Undoubtedly, one of the reasons so many people start a business from their home is that it's easy – theoretically. As a tech contractor, you just open your laptop and start working.
But ask anyone who runs a home office: there are plenty distractions and financial risks that come along with it. We talked with a few successful home-business owners about how they keep productivity high at home.
These five productivity hacks can home-based IT professionals work better and smarter:
- Network before you leap.
- Embrace the home office life (to a point).
- Separate work and living spaces.
- Have a plan for IT liabilities.
- Protect your time.
Hack 1: Network Before You Leap
When Michelle Garrett (@PRisUs), founder of Garrett Public Relations, made the leap to start her own PR firm, she already had a few clients in the bag. This made her business launch go smoothly.
While setting up her business infrastructure, Garrett found three clients by:
- Joining professional organizations.
- Talking with friends who referred her to potential clients.
Additionally, while still employed full-time, Garrett worked weekends taking care of the little things like getting business cards printed, setting up her office, and doing basic accounting. By taking this approach, Garrett avoided a "cash crunch" where she was working for weeks without any income during her transition.
Hack 2: Embrace the Home Office Life (to a Point)
When she started Human SEO, a digital marketing business, Shannon Steffen (@ShannonKSteffen) was stressed. She worried that clients would think she was unprofessional because she worked from her home. She worried her dogs would bark and interrupt client calls.
After fretting about it, Steffen finally gave up and embraced life in the home office. Now when her clients hear a dog bark in the background, she tells them, "It's just my interns telling me that they want more cookies for all the work they put in every day." The client laughs and it's back to work.
"Most start-ups believe they need to look big," Steffen explains, "but the added stress that comes with pretending to be something you're not can lead to lower quality work and artificially stuffy relationships with clients."
Hack 3: Separate Your Workspace and Your Living Space
Just because you work at home, it doesn't mean your home is an office. It's important to separate these two by:
- Designating an area for your work.
- Using a desk that's exclusively for work.
- Ensuring that you're not taking your work home with you (even though you kind of are).
Home-office professionals have to find a way to "flip the switch" and stop thinking about work once they punch out for the day. Consider adding an end-of-day routine like making a cup of tea, shutting your laptop, or going for walk (without your phone). These gestures can help you signal to your work brain that you're off duty.
Hack 4: Have a Plan for Your IT Liabilities
When you run your own company, you become liable for mistakes in your work and injuries (financial or bodily) that people suffer. Surprise!
When you were an employee at someone else's company, your employer absorbed this liability. If you made a mistake or a client got injured on the business's premises, the client could sue the employer.
Now those liabilities fall on your shoulders. For this reason, it's important to:
- Keep your home-office clean and in good repair.
- Talk with your insurance agent about technology General Liability Insurance for home offices. Homeowner's insurance often doesn't cover home-based business lawsuits.
- Read your client contracts carefully, and be sure to fulfill any requirements to have Errors and Omissions Insurance (to cover the cost of lawsuits over professional mistakes).
If you're unfamiliar with IT insurance requirements, see our post "Why Your Technology Clients Want You to Have General Liability Insurance."
Hack 5: Protect Your Time
Working at home means you have a lot of free time on your hands, right? Not really. But friends and family may start asking you for favors and asking you to take care of something during the day while they're at work. Be careful you don't spread yourself too thin. You need to dedicate your day to doing your work.
That isn't to say your friends are trying to take advantage of you. Sometimes the biggest distractions come from your own best intentions. But remember that you'll need to work out a balance of work / home boundaries once you open up a home office.