The internet has made it far easier for many people to freelance or run a business from home. However the problem with working from home is that home and work boundaries can easily become blurred. This is particularly true if your home office is a corner of your kitchen, living room or bedroom.
Whether you are working from a Mac perched on your table top, or a PC nestled in an alcove, it is important that you give clients the impression that you are professional and business-like.
Have a business phone line
Either have a dedicated phone line for your business so that you can answer it appropriately with your business name, or alternatively, treat yourself to a Virtual Receptionist. Many cost as little as £20 per month and will answer calls using your business name. They will take a message, pass it on to you via text or email and you can respond when it’s convenient to do so. Using a Virtual Receptionist service also has the additional advantage of you being able to display a landline on your website/business stationery, which looks more professional than only using a mobile number. If all else fails and you simply must use your home telephone, stick to using it during office hours (and ban the children from answering it during school holidays).
Dress for work
When you dress smart, you feel smart. Whilst you don’t necessarily have to wear a suit, unless you want to, slippers, pyjamas and a dressing gown will make you feel relaxed and ready for bed! Many home-workers have little routines to help them feel ready for work, such as gentlemen who wear a tie, women who ensure they wear makeup, or putting on a jacket to make Skype Video calls.
Don’t use Hotmail
A professional email, preferably using your business name, is a must. Nothing screams amateur more than Hotmail or Google Mail accounts. Similarly, it is best to keep your business and personal social media accounts separate. Your clients can hardly take you seriously if they see images of you all bleary eyed, with an inebriated grin and a pint glass in hand.
Consider where to meet your clients
If you do not have a dedicated home office, you may not feel entirely comfortable meeting clients in your home, which incidentally might require you to take out a Public Liability Insurance. Consider alternatives such as Skype Video calls, which are increasingly popular as they obviously cut out travelling altogether, or serviced offices. Larger well-known serviced offices can be expensive though, and Work Hubs tend to be a more affordable option for start-ups, freelancers and the like, offering facilities such as meeting rooms, co-working spaces and even the use of the address and telephone number for registered office purposes.
Have contingency plans for the kids
If you are juggling work with children in tow, do have a team of helpers to the ready, so that if your urgent project simply must be completed by 4pm then you have someone who can help out with the school run. Whilst homeworking affords obvious flexibility for parents, your clients still deserve, and indeed have paid for, 100% commitment from you.
What other tips would you add for appearing business-like no matter what?