Keeping the "Business" in Your Home Business
Five Tips to Maintaining a Professional Home-Based Business
Aside from keeping your own hours, one of the best parts of working at home is the casual atmosphere. I've always felt that working in my fuzzy slippers is one of the major perks of running a home-based business.
Of course, on the flip side of this behind-the-scenes casualness, there simply has to be an overt professionalism that you maintain with your clients. They don't need to know you're in fuzzy slippers-let alone pink ones that oink-but they do need to know they can count on you entirely to perform a job with integrity and professionalism.
Here are few ways to establish and maintain this kind of professionalism while thoroughly enjoying all the perks of working at home:
1. Be Available and Time Flexible
Even though you have the benefit of creating your own work schedule, it's important to try to maintain some regular availability for your clients. This doesn't have to mean you're rigidly tied to your desk from 9 to 5. Maybe you perform most of your work tasks in the evenings when your toddler is sleeping. Even so, make a point to routinely check your voicemail and email during regular business hours in case something critical comes up for your clients. Your associates, most likely working a standard 9 to 5, will feel more secure working with you if they know they can reach you in an emergency.
2. Put Your Best "Professional" Foot Forward
When you're working at home, go all out with the casual attire. Wear your holey sweats or your lucky Led Zeppelin T-shirt if you want. However, the minute you take your business in front of a client or potential client, all the rules of the work world are in effect again. This applies not only to your attire and appearance, but it applies to your business collateral like business cards, brochures, forms, contracts or anything that will land in your clients' hands and represent your business. This also means when you take your business "on the road" or to a client meeting, you should be organized and have all the information and paperwork you need to execute your business without a hitch.
3. Stay Financially Fit
It's very important to keep your business financially fit at all times. Not only do you need to pay every bill, invoice and tax bill on time, but you also need to be able to retrieve important financial records on demand. If you can't hand over an invoice number or total on request, your client might start to lose faith in your financial competence. So get financially organized by investing in good financial software like QuickBooksÃƒƒÃ†’Ãƒ¯¿½® and by working closely with a respected accountant-even if you just use one for standard advice and problem solving.
4. Keep Your Business Cutting Edge
In order to keep the technical confidence of your clients, they need to know your business is up to date with the latest in computer electronics. Keep your tech equipment and software current and stay savvy with the latest tools that will keep your business performing alongside the top contenders in your industry. Invest in a website and a reliable back-up system and subscribe to industry and applicable techy newsletters to stay in sync with the latest and greatest. There are also loads of online and offline tools and remote access tools that can keep your business performance on top. Another area in which you'll want to invest, unless you're highly technical yourself, is in reliable computer support. Know where you can get quick, on-demand computer help if you should need it. Even one day without a computer can put a major damper on business and client confidence.
5. Stay Connected
Aside from the computer realm, plan to stay connected in your business community and industry-locally and online. Network with and read about other successful professionals, join your local Chamber or other business association and attend applicable conferences and seminars. There's no better way to stay informed about the goings-on in the business world. This is a great place to get referrals too!
Most successful home-based business owners believe they are living the work/life dream. After all, working at home awards them the best of both worlds-the best at work and the best at home. Of course, to stay successful on the work side, it's essential to keep all aspects of professionalism at the forefront. That way, no one will ever have to know you (and your pink slippered feet) are having so much fun living your well-balanced work/life dream!
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