It's possible to do anything from home—even running a business. Here are 5 tips to help you run a business from home.
One thing the pandemic has taught us is that it's possible to do just about anything from home—including run a business. Yet whether you’re an experienced entrepreneur or a newly minted freelance contractor (or “gig worker”), shifting from an in-person work environment to a work-from-home lifestyle can be a difficult transition.
A few smart efforts, however, can help smooth things out. Whether you’re starting a new business or moving yours into your home, the following advice can help make it simpler.
1. Invest in Your Workspace
Working from home can mean grappling with any number of distractions, ranging from household responsibilities to interruptions from pets, children, or other housemates. Staying focused on work is easier, however, when you have a dedicated space for getting work done.
Not everyone has enough physical space in their house or apartment to create a full-fledged home office, but nearly everyone can carve out a certain amount of space to use as a professional workspace. Once you find your spot—whether it’s in a corner of your kitchen, living room or bedroom, or its own separate room—outfit it with all of the technology and tools you’ll need to complete your day-to-day work, such as internet or wifi, a printer/scanner/copier and so on.
The key is to design your workspace for productivity and focus. Try to find a bright location in your home in which you’ll have minimal noise interruption, and angle your computer screen in a direction where there aren’t distracting visuals in your direct line of sight.
2. Create Routines & Schedules
Once there’s a workspace in your home, however, the lines between work and home life instantly get blurrier. It’s important to protect both your work time and your personal time by building schedules and routines into your life.
Design boundaries and clear ways of structuring your day that separate work time from personal time. Wake up at a set time every day, and get dressed for work in whatever clothing makes you feel most comfortable and productive. Set aside time for a “digital commute” to get yourself acclimated to your workspace and focused on your day’s priorities.
And when it comes to your day’s priorities, your calendar is your best friend. Use it to set aside time for scheduled meetings or calls, as well as to block out hours for “deep work” on your most important to-dos. Try color-coding your calendar to be able to understand your day at a glance as soon as you sit down at your desk.
3. Find Remote Support
Even among the most independent of contractors, no one can go it entirely alone in their work life. Workers of all kinds need a support system they can count on, and that’s as true for office-bound employees as it is for those running a business from home.
What kind of support and partners you need may vary, however, depending on the field you’re in and the kind of work you do. Use digital tools like LinkedIn to find and reach out to potential employees and colleagues who can help you; these may include fellow contractors (who you can pass work leads to when they’re not a good fit for you) or professionals in fields where you may need assistance—such as accounting/bookkeeping partners, creative contractors or executive coaching professionals.
When you have a request for one of your “digital colleagues,” try having your meeting via videoconferencing (using a tool like Zoom or Google Hangouts). This helps build face-to-face rapport instead of just long chains of online communications.
4. Delegate When Possible
Running a business from home may make it feel like you’re working in a vacuum. But if you have the remote employees and partners you need, you can often delegate non-important tasks (and should, so you can stay focused on business-critical work).
One common framework for leadership and decision-making—known as the Eisenhower matrix—helps leaders determine how to manage their time and attention by imploring them to focus only on what’s both important and urgent. Any task that is urgent but not important, the matrix posits, can be delegated. (If it’s important but not urgent, it can be handled later, at a scheduled time; if it’s neither important or urgent, it can be deleted.)
In order to delegate a task, however, you have to have the right person available to handle it. That’s why the importance of training should never be overlooked; as you bring on remote hires or digital partners to help you run your business, be sure to train them right away on how to handle the tasks you need help with.
5. Focus on Goals
Running a business from home should mean working toward something—not just toiling at home instead of in the office. Goal-setting is even more important in the work-from-home environment since it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re not in the traditional office setting.
Focusing on goals means more than defining key performance indicators (KPIs) and ensuring you and your team work toward them on a daily basis. In fact, a robust goal-setting framework can provide a foundation for how you work with your team week-by-week.
The OKR framework, for example, empowers leaders to focus on weekly activities and initiatives—known in the framework as plans—that will help make progress on the highest priorities the team needs to achieve (its objectives). Progress is measured by assessing key results on a weekly basis. Whether you use a framework like OKR or not, consistently checking in with yourself and your team about progress toward big-picture objectives is essential to meeting your goals.
Making Things Simpler
Shifting from an in-person work environment to a work-from-home lifestyle strips the business of running your business down to its bare essentials: Your workplace, your sense of focus, your support system, your time and your goals. Though it takes some getting used to, working from home can make the day-to-day running of a business much simpler—and can be a lasting way to work either independently or with employees.