Working From Home
by Steve Marr
With all the advances in computer
technology over the past ten years, many people now work at home or have
established home-based businesses. As tempting as it may sound to work at home,
it takes proper research and planning to determine if this is the best option
for you. Working at home typically reduces office overhead expenses, shortens
your commute, and may increase efficiency, but some people are unable to stay
focused at home or their house may not be the best place to locate. Carefully
weigh the alternatives to determine whether working at home is right for you.
First, check out your local
zoning ordinances to determine whether any restrictions apply. Also, read the
fine print on your apartment or condominium lease agreement or homeowner?s
association by-laws for any limitations on doing business at home. Most
ordinances and by-laws permit working at home but limit customer selling,
merchandise storage, or having any employees in your home. If you?re tempted
to try to skirt the issue, read Romans 13:1: ?Everyone must submit himself to
the governing authorities? (niv).
Renting a post office box or a personal mailbox can give your business a
delivery address and keep salespeople from ringing your doorbell unannounced.
Check with your insurance agent to determine whether special liability or
property coverage is required.
For many businesses, presenting a
professional image is important, and therefore an owner needs to determine
whether a separate business location is advisable. Accountants and attorneys,
for example, may need to present an office-based image in order to be viewed as
credible. Other professions, such as Web design, some sales positions, and
computer programming, are well suited for work at home, with necessary customer
contact by phone, e-mail, or at the customer?s premises or local coffee shop.
The amount of equipment needed in the business may also be a factor. I know a
person who repairs antique Oriental rugs at home, who uses three rooms in his
house for equipment, storage, and a workshop.
Establish a separate phone number
for your business and always answer the phone in a professional manner. Use
voicemail rather than an answering machine to present a better image. Better
yet, hire an answering service to take calls when you are unavailable. An
answering service can page you or call your cell phone with hot calls. Make sure
your fax machine is located away from any bedrooms, to avoid being awakened by
after-hours fax transmissions.
Don?t answer your home phone
during business hours, to avoid becoming distracted by personal calls. One
attorney who works at home was deluged by calls from family and friends because
they knew she was there. My advice is to ask family and friends to only call in
an emergency during business hours.
The biggest challenge for many
people who work at home is separating their work life from their personal life.
Establish regular working hours, and stick to them. Get up, shower, and dress at
a regular time and maintain a schedule. Avoid doing personal business during
work hours, and vice versa. Separate your work space from your living space and
establish a mind-set and a habit of working in your work space and not working
in your personal space. Take the apostle Paul?s advice and make the most of
your time (see Ephesians 5:16).
If you need to care for children
while working, realize that your efficiency will be sharply reduced and plan
accordingly. Work out an arrangement with your spouse to avoid interruptions, or
limit your work hours to when the children are in school. Nothing turns off a
client or a customer faster then hearing children in the background. If you are
unable to separate work time from personal time, that may be a good reason not
to work at home.
Customer meetings are best held
at their location, or at a neutral site such as a restaurant or coffee house. If
you must meet clients or customers at your home, make sure everything is neatly
picked up and you have a suitable spot to conduct business.
Some businesses start out at home
because of cost considerations, with the idea of moving out as income permits.
If that?s your plan, think through in advance a migration strategy for moving
out to avoid staying at home too long. Many businesses have stunted their growth
by failing to relocate at the right time.
With careful planning and
discipline, working at home can be very successful and rewarding.
Steve Marr is a business/ministry consultant and
author of the book Business Proverbs.
His daily radio feature, ?Business Proverbs? is
heard on 1,000 radio stations. He is the former CEO of the fourth largest
import-export firm in the United States.