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Mar 04

Working From Home

Posted by: Steve Marr

Tagged in: Untagged 

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, Your Christian Business Coach

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