Most of us have heard about the benefits of working from home: being your own boss, setting your own schedule, having creative freedom, etc. However, there are also some very real and unexpected challenges to working from home. Here is a list of the 10 most common challenges and how to resolve them.
1. Bad time management
When you have a boss hovering over you, you’re less likely to make a personal phone call or update your Facebook status during the workday. Once you become your own boss, though, it’s easy to spend hours doing anything other than work. This also creates the issue of you putting in 24-hour workdays because of your inefficiency. To address the problem, create a daily list of work tasks that you need to accomplish and their respective time deadlines.
Make the schedule comparable to a typical workday (i.e., 9-to-5) schedule. Keeping to that schedule will not only make you more efficient but also stop you from working past midnight each and every day because you accomplished nothing during your 2-hour “Angry Birds” interim.
You weren’t that fond of your old coworkers to begin with, but now you miss them like crazy. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are common when your only employee is you and the family cat or dog is the company VP. To assuage these feelings, join a professional organization and start attending its meetings and socials. Initially, such outreach may feel like a waste of time; however, you’d be amazed at how much such networking can help advance your newfound career. In the process, you’ll make new friends too.
As you’re working on a document for a client, the phone rings. It’s your aunt Theresa. She spends the next hour talking your ear off about her bunion. During that time, your kids create a paper mache right on the living room carpet. While cleaning up their mess, you discover that the kitchen sink is plugged again. And on it goes. While distractions are expected from time to time, they will no doubt hurt your productivity if they occur on an almost daily basis.
Consider “commuting” to your local coffee house or library to get your work done. Make arrangements with your mate regarding childcare or other household responsibilities. It won’t be easy, but if you don’t make your work time a priority, neither will anyone one else.
4. Relatives/friends that don’t “get” it
Your relatives/friends may have heard that you were working at home, but they only understood the “at home” part. Suddenly, your workday is filled with casual phone calls and drop-ins from curious neighbors and relations. Your workday is also increasingly filled with doing tiny favors for these passersby- even those who already are at home during the day! Nip this problem in the bud by establishing boundaries early on and learning to say NO.
If you receive a phone call from your friend at 2PM, calmly thank her for the call and then offer to call her back at 6PM. If a neighbor asks you to help him fix his lawnmower, say that you’re on a deadline and will be happy to offer help later that day. Don’t let guilt get the better part of your judgment on these matters; you are not the only person in the world who can answer a phone or help with a lawnmower!
It’s 4PM and you’re still in your bathrobe. You can’t remember the last time you read a good book or used your treadmill. Frankly, the only part of “social” that you understand anymore is your social media campaign. Clients, deadlines and never ending business tasks can take up your day and night to the point where you start neglecting yourself and your health. Likewise, many stay-at-home entrepreneurs become stuck doing more than their fair share of childcare, cooking and housework. Get to the heart of this issue by not overbooking yourself and by putting yourself first. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from others (maybe those relatives/friends who keep pestering you during your work hours?).
6. Lack of funds
Your work at home job, just like any business venture, requires start up capital. Computers, printers, virtual assistants, software and fax machines don’t come cheap. However, you can drastically reduce the amount of money spent on your at-home business if you know where to look. For example, Mail Chimp allows you to create and launch email marketing campaigns for free. The organization SCORE has over 13,000 volunteers who can offer you free business advice and strategy. For cheaper computer equipment, try going to Geeks.com, Ebay or eCOST.com.
You spend the entire night finishing a project for a client only to have that client reject your work. Your website crashes, your sold products are returned to you, and half of your promotional emails get marked as spam. Expect these things to occur and don’t become too discouraged. Also, don’t forget that even work at home workers need occasional personal and vacation days. Take some time off to re-energize yourself, then hit the ground running.
8. Being the Jack/Jill of all trades
Back when you worked for someone else, a broken computer was instantly taken care of by your IT department. Marketing added glossy photos to your presentations and a team of proofreaders ensured that your content was perfect in terms of spelling and grammar. If additional skills were required of you, the company footed the bill and had you trained. However, when you’re on your own, there is no one but you to fix your computer, find top-notch photos and correct all your writing errors. Having to suddenly do everything on your own can be overwhelming.
Furthermore, you don’t have the time or money for never-ending training. Instead of wasting an entire day wondering how to delete a page on your WordPress site, hire a contractor from Project4Hire, eLance or oDesk. Many of these freelance professionals are the best in their fields and can be hired at very affordable rates.
9. No motivation
So, you’ve managed to land a high-paying client and plan her content marketing strategy to a T. Now that it’s up to you to write that content, you suddenly aren’t interested in the project. Alternately, you’ve already written 100 articles about how widget A is better than widget B and can’t even bear to think about widgets without stabbing someone with widget A/B. To resolve this issue, you can hire another contractor to take over your project until you regain inspiration.
Alternately, if the project no longer suits you, consider why and take a lesson from that insight. Maybe you want to utilize a different skill set, or maybe you don’t see much promise in the project anymore. Whatever the realization, this knowledge can be quite valuable to both you and your clients.
10. Lack of work
At your company, the salespeople were responsible for always drumming up new business and finding fresh clients. When you’re on your own, YOU are the one responsible for finding new and repeat business. No matter how long your current clients have been with you, never assume that these relationships will last forever. You must always be promoting yourself and finding new opportunities for work. Again, this is also why you need to go out and network (i.e., socialize) on your behalf.