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Working at home isn't as simple as setting up a desk and a computer. It takes the right mindset to establish yourself as a serious professional, despite the fact that you may sometimes do work in your slippers.
Not every personality is suited to working at home, says Lesley Spencer of Home-Based Working Moms. Certain traits are helpful for people who want to work at home:
If you already have these qualities, you're one step ahead of the game. If not, you can take steps to beef up both your business and personal skills, in order to be able to work easily at home.
First, you want to make sure you choose the right kind of work for you. Otherwise you could be doomed from the start.
For example, medical billing and transcription services are big at-home businesses. But if you hate paperwork, that won't be the right line of work for you.
"A person is much more likely to succeed when they select a career or business that matches their skills, strengths, passions, time and money needs," says Spencer.
Consider businesses that are related to your current career. You will then be armed with years of knowledge about the industry, and you'll have lots of contacts who may be able to help you get your business started.
If you're trying something completely new, make sure you do all the reading and networking you can before you leave behind your current career.
Whatever kind of at-home job you choose, prepare to be a salesperson. Almost all home-based careers require some type of selling. Spencer says whether you offer a product or service, you need to articulate why your potential customers should buy from you or use your services. There's a huge field of competition out there; if you are passionate and confident about what you do, selling yourself will be much easier.
If you think you're lacking on the organizational side, you can improve your skills to find a "system" that works for you. If being disorganized reduces your productivity, Spencer says you could even hire a professional organizer to help you set up. And start reading sites such as Organized Times (Organizedtimes.com) for tips.
You can also take steps to boost your motivation. Spencer says motivational tapes, books and seminars can help light the fire. You could also consider hiring a personal coach who can give you one-on-one help. Spencer recommends sites offered by personal coach Philip Humbert (Philiphumbert.com) and Success Networks International (SuccessNet.org) for starters.
On the money side, you'll find some comfort in your bank account, if you can set aside extra funds before you leave your office job. You should do your best to save enough cash to cover a few months' of personal and business expenses, to keep you going until the checks from your new business start rolling in.
If your spouse brings home a paycheck, try banking your salary and living only on the money your spouse earns. It will give you a trial run to see how your family's finances will fare if there's a lag time before you start generating a bigger income.
To succeed at home, you have to be willing to put in as much work -- and often more -- as you would in a regular office. You have to stay focused on your goals and responsibilities because you are your own boss. If you often need guidance from a superior to stay on track, you might find it difficult to concentrate at home.
Spencer says it's easy to get distracted by other things -- even the leftovers in the fridge -- if you are not centered on the tasks for the day. She suggests you make a to-do list the night before so you can come into your work area prepared and ready to start the day. Set guidelines for when you will take breaks and lunch, and how you will deal with any distractions, such as your children.
Also prepare yourself to set rules on answering your home phone and accepting visits from neighbors and friends. You might have to ignore social calls during your work hours so you don't get into bad habits. And be prepared to say "no" when someone tempts you to stray from the day's schedule. Spencer says there may be friends, family, or neighbors who do not realize that you need to concentrate on your work during your set work hours, so plan to explain your situation to them so they can respect your work time.
While you prepare your schedule, don't be too strict, either. Make sure to schedule time for yourself, your family, and other things that are important in your life so you can maintain a healthy balance, Spencer says. And, when on vacation, be on vacation!
If you've enjoyed the camaraderie of an office and coworkers, you can still find those elements at home. Using e-mail, instant messaging, and the telephone can help you keep in contact with the outside world.
You should also consider getting involved in online communities that focus on at-home workers, scheduling weekly lunches with colleagues, or joining professional organizations. These connections will not only fulfill your need for human contact, they can be used to bounce ideas off people you respect and even lead to more work for you.
As you plan your at-home job, don't let it take over your life. It's easy to get into the bad habit of answering the work phone during personal time, or checking e-mail when you're off-duty. Keep those impulses in check so that you're not letting your at-home career take over your family time.
"Don't let your ambition interfere with your family's needs and time together," says Spencer. "Success is different for everyone. You decide what success is for you and set your priorities and goals accordingly."