It's living the dream, isn't it? Working from home? That's what I'm told often, anyway.
Fact is, for anyone that actually DOES it, they know it is very far from living the dream. Most would call it 'living-the-do-half-as-well-at-everything-nightmare' a lot of the time.
But, on those days that you get it right? Oh yes – it's those times that make me realise I could never go back to working in someone else's schedule.
The easiest thing in the world is to think "I can do that!" and presume that it'll be easy to slot a working day into your usual home life. It won't. But it CAN.
Here's our tips to making it work – we know a lot of our readers run small businesses so please, feel free to add your own comments below.
1. Be Organised
Top of the list. Schedule and plan your day to limit faffing... don't sit down until you are awake and focussed and ready to do some work (getting dressed for work is often the first step of the day still).
Take 20 minutes to clear the kitchen, set the dishwasher going, put the washing on, make your coffee... and ensure biscuits are within reach/out of reach (delete as appropriate).
THEN sit down... It's the equivalent of the commute, the time when your brain shifts gear and stops thinking about PE Kits and starts thinking about today's clients.
2. Give yourself an 'office'.
It doesn't need to be big – I know plenty of people who operate from a table in the space under the stairs. But it does need to be yours. Having to clear your 'work' off the kitchen table before dinner every night doesn't help you stay organised, or help your family see it as 'work' at all. Sitting down in 'your' space immediately focusses the mind.
3. Tell people you are working.
If you are at home, family and friends will presume that you're good for a chat, to drop in on for coffee, to ask if you want to come shopping – none of which they would do if you were 'at work'. They will always mouth a polite "oh, don't want to disturb if you're busy" as they take their coat off and switch your kettle on. You will need to reinforce this one over and over again before the message gets through.
NB – Mothers will never accept this point.
4. Be realistic – and flexible!
You've asked for the 'flexible working', so use it, and make your day work for you. Be productive when you can, and accept when you can't.
You are no longer bound to 9-5 hours – so start your day early, and do your emails before the children get up.
Don't try and work after school, but the evenings are your friend – my mails to small businesses are always replied to fastest between 10pm and midnight.
5. Be honest on the phone, and remember that whoever you are talking to is a human.
Don't pretend to be somewhere you're not – if you work from home, it's half term, and you may be invaded by noisy small people any second then say so at the start of the phone call. No one minds – they've usually done it too.
6. Technology is your (slightly cantankerous) friend.
Take the time to learn it. Not only will this save you a fortune when you can figure things out yourself instead of always paying someone else, it will save you masses of oh-so-precious time too.
7. Embrace social media.
Working from home is a lonely thing – but Twitter is always there for a chat, a giggle, an opinion, a bit of advice or the answer to a question. And your business network will naturally grow as you learn to use it correctly.
Likewise, LinkedIn and Facebook used wisely (keep your personal and business pages separate!) are cheap (aka FREE!) and massively effective marketing tools.
8. Networking is powerful – and starts with a chat.
Whether it's on Twitter, in the playground or at a blogging convention make the time to chat to people. Not to pitch them, or drown them in information – just... chat. You never know who they are, who they know... or even if you just simply made a new friend.
9. Read and learn and learn and read and read and learn.
You can NEVER know too much, but you can always know not-enough.
10. Know when to STOP.
When to just step away. It's so easy to answer just-one-more-query, to do just-one-more-task, check the mails just-one-more-time. And all the while that glorious flexible working you craved to balance your life is dribbling through your fingers.
Is the sun shining? Take a two hour lunch break – sit in the garden and doze in the sun with the grass tickling your toes.
Dark and raining outside? Take half on hour with a cup of coffee and your book by the fire.
Toddler bashing at your elbow (mine used to be a total ninja-master at slipping under my desk and sliding up into my lap in the space of three heartbeats)? Maybe he just wants to go bake some fairy cakes with you.
Partner home for lunch? There are no children about to interrupt the noggin right now...
The work will be there when you get back. The interwebs will not stop spinning if you lift your head out of the screen and go spend the weekend with your family. You're doing the work to create a better life – don't miss out on your life along the way.
The Laura half of LittleStuff - the award-winning blog with the best home, family & lifestyle 'Oooh!' stuff for busy parents. A 70s child, I was married a Very Long Time Ago, and appear to have made four children and collected one large and useless dog along the way.