Whenever someone asks what I do for a living and I tell them that I work from home as a freelance writer, the response is generally somewhere along the lines of: “Wow! That must be nice to work from home. I wish I could do that!”
While I agree that there are a lot of perks to having a home based business—such as no long commute and always being around to collect deliveries versus wondering if they’ll still be on the porch by the time I get back—working from home isn’t for everyone.
In fact, many people have managed to kill their home based businesses and, based on what I’ve learned about working in the same space where I live, here are some surefire ways to do so.
Don’t Create a Designated Work Space
I’m always amazed when I hear of someone working from home who doesn’t have a designated space to set up shop. If you don’t have an office or even a small table in the corner of your bedroom that you consistently go to handle your business, how does your brain know when your work day has started?
Not that you have to limit yourself to just that space because, let’s face it, one of the benefits of working at home is that you get to make your own rules. But there is also an advantage to having only one or two locations in your home that you run your business from.
Once you’re there, your mind knows that it’s time to switch from thinking about home obligations to focusing on the work you need to get done. It’s minor, but it can make a big difference when it comes to your ability to concentrate.
Keep a Messy House
I don’t know about you, but I simply cannot concentrate when there is a mess around me. Clothesbasket full? Better start a load of wash. Dishwasher just ran and clean dishes need to be put away? I’m on top of it.
If I don’t stay up on all of my household chores, my mind is constantly telling me that I need to do them when it should be focused on the task at hand. That’s why I typically start my day by taking care of any household duties on my to-do list. It frees my brain to think about other things.
On the flip side, because I work in front of a computer all day, I also find that taking 15-minute breaks regularly not only gets me up and moving, but it also gives me time to tackle some of my smaller daily chores like emptying that dishwasher or dusting.
Treat it Like a Hobby Versus a Career
Ever tell someone that you work from home and have them respond with, “That’s nice. When you gonna get a real job?”
I used to see red when this happened because all I could think about was how I was putting in more time in my “not real job” than most people who have a “day job,” so how dare they treat me like my career was nothing more than a hobby.
That said, some home based entrepreneurs do not take their businesses seriously. They let everything else get in the way—such as family obligations or hanging out with friends—making it pretty difficult to get everything done.
When you’re in business for yourself, whether you work out of your home or some other location, this is your career. It is your livelihood. It deserves to be treated as such.
Don’t Set Boundaries with Family and Friends
Sometimes when you work from home, family and friends kind of forget that you do actually work. Without proper boundaries, it’s easy to get caught up in phone calls and visits, which means that you don’t get your work done.
My loved ones all know that if they call and I don’t pick up, that means that I’m busy with work and will call them back when I can. No hard feelings. This enables me to hit my deadlines without feeling like I’m neglecting the people that mean the most to me.
I’ve also found that a bit of multitasking helps too. While I can’t write if I’m on the phone with someone, I can walk. So, I tend to get my daily 3.5 mile walk in while catching up with family and friends. This makes it possible to tend to my health and still stay in touch with the people I care about, which is a total win-win.
Let Your Paperwork Pile Up
I’m a little obsessive about my paperwork, so I keep pretty good records as I go. Most expenses are recorded the same day and all of my receipts are put in the correct folder as soon as they’re brought home.
But I also know other business owners who are consistently months behind. As a result, they always seem to be scrambling to find the records they need and, when it comes time to do things like pay their quarterlies or file their taxes, they have no idea where all of their documentation is.
This can be disastrous for a business owner because your ability to be profitable is, in part, based on your ability to stay organized and on top of your paperwork. And when a client calls and you can’t find the information you’re looking for because you’re months behind on entering it into your computer, that doesn’t look good either.
So, do yourself a favor and stay up to date on your paperwork. It will help you run a better business.
Don’t Set Aside Money for Uncle Sam
I sometimes listen to financial podcasts when I’m walking (and not talking to family and friends) and I’m always amazed at the number of people who call into these types of shows and share how much money they owe to the IRS. Look, I’ll be the first one to understand when money is tight, but Uncle Sam is no one to play with.
Not only can it be extremely difficult to fight your way out of a tax debt—especially with all of the penalties they hit you with—but you can actually go to jail if you don’t set aside enough money for this. You can even go to prison in certain cases (like if you’re convicted of tax evasion).
Plus, the IRS can seize your assets to pay your tax bill. It’s kind of difficult to run a business when everything you own now belongs to the government.
Even if you just donate 15 to 30 minutes a day to take care of all of your administrative stuff, you’ll be way further ahead.
Fail to Stay Current in Your Field
You can also kill your home based business if you fail to stay current in your field. Clients want a service provider who knows what works best today and if you don’t give it to them, they’ll find someone who will.
One great way to keep up to date is to attend seminars and workshops. In addition to helping you stay up on the latest advances and trends in your field, these types of events also give you the opportunity to get out and network.
Another option is to take classes so you’re constantly learning more. For instance, I’ve been writing in health and wellness for years, but I recently decided to get my nutrition certification so I know more about the topic. A little extra credibility doesn’t hurt either
Are there even more ways to kill your home based business? For sure. But these are the top seven that come to mind when I think about things I could do that could almost instantly turn my dream of working from home into a nightmare, and I definitely don’t want that to happen to you!