I moved my office to my house the beginning of 2005 and it has been wonderful. Reflecting back on this time, I thought I would express some of the issues I have had. In the process, I may be able to answer some of the questions I have also had this year from others considering the home office.
Some of what I am going to discuss comes from my own experiences and form others. It may seem basic, but I get a lot of questions about working at home.
Teaching the kids to respect the office and work time. My youngest child will be 15, going on 21. He is really not a problem. The only time it may get a little bit out of control is when he has someone over. Since my office is in the basement, foot traffic upstairs has really been the only issue as far as my youngest child. He really has respected the fact that while I am in my office, I am working. But, one of the great things about the home office, he knows if he needs anything, I am just a few steps away.
Keeping office stuff in the office. Not a real problem for me. While my youngest is tempted, it has not happened. My wife on the other hand is the biggest problem when it comes to disappearing office supplies. However, I don’t dare say anything or those hot fresh cookies she just baked will be off limits for me. And that just won’t work.
Controlling the phone, Internet and Faxes. In my home office I have everything separate from the house. Separate phone lines completely. I even have my internet service separate. SBCglobal/DSL in the home office. As to my phone in my office, I have one incoming line and call forward it to my cell phone. That way, I get my business calls no matter when and where. I also have voicemail on my cell phone. So, if I am unavailable, my voicemail picks up the call. The iPhone has been a great tool and the visual voicemail is wonderful. (I will be posting soon about using the iPhone in a business setting). All of my faxes come in on a second line that also has my DSL on it. All faxes come into my Mac Mini via pageSender. I use a scanner to do outgoing faxes with. I have been using a great online service lately called, MaxEmail.com. You should really check it out.
Maintaining a schedule. When I have appointments, I have appointments. I do find distractions more at home, somewhat. But, what I have found is, I do seem to get more done. And I think that is because I can work when I want. It is not unusual for me to get up early and get some work done before anyone else is up. I also work some at night. One other thing I have found is that I will take my trusty MacBook upstairs, sit in my favorite chair, and via wireless Internet, answer emails and do most of my blogging. Of course my wife always wants to know who I am talking to. I tell her the whole world. She just looks at me like I am crazy. And her point is?
Managing client perceptions and client contact. I have yet to have a client or prospective client question the fact I do not have a downtown office. In fact, most appreciate the fact I don’t have overhead and can help them control their cost. Meeting clients in my home is not a problem either. I don’t for the most part. From time to time, if I know the person well, I may meet them at home. I have the space in my home office to do so. And best of all, I have a back door entrance that comes right into my office in our basement. I usually meet clients elsewhere. One of my favorite, if appropriate, is my favorite coffee shop.
Staff. Like many businesses, I have a staff. I have a staff of me and my virtual assistant who also works from home. We have been doing things this way since early 2005 and we have yet to meet to exchange work. We do it all via email. I email her what I want, either in the email itself or by digital dictation over email. It works GREAT. I love it since I don’t have to pay the added overhead of equipment and office space. She loves it since she can work from home when she wants. I don’t pay her as an employee, she is an independent contractor.
Staying motivated. Not a problem for the most part. I have two in college. However, when it is nice out and I would rather be playing golf or sitting out on my patio with my wife, that can be a problem. So, to handle that, I just do it. I golf more now and I spend more time with my wife. Not a bad trade for the office downtown. Of course, I can always work from my patio with my wireless network and Internet.
While some may feel alone working from home, I have never felt that. With email and telephones, I bounce ideas and questions off others all the time. I am home almost everyday for lunch. Get to talk to my wife and youngest more. And get to spend time in the office when I want.
If you are thinking about a home office, consider the issues I mentioned above. Weigh whether you can do it. Having a home office is not for everyone. For me it works great and I would not go back to a downtown office.