Are you dreaming of becoming a work-from-home entrepreneur? You might be imagining days where you get all your work done well before noon, leaving the rest of the day for taking care of your home, hanging out with your family, and just relaxing.
But the reality can be very different. Long days of trying to fit in not only the work itself, but time to develop and grow your business, do the never-ending round of housework that's right there, deal with people who think that working from home means you're always available to do favors, putting out fires in your biz, and more.
Most people underestimate how much there is to do as a work-from-home entrepreneur, and how many things vie for your time and attention. If you wanted to start a work-from-home biz to be with your family, they will be a strong pull. There will also always be times when other things – any other things! – might seem more appealing than getting your work done: not just a good show on TV, a welcoming bed, or a long lunch, but even cleaning the fridge, scrubbing the oven, or going to the dentist…..
When faced with the challenges, it can feel impossible to even tread water as a work-from-home entrepreneur, let alone grow your biz and yourself as a business owner. But if you want to thrive in your new role, you'll need to do both.
Thankfully, there are are some simple but often overlooked ways to become a more effective work-from-home entrepreneur with a growing business – and time for the rest of a balanced life, too.
1. Good Work-From-Home Entrepreneurs Set Good Boundaries
Although, from the outside, it may seem like work-from-home entrepreneurs have lots of free time as their own bosses, very lax way of working, you might often find yourself working way more hours than you would in a traditional workplace. It might seem like there are always three people's worth of work to do, and only you to do it.
Do you find yourself working (or feeling like you should be working) from the moment you drag yourself out of bed in the morning until you fall into it exhausted many hours later? Are you in a state of panic when you need to tend to other parts of your life, because you feel you're “cheating” on your biz?
If you're being pulled in so many directions your feel like taffy, there's a way to bring some sanity to your work-from-home life.
Boundaries can set you free
You need to create some boundaries that promote separation between your work-from-home biz and the rest of your at-home life. One simple idea is to determine your business hours, a set schedule, and force yourself to stick to them. By doing this, you’ll regulate the amount of time you work in a week and adjust to that schedule. Once it becomes your routine, you'll be conditioned to use that time and energy to get work done. And once you've finished, you can step away into the rest of your life without guilt.
Another good approach is to figure out your Most Important Tasks (MITs) for each day. Keep it to three or less (and only one if you've been very overwhelmed). Commit to doing those first. Once they're done, give yourself permission to stop working if you want. This can work because there will always be more things to do in and on your biz than you can fit in a day. Rather than always feeling buried under a mountain of to-dos, MITs focus you on what will move you furthest toward your goals. And than can be deeply energizing and motivate you to do a bit more – without overload.
2. Structure Your Time to Fit Your Life
As you grow as a work-from-home entrepreneur, you'll develop workflows and a processes. Over time, if you pay attention, you’ll realize what works for you and what doesn’t. Take note of these patterns and create a routine that structures your time to play on your strengths.
What does that look like?
If you realize there’s a time of day that is difficult to be productive, don’t try to force it. You'll likely end up frustrated, and you won't be doing your best work. Use this time for low-focus tasks instead. You might check email, organize your space – or tend to those dishes in the sink.
Likewise, if you find you focus better working in short sprints, set timers and do something else between (walk the dog, dance and dust your way through a room, smell the roses….). If you tend to work best getting through an entire project, make sure you have the time you need. Turn off as many distractions as you can, and use your most productive time for the task at hand.
You can use apps like Toggl to keep track of where you're spending your time. There are also lots of methods, like the Pomodoro Technique, that can promote your productivity.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way of structuring your day as long as it’s a good fit for you and your life.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Switch Up Your Scenery
Just because you’ve decided to work from home doesn’t mean you need to work in the same spot every single day. Opting for a change of scenery every once in awhile can actually help boost productivity and creativity. It can also prevent distractions.
You won’t feel like you’re missing out on a beautiful day if you work from your porch or backyard. You might wander to the window to check out the snowfall multiple times, when you can just sit near a window and peer from time to time.
It's also worth mentioning that being a work-from-home entrepreneur doesn't mean you literally have to work from home. If you use a laptop, phone, or tablet for your biz, you can work anywhere you have a secure internet connection, or even set things up offline when away from home, and finish them later. Getting out of the house can stir up lots of new ideas.
What matters most is that your location inspires you and helps you do your best work.
4. Realize You’re Running the Whole Show as a Work-From-Home Entrepreneur
At some point, you might be terrified to realize that you are your entire team. If you've worked as part of a team, you know you can rationalize a bit of slacking off here and there. Your teammates will cover you, just like you cover them.
But when you’re running the whole show yourself, you alone are responsible for all your successes and failures. Reminding yourself of this through every step of the process will help you to stay motivated and productive during the times you need it most. It might also help you take good care of yourself, because you have no one else to fall back on if you work yourself into burnout or illness.
5. Don’t Talk Yourself Out of Taking Breaks
If you were working in a typical office environment, you might take a walk to the bathroom or the printer, stop to chat with a coworker, or go grab a cup of coffee. In the course of a day, you might have several mini-breaks like this, not including your lunch break.
Don’t deprive yourself of these breaks just because you work from home. You can take a short phone call that isn’t work related or run to the store for lunch. You can load your washing machine, stroll outside to get some fresh air, or listen to a podcast.
If you're feeling guilty, remember that you are human, and these breaks are necessary for your productivity – and your health. An employer who allowed no breaks would be seen as unreasonable. You are your employer; be a reasonable and kind one. You'll have a much happier and more efficient employee as a result. =)
6. Stand Out in Your Industry and Claim Your Excellence
Being an entrepreneur gives you more flexibility than being an employee. Even if you carve out just a few hours each month, take some time to examine your industry and see how you and your business fit into the big picture. Doing this regularly will make a huge difference in your growth as a work-from-home entrepreneur. You'll have the information you need to make decisions and pursue learning that grow your biz and make you even better at what you're terrific at.
And once you see where you are and understand what’s happening in your industry, you’ll be able to figure out what sets you apart from your competitors, and how you can capitalize on it. You can market yourself as the amazing specialist you are, even while you're becoming more amazing!
7. Learn How to Sell Your Work-From-Home Entrepreneur Vision Wherever You Go
Remember that you are your entire marketing team! Don't be afraid to bring your business up around others to spread the word. Look into resources that help you naturally explain your business without sounding like you're trying to make a hard sell. Learning about guerrilla marketing can help you find low or no-cost ways to make your biz the talk of your ideal clients. And just chatting with friends, family, and people you meet about your biz will help, too.
Practice will make you much better, so work on spreading the word whenever you can. If imposter syndrome crops up, remind yourself of what you've already accomplished. Just focus on what you're offering and how it can help people who need it. If you keep at it, it will feel more natural in time.
8. Pay It Forward as a Work-From-Home Entrepreneur
Giving back and paying forward are both keys to success.
One of the best parts of being a work-from-home entrepreneur is the give and take of the process. You're constantly learning by doing. Then, when you interact with others, you can share the wisdom you've gained.
Whether you're donating your expertise or a share of your profits to a worthy cause or sharing tips with someone new to the game, doing your part will benefit you in the long run. And it helps others – a wonderful win-win for everyone!
9. Look for Opportunities to Challenge Yourself as a Work-From-Home Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship will undoubtedly push you out of your comfort zone. That's a great thing; it means you're growing. You have to look for opportunities that will challenge you so that you learn and grow. Do this often enough and you'll find your comfort zone isn't as small as you thought.
What can this look like? It could be investing in a coach, taking a course, or pitching a dream client. You might claim your role as a work-from-home entrepreneur publicly. Or you could give a live workshop, go on a podcast, or even do a TED talk!
The point is to keep stretching your comfort zone. Growth usually isn't comfortable, so if things are too easy in your biz, it might mean you've got lots of room to grow into.
10. Stock up Your Work-From-Home Entrepreneur Toolbox and Put it to Work!
There is a seemingly endless supply of apps and tools out there to help with running your business. Here are a few tools to get you started:
- Trello for organizing projects
- Toggl for tracking time
- Google Docs for document editing and sharing
- Zoom for virtual meetings
- Slack for communicating
Find which ones work best with your business model and work style and use them! You’ll often find it easier than building out and implementing your own systems. It also puts you on even-footing with those out there already using these tools, making working with different people across different projects easier than ever.
Conclusion: Growing as a Work-From-Home Entrepreneur Can Be Done in Simple Steps
While taking these steps may seem daunting at first, they can make you a better work-from-home entrepreneur. They’ll also help you be more productive, which means a more thriving business and a happier you.
Bonus: Here is an interview with three “mompreneurs” who share some extra tips on balancing life and business as a mom.
Are you dreaming of becoming a work-from-home entrepreneur? Do you have a favorite tip? Are you a work-from-home entrepreneur with an idea we missed? We’d love to hear from you!