Home working has grown in popularity over the past 10 years, with an estimated 3 million people running a full-time business from home – more when you include people who run part-time online businesses. Here, we share our top virtual assistant tips on how to be productive, stay sociable and make the most of your time.
1. Have a dedicated work space
Psychologically, it’s great to be able to close a door and get on with your work, rather than having to use the kitchen table or the sofa because there’s nowhere else to go. A designated ‘workspace’ allows you to section off your working time from the other things you do around the house and at the end of your working day, you can pack it up, set it aside and get on with life. Even if it’s just a small desk in the corner of a room, it’s an important distinction to make.
2. Set clear working hours
When you’re running your own business, it’s easy to work all the hours you can. Indeed, depending on the sort of business you have, it might be necessary to put a lot of hours in to begin with, but it’s equally important to maintain a work-life balance. Once you’re up and running, consider delegating some of your everyday tasks to a virtual assistant, part time secretary or freelance administrative assistant, so that you can concentrate on the real business issues, and cut down your hours. It’s particularly important that you put an ‘end-time’ on your day, so that customers don’t feel you are always available to them.
3. Network and socialise
Whilst you can be extremely productive working on your own, you do need some human interaction along the way. If you’ve always worked for a bigger company, you’ll have had that interaction in the office – whether you wanted it or not – and some people find it’s a relief to get away from the water-cooler chat. It’s important to keep building relationships though, so do consider networking and joining local business groups. Not only will it get you out of the office during the week; it also allows you to meet and interact with potential new suppliers and clients.
4. Get your tech right
When you start a business at home, one of the biggest changes in your working life is the fact that you have to look after everything – the sales and marketing, the finances, the administration and the technology. Take the time to get this right – look at the sort of set-up you need in terms of hardware – a PC, a laptop, an additional screen, a printer – and then at the software packages that will help you to manage your workload, including accounting software, for example. You can outsource bookkeeping help to someone else, but you’ll still need to prepare accounts so that you can file your tax return. If you get all your technology, including a good broadband service, in place early on, and perhaps put a back-up and service package in place with a local IT company, you can relax a little and get on with your work.
5. Get organised
Everyone works differently, but a little organisation goes a long way. It’s easy to get distracted when you’re working from home – there’s always something that catches your eye that needs to be done – but if you plan and organise your day well, you can be productive in your working life and still have time to walk the dog, do the school run or pop to the shops. For some, a simple to-do list is enough; others block out time for certain tasks – catching up on email, sorting out receipts, making client calls or putting together proposals, for example. When your business grows and you get really busy, you can save time and sanity with virtual assistants, who can take some of the admin tasks off your desk, giving you more time to spend on developing the business.
6. Check permissions and insurance
You can claim various costs associated with home working and deduct them from your income to help lower your tax bill. Talk to your accountant about what is and is not allowed – this will depend on whether you are registered as a limited company or partnership, or whether you are a sole trader. It will also depend on how you use your home to work in. It’s equally important that you check with your mortgage provider and your insurer about working from home. For many people, it’s not an issue, but if you are running a business where people are constantly visiting you or delivering to you, you might have to take out additional insurances. The same applies if you need to keep expensive equipment at home in order to operate your business. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Running your business from home is rewarding, flexible and often a cost effective solution for starting a business. Our virtual assistant team works with a range of home-based businesses that need admin, sales & marketing, financial and planning support so that they can get on with growing their client base and building their business. To find out more about how we help, feel free to call us on 0800 994 9016 or click here to request a free consultation.