Next week is Small Business Advice Week, and this got me thinking about when I started my business over six years ago. I still run my business from home and never once has the fact that my office is based in my back garden been a barrier to achieving new clients or new global licensing deals. Your office address is just words on the bottom of your headed notepaper or your invoice. What really counts isn't where you conduct your business, but how you conduct it.
Apart from physically attending an office for a meeting, what other aspects of your offering would indicate to your clients or prospects that you are a home-based one-man band, or an office of 20 people? The reality is that most of that 'impression' can be generated virtually, without any need for a physical office. From a virtual office address to a professional telephone answering service, to a virtual assistant, you can decide exactly what impression you want to portray and find flexible solutions that help you to achieve that. No one will ever know that you just conducted that important telephone meeting with a global customer in your pyjamas from your living room, via a call taken by your virtual receptionist who lives 100 miles away!
Working practices in business are getting more flexible by the day, so being available during the traditional 9-5, 5 days a week, is no longer a prerequisite to running a successful business. Whether you are more focused in the daytime or work better at night, create a working schedule that best suits YOU. If the kids are going to be running riot between the hours of 2.45pm-6.45pm, don't schedule in calls during those times, then have to worry about making excuses for the noise in the background! Perhaps working between the school run or in the evening when the children have gone to bed are better times? Whatever your preferred pattern, create your working day around it and make sure you communicate this with your clients/suppliers so that they know the best time to contact you. If you don't want to work on Fridays, then simply ensure you let people know you are unavailable for meetings that day, but don't expect your clients not to call you or deadlines not to be set if you don't let people know it doesn't work for you.
Working from home doesn't mean that you still don't need to structure your time and take breaks every now and then! Suffering from burnout can be a bigger problem when you working from home, as there aren't often the distractions and social conversations and designated lunch breaks that exist in a bigger office. Too much work and no play could mean that you end up making mistakes and affecting that all important customer service delivery that I mentioned above. This has nothing to do with the physical office environment and everything to do with your mindset and physical wellbeing. If you get that cloudy brain moment, just stop. Go make yourself a coffee, take a breather in the garden or do something personal. Then return to your work refocused and ready carry on delivering that top quality service that your clients have come to expect from you!