a great morning routine or daily exercise. It is important to know how you work and also how to ask for help when you need it.

Considering these things will help you know if you’re ready to take the work-at-home plunge. Don’t let them scare you away! Some serious self-examination can prepare you for fulfilling self-directed work with your eyes wide open.

Your Turn

What would you add to this list? Are there other things to consider before you begin your work-at-home journey? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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