Those of us who work at home have added distractions. There are dishes to do, laundry to sort, incoming phone calls and dogs that need out. The temptation is to work on those chores which didn’t get done on the weekend but must be attended to sometime soon. Do that, and before you know it you have managed to squander half the day on personal projects and missed out on billable hours or checking work related projects off your list. You’ve just missed out on potential sales and it’s all due to being disorganized or time crunched.
The foundation of any successful business lies in the ability of managers to plan their time in a way that promotes organization and successful business behaviors. Good work at home business managers can separate their personal and business lives so that neither is neglected.
Work At Home? Make The Time For Business
The first and most important thing to understand is that you will only be successful working at home if you are able to separate your business and personal lives. You can’t be cleaning the house or visiting with friends on the phone and also be building your home business. You have to set aside time to work your business and only your business.
If you are operating a part-time business, you will need to set aside as many hours as required to meet your goals. Many home based business owners must accommodate their family schedules for example. A typical scenario is the home based business operated by a stay at home mother. She will probably set aside business hours during the day while the children are in school. Another typical part-time home based business owner is the office worker who is gone all day. The time set aside for doing business will be in the evenings and weekends.
Managing time efficiently involves a lot more than just setting aside chunks of time and allotting those times to specific tasks. You also need to determine how much time you need to complete any particular task. No matter how little or how much time you plan on spending on your home based business, you will have to make time for the activities which result in sales. Without sales, there is no business.
A good technique for managing the time spent on your home based business is to use one or more of the many different tools that are available. As an example, you can use a manual calendar, an online calendar, time management software, electronic handheld time calendar devices and so on. Some people simply use a spiral notebook and sticky notes. It does not matter what you use as long as you develop a system which:
- Ensures you spend your time wisely on the activities which will produce sales; and
- Maintains the information in a single calendar so you do not risk mismanagement of contacts, meeting times and other activities needed to maintain a smooth flowing operations;
Though it is important to separate your personal and business activities, you need to log both on the same calendar. Trying to maintain separate calendars is too difficult and too prone to mistakes. For example, if you have a social engagement at 5 p.m., you don’t want to schedule a meeting with a new customer at the same time.
Managing your online information, such a customer inquiries, is much easier if you take advantage of the online tools that come with various email programs. You can set up folders and file your messages under a label.
Common Pitfalls in Time Management
People are people and all are prone to make the same mistakes when it comes to time management. We all have things we like to do and things we would prefer to avoid at all costs. You may enjoy talking to your customers and despise doing filing. Or you might enjoy the email correspondence, but don’t like spending time on the phone. You may enjoy giving seminar talks to promote your products or services and try to avoid spending too much time on the more impersonal online marketing activities.
What you have to watch out for in order to be a better manager in your home business is avoiding developing a habit of not completing tasks which need to be done on a regular basis whether you enjoy them or not. That is where a managed calendar can be critical to your success. If you set up a calendar and a work schedule, and follow them, you will have an efficient time management system.
As a home based business entrepreneur, your goal is to work as efficiently as possible while producing sales and managing expenses. The very nature of a home owned business is such there are many pitfalls to avoid which you do not face when working for someone else.
- let yourself be distracted by the home environment;
- treat your business like a hobby;
- try to manage expenses without a budget;
- treat your home office as an extension of your family room;
- establish an unreasonable work schedule that is too difficult to follow;
- try to take on too much work and end up making your customers upset due to lack of response;
- try to run your business without establishing a proper financial and/or accounting system;
- try to work your business without prioritizing your work schedule;
This may sound like a long list but it is a practical list of common sense suggestions. It is so tempting for many home based business owners to let the more traditional business management techniques take a back seat. You always have to remember you are planning on your business being able to generate a certain level of income.
For those businesses which plan on having clients visit the home office, you need to make sure they will feel comfortable. This does not refer to comfortable as meaning big easy chairs and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies being available. It means the client should feel as he or she is attending a meeting in a business environment. Some people will be reluctant to visit a personal residence unless your home office is clearly for business purposes only. You don’t want the dog jumping on your clients or the baby’s milk bottle rolling in the doorway where they must walk.
Your professional image when dealing with clients is important. When you are only dealing with people online, you still need to maintain a professional image but in a different way. Your emails should be well written and friendly business like. You don’t want to act like you are everyone’s best friend. You need to respond to all customer inquiries and give a high level of customer service.
When meeting people in person, it is important to maintain a professional demeanor so people know they are dealing with a serious business person. This will make people much more comfortable with the idea of dealing with a home based business.
One of the big pitfalls many home based business owners make is not developing a business plan. Every business needs a business plan which sets goals and defines marketing strategies. The business plan is how you measure your progress and stay focused when making business decisions. The plan should define your market niche, your sales goals and your marketing plan.