Last Updated October 22nd, 2018

5 Common Work At Home Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

5 Common Work At Home Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Most people make some mistakes when they’re working at home. There’s a learning curve, easier for some than for others. A part of the problem has to do with common misconceptions about working at home. Still, if you’re aware of the more common work at home mistakes, you may be able to avoid them.

You can make these work at home mistakes whether you’re self employed or work for someone else. It doesn’t matter who sets the rules or determines what hours you need to work. What matters is how these mistakes impact the productivity of your work at home day.

work at home childcare

1. Too Little Childcare

Most parents who work at home do so specifically because they don’t want to use childcare. They have visions of working at home and being a good parent at the same time.

The problem is that this doesn’t always work. It works better for some than for others, but most people who work at home have times where they really need someone else watching the kids.

That even goes for me. My best work hours are when my husband can watch the kids, or they’re asleep. It’s hard working when they’re awake and needing my attention. It’s not that I use the phone in my work and need quiet – they’re just distracting.

Be realistic about any childcare needs you may have when you work at home. Make sure you schedule calls or meetings at times when the kids won’t be an issue. You don’t necessarily need to hire someone to care for your child, but you do need to make sure you can appear as professional as necessary.

You may not need to get this perfect. There are circumstances when people will be very understanding if you say you’re a work at home mom or dad. Other times this may not be so. Be very aware of the image you present to your managers, supervisors, and/or clients. It can make a huge difference.

What About When The Kids Are Sick?

It can be extra difficult to work at home when the kids are sick. They may actually need you at times that you’re supposed to be working. What then?

How you deal with this depends on your family’s situation. Don’t assume that just because you’re the work at home parent that you’re the only choice to deal with a sick child. You may not be.

Sure, if your child doesn’t need you all that badly but does need to stay at home for the day, you may be able to keep working as normal. It’s one of the advantages of working at home.

But if a day off work is necessary, think about which parent can afford that. It may not always be the work at home parent. Sometimes you’ll be the one who can’t get off work, and the work outside the home spouse will need to care for the sick child.

cat computer work at home

2. You Allow Yourself Too Many Distractions

You’re home, the TV’s there, you’re online, what distractions will you resist? You may believe that you can work while you watch a favorite show, but can you really? How much will it slow you down? And can you resist when the dog is being so cute?

And then there’s the house.

The house just gets to be a mess sometimes, doesn’t it? Especially if you have kids around. It’s way too easy to take some time out to make your house look a little better when you ought to be earning a living.

Moving a bit of laundry quickly probably isn’t so bad, although folding it may take more time than you ought to give during your workday.

The problem comes in when you do too many household chores at the wrong time. If the laundry needs to be done that day, try to work around it without allowing it to take over what should have been your work hours. It’s your balance to strike – only you know if you can stand the extra wrinkles in the clothes if you don’t fold the laundry right away or if you’ll lose less time overall by folding them immediately.

Limit the distractions, and you’ll be much more productive. Pick the times you allow them wisely.

This can be best handled by creating a work at home schedule for yourself. Set aside times for the things that might otherwise be distractions. You can make a block of time where you can play with the cat, walk the dog, or have fun with the kids.

Some Distractions Are Okay

You don’t have to work in perfect silence if your work doesn’t require it. Appropriate distractions can help.

Many people like to listen to music as they work, for example. They may even find that it helps with productivity.

If there’s an emergency in your home, obviously you want to be distracted from work to deal with that as well. Teach your family when it’s okay to distract you from work and when to leave you alone.

work at home too much

3. Working Too Much

While you want to look professional, there is such a thing as working too much. Work hours are work hours, family or personal time are yours. Give yourself enough hours away from work to recover and enjoy your life.

Don’t forget to take breaks too. 15 minutes to refresh yourself every couple hours can give your productivity a boost. Just because your work at home hours are flexible doesn’t mean you have to work them straight through. That’s a bad idea.

The right amount of work depends on the needs of your job or business and the income you need to earn. Don’t treat yourself worse than you’d allow an employer to treat you. There may be times where you have to work a ton of hours, but don’t do that to yourself all the time.

Starting up a business, it’s not that uncommon to hear of people putting in 12-16 hours a day or even more. They want success that bad. It’s rough, but sometimes it’s what has to be done.

But you can overdo that. Some people burn out from working so many hours. That’s not good for your home business, no matter how badly you need to succeed.

Take at least one day off every week, and preferably two. Spend time doing things other than working. Have fun.

A comfortable home office with a door can help with this. When you’re outside of work hours, close that door and do not go back to work until it’s time. That physical separation between home and work can help in many ways.

The Flip Side

The flip side of this is taking too many breaks.

I don’t just mean the kind of breaks where you walk away from your computer. I also mean when you spend a little time on social media in the middle of your day, or play a game for a few minutes.

How quickly do those things add up?

Think about it. And be smart about your breaks.

work at home professional

4. Not Expecting To Be Treated As A Professional

Many work at home parents feel as though other people don’t treat them as serious professionals. Sometimes it’s that other people can have trouble recognizing that working from home is just as serious as working outside of it – it took my mother-in-law years, but she gets it now. Other times it’s that you don’t appear to take your work hours seriously, so why should others do so?

Be a professional. Don’t be the one everyone turns to when their kids are sick unless your work hours really allow you to do that. Do the favors that you would be able to do if you had an outside the home job, not the ones that take away from your work hours and income.

This includes your family. While you want to be there for them, do your best to keep your work and their needs balanced. As mentioned above, this can include paid childcare.

If it helps you to dress professionally to feel professional, then do it! There’s nothing wrong with dressing professionally even if no one is going to see you. On the other hand, if you can be productive in everyday clothes, that’s fine too. Dress in whatever way makes it easier for you to act the professional you are and be productive.

Are Pajamas A Mistake?

Some people will swear that the ability to work in your pajamas is one of the great things about working from home. Others consider it to be one of the worst work at home mistakes you can make. Which is it?

That depends on you.

Can you be productive in your pajamas?

Will you feel like taking a nap because they’re so comfy?

Will your boss or clients see you in them?

Think about all of the things that could go wrong because you wore your pajamas while working at home? Is any of it significant in your case?

If you can be productive while wearing pajamas and no one will see you, go for it! But if wearing PJs while you work at home will cause you problems, dress a little nicer.

work at home technology

5. You Don’t Take Enough Advantage Of Technology

You work at home. You’re online all the time. How much more advantage could you be taking of modern technology in your work?

Possibly plenty!

Upping your tech game doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. Many of the things you can do to make your work at home time better aren’t difficult at all.

For example, if you don’t have a separate phone number for your home business, it’s easy to get one without having a new phone line installed. Sign up with a VOIP provider, and you’ll have a phone number completely separate from your home phone.

I use Google Voice because it’s free and I rarely need to make or receive calls in my business. If you’ll be making a lot of calls, you may need a better service, but Google Voice suits my needs.

You should also have automatic backups set for your data, especially the important stuff. There are lots of cloud backup companies that will help keep your data safe, even if your home is destroyed in a disaster.

I also suggest keeping a local backup. A 1-2 TB external backup drive doesn’t cost a fortune, and gives you a copy of your data in your home for in case your computer dies. It’s nice to know that you won’t have to download all of your data unless things go really, really wrong.

Can You Be Productive Away From Home?

One of the things people tout about working from home is the ability to get away from home and keep working. Coffee shops and coworking spaces are popular options. But are they right for you?

This depends on the work you do and how well you cope with the possible distractions.

Coffee shops and other such places are potential workspaces because technology makes them so. You bring your laptop and connect to their wifi or your data plan, and work just like you would at home.

Or do you?

If you want to work away from home, be sure that you will keep focused on work, not on socializing. Just because technology makes it possible doesn’t mean you should do it. But if it helps, do it!

Don’t Let Work At Home Mistakes Stop You

If you’ve come to realize that you’re making a lot of mistakes while working at home, don’t feel bad. Most of us make mistakes, especially when learning how to deal with working at home.

What matters is how you deal with your mistakes after making them.

It doesn’t matter if you feel as though you’ve gone through the work at home school of hard knocks or if you’ve had a relatively easy time of it. What matters is that you keep going. You haven’t completely failed until you give up, and even then, you can move onto something else and still succeed.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 17th, 2018

So You Can’t Work From Home Stuffing Envelopes. What Can You Do?

So You Can't Work From Home Stuffing Envelopes. What Can You Do?

What comes to mind first when you think about work at home jobs? Some people still think of the classic envelope stuffing and data entry jobs, even though those are more likely to be scams than not. There are very few companies that legitimately need employees for such jobs. You really can’t work from home stuffing envelopes.

Fortunately, there are lots more work from home jobs you can do, even if you don’t have a lot of experience.

There’s So Much Out There

The first thing you have to do is quit assuming that there are only a few kinds of work from home opportunities out there. It’s just not true.

In fact, not as many people think to look for ways to work from home stuffing envelopes as did back when I started this site. It used to be a common question. I still hear it once in a while, but not like I used to. There’s more awareness of the many possibilities out there. Work from home opportunities aren’t all low level, low paying jobs.

While lots of companies refuse to allow employees to work from home, many do, so long as the job is something that can be done remotely. Once you start looking, you may be amazed by all of the jobs that can be done from home. There are even entry level remote jobs out there.

Better yet, some companies offer benefits to their remote employees, just as they do for those who work in the office. You won’t get benefits if you’re a contract employee, and few give them to part time employees, but if you’re full time, you have good odds of getting benefits.

If you have job experience, just do a search to find out if people are doing the same work remotely. You might be surprised.

If you don’t have experience, take a look at how many possibilities there are. You may have to get some training and/or experience to qualify for some jobs, such as medical coding, medical transcription, software development and so forth, but that’s true if you work outside the home as well.

online job boards

Job Boards

Many job boards have work at home jobs listed, even if they don’t specialize in them. They may allow you to select “remote” as a location in your searches to help you find such jobs.

The challenge when using any job board is avoiding the scams. Scams are incredibly difficult to avoid, although you can catch the signs of a work at home scam if you’re alert. Some are sneaky, and it may be difficult to catch on until the interview, but there are often warning signs of work at home scams.

There is a remote job board here on this site. I do my best to keep it free of scams, but I have no doubt that I’m not perfect at screening them. New work at home job leads are added weekly, and I like to think you’ll find it a useful resource.

Freelance Job Websites

It’s also a good idea to check out freelance job websites such as Upwork,  as well as any of the many other freelance websites out there. They can be competitive, of course, but they also give you access to a lot of leads.

Freelancing doesn’t sound appealing to everyone. You have to keep looking for clients rather than having a single employer, and that may be a pain. But it has advantages too. You may be able to get a small project or so while looking for more steady work. You can use it to build your resume.

It also may not be as different from working from an employer at home as you may think. Many home based jobs are considered contract positions… not always accurately according to the IRS, so be careful. That means you have a lot of freedom as to when and how you get your work done, so long as it gets done. It also means you need to understand your tax position so you get it right when they come due.

Don’t assume that freelance writing is your only option. That’s far from the truth. While there are tons of opportunities out there for freelance writers, there are many other freelance businesses you can start.

Freelancing is not an instant solution for most people. It takes time to build trust with enough clients and to build a solid reputation.

The advantage to freelancing is that you can do it at the same time as you do other work. You don’t have to be otherwise unemployed. Freelancing can be a side gig until you’re successful enough to make it your regular income.

start home business

Start Your Own Business

It’s almost cliche, but not all work at home has to be a job. You can start a business, whether you join a network marketing opportunity, make and sell your own crafts, start a daycare, start a blog or something else altogether. Starting a business of any sort is risky, but it can be worth the risk.

Any business you start is going to require some new skills. It doesn’t matter how well you know the basics of whatever your business is or how much you love it all, you’ll be learning all kinds of new things too. It won’t always be easy or fun, but if you succeed, even the tough times will be worth it.

There is so much that goes into starting any home business. Blogging is popular because it sounds so easy, for example, but it’s not as simple as many think. Neither is network marketing. Both have a lot of people trumpeting how easy they are, and a lot of people struggling to make it happen.

Of the two, I prefer blogging. It’s affordable and you don’t have to press friends and family to buy from you. It takes relatively little effort to start a blog, and from there you can figure out if it’s for you. If not, you don’t have a ton of leftover products to sell or use.

If you want to go into network marketing, make sure you get all the facts you can about any opportunities you consider. Don’t just glance at a quick fact sheet on the opportunity. Find out what you can about the churn rate of distributors. See if they include distributors who aren’t earning any commissions at all. Some studies have shown that 99% of MLM distributors lose money. Are you ready for that risk?

If you decide to start a home business – any home business – remember that they all come with risks. No business is a sure thing. You will need to work hard even when things aren’t going right. That’s just the way it is. But you don’t have to accept an excessive amount of risk if you don’t want to.

 

Turn Your Current Job Remote

This one is a long shot if your current employer doesn’t already have a policy allowing employees to work remotely. If you can make it happen, however, it’s one of the safest ways to work at home.

No worries about scams.

No fears that your own business will fail.

But all that doesn’t mean it’s free from risk.

The big risk is that you will become invisible to your employer. They don’t see you work, so they don’t consider you for promotions. It can mess with your career path if you aren’t good at bringing attention to your accomplishments.

Employers can also suddenly change their minds about allowing employees to telecommute. They can haul you back into the office at any point they want.

If you decide to telecommute from your current job, make sure you know how you will keep in contact with your employers and coworkers. Make sure you understand all the policies you will be working under. Be super productive so they have no doubts that you can keep doing the job no matter where you are.

work remote

Free Yourself From Your Work From Home Assumptions

The notion that stuffing envelopes is a possible work from home opportunity isn’t the only bad assumption people make about working from home. They also make incorrect assumptions about what working from home is like.

If you haven’t worked from home before, prepare for the challenges. It’s both easier and more difficult than you think.

The easier part comes in once you get things going and you know what you’re doing. You’re connected to your employer if necessary, and you know what needs done. No commute. No boss looking over your shoulder. When you need a snack, you can raid your own refrigerator and not worry that a coworker has stolen your lunch. It can be amazing.

It can also be pure torture.

Many of the challenges you’ll face when you work at home depend on your particular situation. If you don’t have kids, for example, you don’t have to worry about distracting them. Too bad there are so many other possible distractions. Just consider these:

  • social media
  • email
  • online chat apps
  • texting
  • the whole $&%# internet!
  • television/streaming
  • household chores
  • pets
  • kids
  • spouse
  • other family members
  • friends
  • the gym
  • naptime
  • neighborhood noises
  • clutter
  • procrastination
  • isolation

You might be surprised by how much some of these can affect you.

Isolation, in particular, can be bad when you work at home. It’s not an easy thing to lock yourself away in your home office to work all day. If you want to be productive, that’s often what it takes, yet feeling isolated can make you less productive.

Be prepared to face the fact that working from home does not work for everyone. Some people are much happier working in an office with coworkers all around.

If that turns out to be the case for you, that’s fine. You tried, and you learned something about yourself. It’s okay to choose to go back to working outside the home.

But if you continue to work at home, make sure you learn to deal with the distractions and the challenges. Many people find working from home to be highly satisfactory. The only way to find out if it works for you is to give it a try.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 8th, 2018

What Remote Work Skills Do Employers Want?

What Remote Work Skills Do Employers Want?

Remote jobs can be highly demanding. Not only do you have to do the job competently, but you also have to deal with all the distractions of being at home or wherever else you work. If you don’t have the skills to deal with these challenges, you won’t do well. Employers know that. So what remote work skills do employers want, and how can you demonstrate them?

Demonstrating great remote work skills is one of the keys to landing a legitimate work at home job. The more of these you can demonstrate to a potential employer, the better your chances will be.

All The Regular Skills Of The Job

The skills required of the job itself are the same as if you work in the office. If you don’t have what it takes to do the job in an office with all your coworkers, you certainly don’t have what it takes to work remotely.

Employers may offer training for some of these skills. Sometimes this training will take place in the office, which is one of the reasons why it can matter where you live.

Regardless of how much training they provide, there will be some expectations for skills you already have. Customer service jobs, for example, will expect you to have a good phone voice and some experience dealing with customers. A software developer position will require you to know the right programming language.

If you don’t have at least most of the skills listed in the job description, you probably shouldn’t apply for the remote position. As with any other job, it’s something of a wishlist from the employer, but you must be sufficiently qualified for the position that the employer is comfortable with the things you will need to learn.

These skills should be clearly mentioned in your resume, and you should be ready to discuss them in an interview. A potential employer may require that you demonstrate a particular skill as well.

technology skills

Technology Skills

You don’t have to be in a high tech job from home to need some solid technology skills. Your employer will not be willing to teach you the basics of how to use your computer, even in an entry level job. They will expect that you can use your computer competently.

This may include some basic troubleshooting. Your employer will not hold your hand through simple problems. You may have to notify them if a problem limits your ability to work for a time, but if the problem is on your end, you should have some notion of what to do, even if all you can do is call your ISP.

If a potential employer asks about your technical skills, talk about times you have handled a problem with your computer. It doesn’t have to be something big – most people have not taken their computer apart to fix a problem – but you should show that you know what to do about a computer crash, a virus or other common computer problems.

Your computer should be up to date, of course, with appropriate security software. You should also have a high speed internet connection. Some employers may require that you have a wired connection rather than wifi for security reasons.

If your interview is via Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure your computer is completely set up for a video chat. Test it with a friend or family member who can do a practice chat with you. You don’t want to look bad by finding out that your video camera or microphone isn’t working right. Prepare beforehand so you can troubleshoot any technical difficulties before the interview.

communication skills

Communication Skills

Keeping in communication with your employer and coworkers is one of the most important remote work skills. Just how important depends on the kind of work you’re doing.

If you’re a transcriptionist, for example, much of your communication will have to do with feedback from QA, updating your schedule, and attending required trainings.

If you’re working as a software developer, on the other hand, you may be in near constant communication. This is why many remote teams use Slack and other programs to keep in communication. It’s necessary. You need to know immediately when something is changed.

In all cases, you will need the ability to communicate clearly through email and/or chat. If you cannot express yourself clearly this way, you will have a lot of trouble working remotely.

The biggest challenge you may face with remote communication is that it’s asynchronous. It’s not like when you’re talking face to face or on the phone. When something is emailed or posted to Slack or a group chat, the rest of the group may not respond right away.

This makes it important to know if there are certain times of the day when you are expected to check in on Slack or elsewhere. You don’t want to miss out on vital information about the project you’re working on. Attending online meetings and checking in regularly is vital.

Employers may consider what they can see of your communications skills throughout the interview process, as well as consider the skills you’ve used in other jobs. If you’re awkward about talking to a potential employer on the phone, they will probably have doubts about your ability to talk to customers that same way.

time management

Time Management Skills

Time management can be especially difficult for remote employees. It’s far too easy to start a little late when you don’t have to make it to the office. It’s also easy to let distractions decrease your productivity.

If you have good time management skills, you can be even more productive as a remote employee than you would be at the office. Employers know this and expect it.

There are a variety of time management techniques you can use. The right technique is the one that works for you and your job. Here are some to consider:

Whichever time management technique you use, make sure that you get the most important things done during your workday. Showing an understanding of priorities is a big part of using your time wisely.

One big mistake people make is trying to multitask. As a general rule, it doesn’t work. Multitasking can make you less productive.

Instead, focus on one thing at a time whenever possible. Get that thing done before you move onto something else.

critical thinking

Critical Thinking Skills

As a remote worker, you will need to come up with solutions to problems on your own. This makes critical thinking skills vital.

There may be times when you have to get help from a coworker or supervisor, but you need to know when it’s okay to get help versus handle things on your own. No one will be happy to hear from you about problems you should have handled quietly on your own. They’ll be even less happy if you try to handle something on your own that you should have gotten help with.

It can take time to learn the difference.

You can show critical thinking skills in an interview by figuring out what kind of critical thinking the employer wants to see. If you’re expected to analyze data, bring up an example of how you do that.

Any time you’ve solved a problem at a different job can be an example of critical thinking. The best examples to use in an interview are the ones most closely related to what the new job wants from you.

An interviewer may also ask you to demonstrate critical thinking skills by solving a hypothetical problem. Most will be more interested in how you came up with a solution rather than in seeing you come up with a particular one. Be ready to explain how you solve such problems.

organization

Organization Skills

Keeping things organized is key to successful remote work. You don’t want your work files all mixed in with your personal stuff, and you certainly don’t want to accidentally share personal things with your boss or coworkers.

With many remote jobs, a lot of being organized comes down to how you keep things on your computer or the company server. There are a lot of options the company may use.

They might use Google Drive or Dropbox for shared files, for example. Trello, Asana, or Basecamp may be used for project management.

If you have experience with these tools, they may be worth mentioning as a part of how you kept a project organized. Employers need to know if you have familiarity with the tools they prefer to keep employees organized and in contact.

self-motivation

Self Motivation

A remote employee has to be self motivated. You don’t have a supervisor who can come and look over your shoulder while you work. Your employer may or may not notice right away if you’re working as much as you should.

You know who should notice?

You.

As a remote worker, you have to motivate yourself to get the job done, no matter the distractions around you. If you have a strict schedule, you need to stick to it. If the only thing that matters is that you get the job done on time, you get the job done on time.

To show a potential employer that you’re self motivated, you need to give examples.

Start with the parts of the job that interest you. You could express your enthusiasm for the products the company offers, for example. You can also discuss any experience you already have in the industry and how that will help you in the job.

If you have been in the industry for a while, discuss any special training you’ve had, conferences you’ve been to, and so forth. This shows that you’re motivated to learn more about the industry and keep up to date on what’s happening in it.

Training you’ve acquired on your own rather than waiting for an employer to provide it can show a lot of self motivation. If you can talk about a skill you learned because you realized that you needed it, do so.

If you have experience working remotely, you can use this to show self motivation as well. Remote employers often prefer people who have worked remotely before and are familiar with the challenges.

adaptability

Adaptability

Remote workers may have to deal with a lot of changing situations. It can be greatly different from working in an office where everyone works more or less the same hours, and if you need to talk to someone, you can go find them.

For one thing, your coworkers may be spread out around the world. You may not all speak the same language. Sometimes things will go wrong for you that aren’t affecting your coworkers, and vice versa. Other times you may have to help bring a new coworker up to speed.

You must be able to deal with all these situations.

If your internet goes down, for example, you should know how to alert your employer to the problem, set things in motion to get it fixed, and if it will be down a significant time, know what you can do so that you will still be productive.

Often enough, this means having a Plan B in place.

An alternative place to work, for example, will help you if your internet is out. Spending the day in a coworking space can give you internet access when your home internet will be out for hours.

Language barriers can be a significant problem, but employers may have something in place to help. There may be a language in common as a job requirement, for example. There may still be difficulties due to misunderstandings, and you should be prepared to deal with such issues as best you may.

focus

Focus

A good remote worker knows how to focus despite all the distractions of being remote. Just as you have to keep your socialization with coworkers to a reasonable level when you work in an office with them, you need to keep focus on your work when you’re remote.

There will be distractions, even if you’re alone. At the very least, there will be the temptation to surf the internet, binge watch a favorite show or otherwise goof around.

It can help to know what time of day you’re most capable of being focused. This may be the time that you think most clearly, or when you can get everyone else out of the house so that they don’t distract you. Planning your work at home schedule around this is a huge help.

When possible, do your most important work when you can be the most focused on it. Depending on the job, this may not be possible, but do the best you can.

Remember that your focus can be improved by taking appropriate breaks. A 5-15 minute break every few hours allows your brain to relax. It also gives your eyes a chance to look somewhere other than the computer screen, which helps them relax as well.

Taking breaks may seem like time lost when you’re in crunch mode, but they can actually improve your focus and help you get done sooner. Don’t skip them.

time zones

Awareness Of Time Zones

Time zones can be a significant challenge if you’re a part of a remote team, especially if the team is distributed worldwide. If you can’t cope with time zones, you won’t impress a potential employer.

Let’s say your phone or Google Hangouts interview is at 1 p.m. EST, but you’re in Colorado. Do you know what time your interview will be at locally?

You’d better, or you’ll miss it.

When you know your team crosses time zones, you must remember to include the time zone when scheduling meetings, and taking the differences into account. A time that is convenient for you may be late night for someone else. If that’s not routine for the position, you’ll annoy a lot of people.

Obviously, if the team is worldwide, you won’t always be able to have meetings at times that are convenient for everyone. It’s quite possible that the inconvenient times may fall on you.

Be ready for the fact that some meetings will occur at a time that is best for people elsewhere in the world but not for you. In some remote jobs, this is a fact of life.

Other times, the difference will be a matter of just a few hours, but that difference is vital in scheduling. A 4 p.m. PST meeting isn’t going to make people in an EST zone very happy unless they usually work that late.

work-life balance

Work-Life Balance

Maintaining your work-life balance can be challenging when you work at home. They have a way of inching into each other.

Kids and pets wander into your home office when you’re working. You have trouble leaving work alone when you should be focusing on your family. The quality of your work suffers.

These days even people who work in an office can have this problem, as smartphones and email make it so easy to keep in touch with home and work no matter where you are. But when you work remotely, maintaining those boundaries makes an even bigger difference because home and work are in the same place.

Having a comfortable home office with a door you can close is one of the easiest ways to keep a boundary between your home life and your professional life. Teach the rest of your family that when you’re in there, they need to let you work.

Then, when you come out of the office and are done for the day, be done. Don’t go back to work and ignore everyone. Your family needs you too.

Having good work-life boundaries keeps you fresher when you work. You aren’t so stressed from having too little time with your family.

professional

Professionalism

A lot of different things go into showing professionalism when you work remotely. How you’re dressed won’t matter to anyone but you unless you do a video chat. Instead, you show professionalism in other ways.

A part of this is simply getting your work done on time and getting the job done right. No one will consider you a professional if everyone else has to constantly correct your mistakes.

It’s also more professional if you do a good job of keeping your home life and work life separated. While many people understand if your children come into your office while you’re working, it won’t look good if that happens every time you’re talking to someone on the phone or on Skype.

Showing professionalism during an interview is vital. If there’s one time you need to show that you can keep your office free from the distractions of being at home, this is it. A child or your spouse coming over to interrupt your interview tells the potential employer that you will have a lot of distractions while you work, and so might not be as productive as another employee.

You don’t want that.

If you’re being interviewed on video using software such as Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure your home office is clean. You don’t want a mess behind you to give a potential employer a poor impression of you.

If you don’t have a home office, of course, make sure that whatever part of your home you’re using during the interview is neat and clean.

Keep Building Your Remote Work Skills

No matter how happy you are with your remote work skills, there’s always something you can improve.

Some things will be obvious, such as the need to keep up in your field. No employer will be happy if you let the skills you need for the job go out of date.

Other things you may have to recognize for yourself. If you find that you aren’t as focused as you should be when you’re working, that’s an issue you need to handle. Same for if you realize that you’re getting disorganized in your work.

Sometimes this is as simple as taking a class. Other times you will need to find a way to improve a problem on your own. There are a lot of books on self motivation and such that may help.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 2nd, 2018

How to Create A Kickass Work At Home Mom Schedule

How to Create A Kickass Work At Home Mom Schedule

Being a work at home mom is more challenging than many people imagine. Sure, you can always be there for your kids, but then again, you’re ALWAYS there for your kids. It can get in the way of being productive. How do you find that balance that makes a kickass work at home mom schedule happen?

It’s not always easy. A kid gets sick, the fridge breaks down, and will the phone ever stop ringing? What is that smell? And when the kids are little, there’s always something more they need. When they get bigger, they give you new worries.

But for normal work at home days, you need to set up a routine. Something that helps you be productive at work as well and lets you be a mom when you need to be.

Sometimes your work at home mom schedule will be set for you by your employer. If they say you have to work 9-5 every day, that’s pretty much going to be your schedule. Do your best to be productive during your official work hours and teach your family to respect that.

But if you have more flexibility open to you, setting up your schedule can be more challenging. More flexibility leaves you with more room for procrastination. That can destroy your productivity and keep you from being a good employee or running a successful home business.

So how do you set up your work at home mom schedule?

Figure Out Your Best Working Hours

The first thing you need to do is figure out what your best working hours will be. This may take experimentation or may be set by the needs of your employer. Here are some of the things you should consider as you pick your hours if it’s up to you:

  • When does your family need you most?
  • When do you feel you will be most productive?
  • How many hours do you need to work each day?
  • Do you prefer early mornings, late nights, or daytime work hours?
  • Split shift or work straight through with occasional breaks?
  • When will someone else be available to the kids?
  • When do the kids need to be picked up from school or activities? Is that your responsibility?
  • Are weekends for work or for the family?

These are all very important considerations. Having someone else available to the kids, for example, can help cut down on how often they interrupt you as you work. This is vital if you aren’t allowed to have background noise when you’re on the phone. But even if background noise doesn’t matter, it helps a lot if you can keep the kids from being distractions in general.

This is not a “set once and forget it” kind of deal. You will want to review your schedule regularly. Sometimes you’ll find that your most productive hours aren’t when you thought they would be. Other times you’ll come to realize that the needs of your family have changed so much that your schedule isn’t working anymore. Be open to change as necessary. If your daily schedule is kicking your ass rather than helping you be amazingly productive, there’s a problem.

work at home scheduling

Set Your Office Hours

Whether you have a home office with a door you can close or you work on the couch, set your office hours. Make sure your family understands what you expect from them when you’re working.

The better you stick to your office hours, the better most people will be about respecting them. If you constantly allow the kids, friends, or your spouse interrupt you when they know you’re supposed to be working, they’ll learn that your office hours aren’t firm.

Plan Your Work Day

Having a plan for every work day is a huge help to productivity. You’ll lose much less time to indecision if you have a plan in mind.

Some people prefer to plan out their next work day at the end of the previous one. This works because you know exactly where you are with what you were doing. Hopefully, you also know what needs to be done next.

Others will plan things a week or more in advance. This is a huge help when you have a project that needs to be done by a deadline. Take some time to figure out where you need to be on the project each day and avoid a scramble to get it all done at the end.

You can mix these up, of course. You can have a plan laid out for a week or more, but make changes as needed if you fall behind, get ahead of schedule or realize something needs to be added in.

Don’t Avoid The Jobs You Dread

As you work at home, you may find that some parts of what you do just aren’t fun. In fact, you may even hate them, even if they’re important to your overall success.

The key to succeeding with these is to get them done first, according to Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. If you get the difficult things out of the way, the things you enjoy doing more are all that are left. This can make for a much more productive work at home day.

If you’re running a home business, of course, another option is to hire a virtual assistant to handle some of the jobs you dread. Then you don’t have to avoid them – you just have to assign them. The money it costs can be well worth it if you become more productive as a result.

Set Up Efficient Routines And Systems

Having efficient routines and systems can make a huge difference in your life. They can keep you from having to worry about a lot of little things. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Set bills on autopay.
  • Use appropriate automation for social media.
  • Choose the best day of the week for running errands.
  • Schedule chores so everyone knows when they need to do their share.

hourglass

Plan For More Than Just Work

One of the problems with working at home is how easy it is to work too many hours. Your work is always right there, in easy reach. If you don’t plan for more than just your work, you may find that you’re neglecting yourself and your family.

Some of these plans may be things you want to do daily. You may want to put aside time to play with the kids or to make meals, for example. Sure, they sound like things that should just come naturally, but if they aren’t happening and you want them to, find a way to make them happen.

Exercise is another good item to put into your plans. Keeping fit is a generally good idea, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You don’t even have to get a gym membership, although there are advantages if you can afford one.

Plan for a family walk around the block each day, for example. You get exercise and family time all in one shot that way.

If a local playground is close enough, you can make that a part of the routine as well. You can exercise while the kids play.

Make Time For Sleep

If you’re like me, your least productive days are when you’re tired. For one reason or another, you didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

Maybe you stayed up too late on social media. Maybe one of the kids woke up sick in the middle of the night. It might even be your spouse’s fault (wink).

Whatever the reason, you didn’t get enough sleep and you are tired!

If this happens once in a while (and it probably will), that’s just the way life goes. But if you’re tired from lack of sleep every day, you need to do something about it.

Helping your kids get enough sleep can help you get more work and more sleep. When your kids are napping age, that’s a great time for you to be productive. You might need those naps in the early days for a little nap yourself (babies are exhausting!), but otherwise, take advantage and work. It’s one less excuse to stay up late at night.

Plan Your Chores

Odds are good that you will do at least some chores during the day when you work at home, especially if your hours are flexible. It’s so hard to put them off.

The key is to keep them from taking up too much of your workday. Consider this situation:

You’re about to start your workday when you realize last night’s dishes weren’t done, so you empty and reload the dishwasher.

This leads to the realization that the countertops are filthy. So you clean them.

Are you… yes, you are. You are completely out of dishwasher detergent. A quick run to the store won’t take that long, will it?

Home again after buying far more than dishwasher detergent (why waste a trip, after all?), you put the groceries away. Can’t leave that job halfway done.

As you can see, it doesn’t take much for small chores to pile up into something that eats up an hour or more of what should have been productive working time. The whole situation quickly becomes an “If You Give A Mouse A Muffin” kind of situation some days.

Sure, your home and family benefit, but when you need the money, you need the work hours.

You’re far better off if you plan out your chores in advance so that you know how much time you’re giving up to chores.

Ideally, most chores should be divided among family members as appropriate. Your kids and spouse should do their shares. Do your share of the housework outside of your working hours. That’s what you’d do if you worked outside the home, after all. It should be just as possible to do that when you work at home in most cases.

Of course, crises happen. When my fridge broke down, I lost a big chunk of work time figuring out what was safe to keep, what had to be tossed, and moving the safe stuff into the other fridge. Thank goodness for that second fridge, or I would have had to toss a lot more! But that was not a chore I could put off until a more convenient time unless I was willing to give the food more time to go bad.

work at home distraction vortex

Don’t Waste Time During Work Hours

It is so easy to waste time when you should be working. There’s so much you can do that isn’t productive but is far more fun. Video games, streaming services, and social media are major culprits.

The best way to avoid these is to not use them, or use them as little as possible during your work hours. Sure, there may be times when you need to go on social media as a part of your job, but it’s up to you to keep focused and not fall into the distraction vortex when you should be working.

This can be challenging if you aren’t in a space where you can close the door while you work. If the kids are watching a show while you’re working on your laptop in the kitchen or living room, odds are you’re going to pay a little attention to it. This is especially true as they get older and their tastes in shows get better.

I won’t even mention how bad it can get if you start binge watching a favorite show. You know that part already.

Sample Work At Home Schedule

Here’s a general idea as to how your work at home schedule may go. I’ve made up a printable version for if you want something you can print. Change it around to suit yourself, of course. If you’re an early bird, start early. If you prefer to work at night, work at night. And if your job requires certain hours, plug them in.

I don’t have to plan time for the kids during much of the day because mine are all in school. If you have children at home with you all day, you have to plan around their needs as well, of course.

work at home schedule sample

6-8 a.m.

Get up, take a shower, eat, and get the kids off to school. All this stuff takes a lot of time. The older and more independent the kids get, the easier the first part of your day will go.

If you have a small amount of extra time, this is a good part of the day to drop a chore or so into. Nothing that takes a lot of time, but getting those breakfast dishes into the dishwasher keeps them from distracting you later.

You can do a little work if there are quick blog or business tasks you can perform. If I have extra time in the morning, for example, I may find and post a few job leads. It’s something I can start quickly, and stop just as easily when I need to.

8-9 a.m.

This is the part of the day when I like to run errands or exercise at the gym. I’m already out and about because I dropped the kids off at school. Both the gym and the grocery store aren’t far off that route, so it’s a very convenient time to do these things.

If you don’t want to go to the gym, you can exercise at home, of course. There are lots of great exercise videos on YouTube to help you get started.

9 a.m. – noon

Time to get serious about working. Posting job leads, managing my social media and planning blog posts. I only occasionally write in the morning because I rarely have a solid block of time to focus on it and I hate having my train of thought interrupted when I’m writing.

Noon – 1 p.m.

Lunchtime. Time to eat and take a brain break. If I watch a show, it’s something that won’t tempt me to keep watching when I should be working after lunch.

An hour is longer than it usually takes me to make a quick lunch and eat, of course. Breaks are important when you work at home, and you should give yourself appropriate breaks as you work. You will probably be more productive.

This is also a good time for those quick chores you want to get done. Don’t only do chores during your breaks most days. Sometimes everything will be a mess and it’s necessary, but you deserve a real break just as much as someone who works outside the home.

1-3 p.m.

Time to focus on writing. Some days it’s easy to finish an entire blog post in this time. Other days there’s too much writing and thinking to be done.

I like to get as much done as possible before it’s time to get the kids from school. How I miss the days when we lived walking distance to the school!

3-4 p.m.

Help kids with homework as necessary. Usually only my youngest needs help anymore, and her needs can run anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour. It depends on how well she understands the subject and how cooperative she’s feeling. If she’s tired, it won’t go well. This is why I’m open to having her take a nap if she’s too tired for homework. It will go so much faster if she isn’t exhausted.

If no homework help is needed, I work. The kids go off and play.

4-5 p.m.

With any luck at all, I can continue working for a time before making dinner.

5-8 p.m.

Time to make dinner, eat dinner, and have some family time. How long that all takes depends on what I’m making, how much homework the kids have to do, and what we feel like doing as a family.

If we’re being really good, this time often includes a family walk around the block. It’s some light exercise as the day cools down. Summer heat tends to break this habit, but fall can bring it back.

8 p.m. onward

The kids are ready to do their own thing by this point most evenings, so I work on making images for blog posts and social media. It takes how long it takes.

Depending on my plans and mood, I may kick back and relax after, keep working, or try to learn something new for my business.

Be Ready To Change

The times in this schedule are really not as solid as they may look. The whole thing depends on how long each activity really takes, as I am in charge of my own time.

Getting the kids to and from school are the most solid things on here, although I skipped the part about how their activities can change when I pick them up after school. There are days when I have to make an extra trip out to deal with the differing schedules.

Some days I’ll have a late lunch. Sometimes errands take more of the day than I want them to. And some days it seems like almost nothing goes right. You just have to deal with it all as it comes.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you set up your own work at home mom schedule and then it doesn’t work out. If you’re in charge of your own schedule, take advantage of that fact to figure out what works for you.

The whole point of setting up a schedule is to give your day more structure and to help you be productive. If it’s not doing that, it’s not working. Figure out why your schedule isn’t working, and make changes until it does. You’ll be more productive once you have these things figured out.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated September 24th, 2018

How to Improve Your Chances of Landing a Work at Home Job

How to Improve Your Chances of Landing a Work at Home Job

Are you having trouble landing a work at home job? It’s not an easy process for most people. There’s a lot of competition for most positions. But if you’ve applied to a lot of work at home jobs and haven’t landed one yet, odds are that there’s something you need to change in your work at home job hunt.

Following these tips won’t guarantee that you land a work at home job. Nothing can do that – it’s up to the employers, and I am not an employer. What these tips can do is help you look better as you seek out the right work at home job.

Set Up A Spreadsheet

This part is optional, but setting up a spreadsheet can help you to keep track of where you’ve applied, when you did so, and what you heard back. I’ve made a sample job application tracking spreadsheet you can use with Google Sheets.

Knowing where and when you’ve applied can save you a lot of trouble. You don’t have to rely on your memory for how long it has been since you applied.

You can add a lot more information to your spreadsheet than what I’ve done here. As you think of things you would like to track while applying for jobs, put them into your spreadsheet. It will save you a lot of frustration.

Know The Scams

If you don’t know how to spot a work at home scam, learn.

Now.

Being scammed while looking for a way to earn money is incredibly painful and humiliating. But if you’re alert, you can avoid a lot of them.

Many scams fall simply into the category of “too good to be true.” If a remote job opportunity looks too good to be true, look more carefully before applying. You might just be staring at a scam.

Others are more subtle. Some scams use the names of legitimate remote employers to gain your trust. Make sure you know for certain that the person you’re dealing with is who they say they are and that they’re representing the company you believe you’re dealing with.

Falling for a work at home scam wastes your time. It makes your job hunt more miserable. Do everything you can to avoid falling for a work at home job scam so that you can avoid that frustration.

work at home job hunt

Are You Qualified?

Before you start searching for a work at home job, go over your skills and experience. You need to narrow your search down to the jobs you are qualified to perform. I hear of a lot of people applying for work at home jobs with no consideration for what they already know how to do.

Think of it this way. Would you expect to get hired for an outside the home job if you had no qualifications for it?

Probably not.

Sometimes this means you have to get training before you start to search for jobs at all. I had to get training in medical transcription before I got my job doing that.

Training can cost money when you do it yourself. Career Step, for example, provides good training for medical transcriptionists and medical coders, but it’s not cheap. If you put in the effort and get a job after, it should be worth it. Kick back and do a poor job of training, and you’ve wasted your money.

It is not a scam to pay money for high quality training. You can get scammed if the training isn’t what it claimed, but good training no different than attending school for an outside the home job. Sometimes it’s just what you have to do.

There are some remote jobs that require no experience. If you don’t want to get training and you lack experience, these are the jobs you want to apply for.

Don’t go applying for jobs that want lots of experience – you’re wasting your time. Many employers use software to sort applications to see who has qualifications, and if you lack them, odds are that no human will even look at your application.

So just skip it if you are completely and utterly unqualified. I can’t repeat that one often enough. Companies that hire people to work at home get very tired of unqualified applicants. I’ve even had one tell me so.

Does Your Resume Show That You’re Qualified?

Your resume can ruin all your chances of landing a work at home job if it doesn’t do a good job of representing the skills and experience you will bring to the job. It’s the first impression most employers will have of you.

Write a crappy resume and you can expect crappy results. It’s really quite simple.

The first thing your work at home resume must do is show that you have the skills the employer is seeking. Look at the job description. Do you think your resume is a poor match, a good match, or a great match for the job as described?

You want it to be a great match. Failing that, a good match will do.

Look at the keywords used in the job description. If the employer is using software to sort applications, odds are that it’s looking for those keywords. Use them in your resume to improve your chances of getting an interview.

Make sure you follow directions when you apply for a work at home job. I can’t tell you how many people have contacted me after reading a job listing here on this site, thinking that I’m the employer.

I’m not. Nor do I have an “in” with these companies to help you get a job.

They also want to see that you can work independently. Anything you can do with your resume or cover letter that shows that you can work with little to no supervision will help.

Never, ever, minimize your skill with a computer. If you’re working remotely, odds are that you will be using a computer a lot, even if the job requires little to no experience. Employers don’t want to hold your hand as you learn computer basics.

Get ready to work at home

Are You Following Instructions?

How you apply for the job tells the company a lot. If you can’t follow their instructions, if your resume is a mess, they aren’t going to be interested. They’ll find someone else out of the thousands of applications from other people who want to work at home.

Some employers, for example, will have their job posted on a job board but want you to email them directly rather than apply through the board.

They may even have you use a particular subject line in your email to show that you’re paying attention.

But following instructions goes beyond applying on the right site. It’s what you do after you apply.

Many employers specify that they do NOT want you to contact them to find out the status of your application. They get a lot of them. It takes time to go through all those applications and they don’t have time to answer the questions of a bunch of hopefuls every day.

Yes, that means you have to wait and wonder about your application. Keep applying to jobs until you get one, and don’t spend so much time wondering about individual ones.

Are You Prepared For Interviews?

Be prepared if you should make it as far as the telephone interview. Even if you won’t be on the phone as a part of your job, you will need to sound professional on the phone.

Yes, you will often be going up against some heavy competition.

Whenever your interview is, find a quiet place for it. Have someone keep the kids and pets away. Keep the television and radio off, and no surfing the internet while you talk.

Preparing for a phone or video interview is much like preparing for any other interview. Have some questions ready that you can ask your interviewer.

A word of warning: Just because you get an interview doesn’t mean you should let your guard down about work at home scams. Be aware of the signs of a work at home job scam interview. They count on your eagerness for a job to get past your defenses.

home office ready

Have Your Workspace Ready

Many remote jobs have specific requirements for your workspace. If you don’t have this ready to go before you get an interview, you’re at a disadvantage.

If the jobs you’re applying for require the use of a wired telephone or internet service, wireless isn’t going to do. Set up in advance, or you may find that you miss out on jobs because you can’t get things installed in time.

Similarly, you don’t want to have to buy a lot of equipment. Some employers will provide the basic equipment you need, but many will expect you to provide your own.

At the very least, you will need a sufficiently current computer of the right kind. Some employers require that you have a Windows computer, not Apple OS. Your operating system should be reasonably up to date as well, and don’t forget current antimalware software!

Don’t forget to set up a comfortable home office. Not everyone can have a dedicated home office space, but do the best you can. Some employers will be very interested in how your office is set up so that they know it meets their standards.

This is especially important if you’re dealing with things that require privacy. Medical transcriptionists and medical coders, for example, have to follow HIPAA. If your home office isn’t sufficiently private, you could get into trouble.

Consider Freelancing

Even if you’re really after a steady work at home job with benefits, sometimes taking on freelance work will be the answer you need. Freelancing has a lot of advantages.

The first advantage is that you can usually get higher pay. Don’t underestimate what you should earn from a freelance gig. Remember that you will have to pay higher taxes on freelance income, as they are not withheld by your employer.

Flexibility is the next advantage. Freelance jobs are usually quite flexible, although they can also be highly demanding if they want a lot of work with a quick deadline.

And of course, freelancing gives you more experience. This is great if you keep hearing from potential employers that you don’t have enough experience. Freelance for a time and get that experience.

Sometime a freelance gig will turn into a regular job. Some employers use freelancers essentially as a long job interview to decide if you’re who they want to hire. This is why you cannot dismiss a freelance gig offhand. It might take you exactly where you want to go.

Keep Trying

Will all this guarantee you the job? Dream on! It’s still a matter of how good you look versus everyone else trying for the job. But if you put your best face forward you certainly can improve your odds.

Landing a work at home job takes time. It can take months to land even an outside the home job, so why expect things to be any different when you want to work at home?

Give it time and improve your odds of success.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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