So you’ve set up your VA business and you may be working from home for the first time. Is it easy? Did you find the transition from being office based ‘away from home’, to being office based ‘at home’ challenging? No? Wow – I wish I’d come to you for some pointers!
However if like me you did, what did you do to overcome any initial difficulties? Do you have a husband (wife), children, animals to look after? Did they expect you to get the housework done, walk the dogs, have the dinner prepared, do odd-jobs around the home whilst they were out? It can be hard adjusting to these situations, having to explain to your loved ones that although you may be at home, you are still at work.
I remember before starting my VA business how I imagined working from home would be – a longer lay-in, leisurely breakfast, being able to attend personal appointments during the week when needed, and the opportunity to do more exercise. Has this happened? No! But if I thought it to begin with, then it’s not really surprising that perhaps family members also think that it’s so much easier to juggle work and home life when you work from home.
So how can you educate family members giving them that distinction between your home life, and your home-office life? Here are my top tips (and if you’ve got another please add your own in the comments section below):
- Separate your office from your home: Not always an easy one if you live in a small apartment, but if at all possible set your office up in a room with a door so you can shut off from everyone and everything during business hours. This also has the added bonus of stopping partners, children and animals from getting under your feet! Keep your space clean and organised so you can work effectively in a clutter-free environment.
- Set your office hours: By establishing set hours for your business it makes it clear to you, your clients and your family when you are working and when you’re not. Make sure this is apparent on your website, business cards, emails and voicemail to avoid any misinterpretation and stick to it! Well we all know in this business a degree of flexibility is important, but to make for an easier home life it’s good to have these boundaries in place from the outset.
- Establish a family routine: If you have children or animals get in to a routine so you and they know when that time is spent together. Walk the dog at the same time each morning and evening, you can always be mulling over a particular Client problem whilst walking, or working on a new social media plan (take your mobile phone with you as most have recording devices so you don’t have to worry about forgetting your thoughts!). When the kids get in from school perhaps spend an hour with them then to catch up on their day, this way they have some of your time before being sent off to do homework whilst you get on with another hour of work.
- Organise and plan your schedules: This is crucial, but I’m guessing that since you’re a VA you’ll be fairly good at organisation and scheduling anyway! Create a project plan / to do list for each day. I use an online PM system which separates my tasks by Client that I add to, edit, or mark complete as I go. I tend to start each week by reviewing it and making any updates that are needed, and then continue to review / tweak on a daily basis to ensure I don’t overlook anything. By creating a work plan, you’ll be able to determine your home time as well.
- Have a business contact number: Make sure your business line and your personal lines are separate. You could install a 2nd (or 3rd) landline into your home, get a business mobile phone or buy a Skype landline number. There are so many cheap ways to have multiple phone numbers that this should be one of the first things you do for your home office.
- Project a business image: OK so I don’t actually do this, but some VAs I’ve chatted with dress like they’re still heading out into the corporate world each morning, even though all they are actually doing is walking from their bedroom down the stairs to their office! But if that works for you to make it clear to your family when you’re in business-mode and when you’re in family-mode, then why not.
- Don’t bring work home: My final point is to absolutely not take work ‘home’. Once you leave your home-office, head to the lounge and relax with your family. Of course if it’s just you and your partner (no kids) then maybe you’ll chat about a troublesome issue, or something not working as you expected or just to share a lovely comment from one of your clients. I’m not expecting you never to discuss work, but make sure you also chat about everyday things as well – it’ll help you get out of work mode and relax before starting the next day managing the office/home juggling act!