So you are finally going to do it: Work from your home.
It does not matter whether you are working for someone else or starting your own home-based business, in order to be professional -- and, ultimately, successful -- when working at home you must have a space from which to run your business or do your job. Whether you have a corner in the kitchen or a room dedicated to your professional pursuits, there are some things you need to do:
1. Find a space. Look around your home. Is there a place where you will not be distracted? Does it have adequate electric supply, internet access, and a phone jack? Keep in mind kids coming home from school, dogs barking, and doorbells ringing -- can you tune all of that out?
2. Evaluate the space. How is the light? Desk space? I worked on a folding table for almost a year, with my printer on the floor; I do not recommend this as being efficient. It worked at the time, because it had to. Be realistic; if you like to spread out, don't try and work on a small computer stand. Be sure you have adequate area to store supplies, files, etc.
3. Get another phone line. If you are going to be using the phone all day (like I do in recruiting), then a business-dedicated phone line is a must. I get candidate call-backs at all hours of the day and night; people who do not know I work from home and will call me at 11 p.m. to leave a message, thinking I will get it first thing in the morning. There is nothing worse for the professional image than a 7-year-old answering the phone and carrying on a conversation with a client. My children know the phone on my desk is off limits, I turn the ringer off at the end of my workday when I "leave" the office.
4. Maintain your image. Without an actual business location, your image is all you have. Spend time and money to make your business cards, brochures, and stationery reflect a truly professional operation. This, of course, does not apply if you are working from home for someone else.
5. Get out of the house every day. I got in a rut where I was afraid to be out of range of my email and phone -- I was afraid I might miss something. That is why we have voice mail! You will be so much more productive if you take a break, even if it is just to get the mail or take a walk.
6. Stay involved in outside meetings and activities. Go to relevant seminars and attend training classes in your field whenever possible. Plan lunch dates, check in with customers and prospects. Don't stay trapped in your office with no outside contact.
7. Maintain your supplies. Don't run out every other day for paper, printer cartridges and other supplies -- consider delivery. (I use Staples for all my supplies; their prices are very competitive. They also offer free next-day home delivery -- you cannot beat that!) Keep a running list as you use things up and re-order all at once.
8. Don't get fancy. You don't have to have an elaborate set-up to be efficient and productive. You need to be practical and make the most out of what you have. When I divorced and moved into a much smaller house, I had to reevaluate my office space and went from a large home office to an area on my back porch (it was that or a corner of my bedroom). Neither of these were practical or realistic, so I moved it all to a corner of my living room. I had to adjust my work hours to accommodate my children's schedule and I am now forced to keep it neat and organized (which is a plus). It is not ideal, but I am making what I have work -- and so can you.
No matter what your circumstances, if you decide on working at home, you can be professional and that is half the battle