Working at home always sounds great, but it comes with its own challenges. Managing work, family life, household management and self care all in one location isn’t as easy as it seems. Here are some tips to help you work at home more effectively.
1. A door you can close
If you’re serious about being productive while working at home, a home office with a door you can close is best. Sure, you may be able to take your laptop anywhere, but that’s not always the best plan.
An ergonomic home office setup will be a big help in the long run. Repetitive stress injuries are common for people who work a lot of hours on computers, but you can cut down on them with a good setup.
3. Protect your data
Make sure you’re protecting your data when you work at home. Have good antivirus protection, a firewall, and consider backing up your data offsite. There are many reputable services out there such as Acronis or Carbonite to backup your files. Make sure this is something you’re allowed to do with your data if you work for someone else, of course.
4. Be comfortable with the technology you use
When you work at home, it’s best if you’re comfortable with all the technology you use. Learn how to troubleshoot your computer and handle common issues. Maybe even learn to switch out basic parts – I recently had to replace a fan on my kids’ computer. It was easy, 4 screws and a plug. Take a class if it will help you be more comfortable.
Clutter may easily build up in your home office if you don’t keep it under control. It may be easier at times to allow the clutter to build up, but in the long run, you need to keep the clutter down. If you catch the clutter building, take some time and declutter.
6. Plan your space
What kind of space do you need to work? Is it just your computer or will you need to store other supplies? Give yourself enough room to work comfortably and effectively. Don’t focus on what others say works for them – make it your own.
7. Consider a sit-stand or treadmill desk
One of the big problems of working at home is how easy it is to be sedentary. A sit-stand desk or treadmill desk may help you be a little more active physically while you work. Make sure you can work comfortably when using your desk. A treadmill desk, for example, can make it harder to do some things.
8. Childproof your home office
If you have kids in your home, you want your home office fairly childproof, not just for the protection of your kids, but for the protection of your work. Cover outlets, make sure your kids can’t play with all the pretty buttons, and control noise levels from outside your home office if necessary.
9. Set up a safe space for younger kids
If you have young children who really can’t be kept out of your work space, set up a safe area for them. For very young babies, this could be a Pack ‘n Play. Toddlers may need a space set up for them. You could block off just your desk area in the room so that your chair doesn’t roll over any little fingers. Remember that this may impact your ability to claim a home office deduction.
10. Have a work computer
A separate work computer is required for some work at home jobs, and it’s a generally good idea for anyone. A work computer allows you to keep your work files safely separate from more casual computer use. Especially make sure your work computer is not for use by children. It’s both amazing and horrifying what they can do with a few taps on the keyboard when they’re tiny. What they can do when they’re older might be even worse.
11. Have a work phone number
Don’t take work or business calls on your home phone number if at all possible. It sounds better if you know to answer your phone as a professional rather than just saying “hello.” It’s easy to set up a free VOIP number with Google. Put the app on your cell phone and you won’t have any extra costs, unless receiving calls impacts your data plan.
12. Get help
Get the help you need to work at home. Ask your spouse to keep the kids busy. See if family or friends can care for the kids for a while. Send the kids to daycare or hire a mother’s helper. How much help you will need is up to you and your particular work and family situation – some don’t need any help with the kids, others need professional childcare.
13. Don’t feel guilty
Many work at home parents feel guilty for working when their kids might need them.Try not to worry about it. You probably see more of your kids than if you worked outside the home, and odds are that your family needs the money you bring in.
14. Plan family time
Make family time a part of your daily and weekly schedule. It’s easy to let your work creep into family time when you work at home. Do your best to prevent this when you have planned family time.
15. Make plans for when kids are sick
It’s not easy to work at home when the kids are sick. Plan ahead so you can deal with sick children as they happen.
16. Balance work and family time
Think about what your work needs from you and what your family needs from you. Somewhere there’s a balance that takes both into consideration. Do your best to keep it all balance.
17. Have activities in mind to keep the kids busy
If you want the kids to keep themselves busy, plan some activities for them and have supplies ready. The easier it is for them to have fun, the less they’ll bother you about being bored. I posted 30 ideas for keeping kids busy over the summer some time back, and that’s a small sampling of ideas you could use. Consider the ages and interests of your kids when you plan.
18. Talk to your family about the support you need
Talk to your kids and your spouse about how they can support you when you work at home. They need to understand how important your work time is. Come to an agreement about the things you most need from your family.
This includes how the kids behave while you work, when it’s okay to interrupt you, and how your work space is treated when you aren’t working.
19. Take time for your marriage
Your marriage is important. Don’t let working at home take too much time from your marriage. Your work at home success won’t feel as good if your marriage has trouble due to it.
20. Have everyone pitch in on household chores
You aren’t the only one who can handle chores around the house. Get the kids and your spouse to help at appropriate levels. Working at home doesn’t make all household chores your job too. A chore chart or chore sticks are helpful for children.
21. Plan meals
Don’t wait until it’s almost dinner time to figure out what you’re going to feed your family if you’re the one who’s going to make dinner. Plan meals out at least well enough that you know when you need to start cooking and won’t have to worry about whether you have all the ingredients.
22. Crockpots are wonderful
If you know you’re going to have one of those days where you can’t pay attention to when it’s time to make dinner, use the crockpot. You can start the meal much earlier in the day, and pay almost no attention to it all day.
23. Learn to say no
Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you have time to do everything around the house, take care of other people’s kids, etc. If someone wants you to do something that will make it harder for you to work, don’t agree to do it when you can’t spare the time.
24. Recognize what your kids are capable of
When you’re home all the time, it’s easy to do too much for your kids. You might be amazed at what they can do if you encourage them. Pick an appropriate age for them to walk to school without you if you live close enough, for example, or teach older kids to make dinner. You get more work time and they build valuable life skills.
25. Be prepared for school breaks
Kids in school make being productive at home so much easier… until school goes on break. Plan ahead for school vacations and such so they don’t entirely ruin your productivity. Think about activities the kids can do on their own, friends they can play with, family they can visit and of course things you can do as a family when you aren’t working.
26. Know where to find free wifi
One of the great ways to entertain the kids or give yourself a different work environment is to work someplace else. Keep an eye out for places where the kids can play and you can work. Fast food places may have wifi, but they are loud.
27. Consider hiring a maid
Hiring someone to come in and handle those tedious household cleaning tasks can give you extra hours for work and be well worth the money. You may want to have someone come in weekly or monthly, depending on the work you want done.
28. Know what to do if you need money quick
If you need money fast, take a look at quick ways to earn money. Sites such as Amazon Turk or Fiverr won’t usually earn you a lot of money, but they can be quick. Also consider offering your services other places where you can get paid quickly if that’s what you need. eBay is another good choice if you have some stuff around the house to sell when you need quick cash. You may also be able to sell things in a garage sale or local Facebook group.
You’re better off, of course, if you can give yourself some time to build a nice income, but we don’t all have that option. Try to avoid the kind of desperation that leads to people falling for a work at home scam.
29. Save up for taxes
If you’re an independent contractor or run your own business, odds are that you will need to file quarterly taxes at some point. Save up and be prepared so that it’s not a crushing financial blow when the time comes.
30. Know how much you need to earn
You can save money working from home when you think about gas, professional clothes, childcare and such, but if you run your own business or are considered an independent contractor, that taxes thing may change what you need to earn.
31. Keep your business legitimate
Find out what it takes to run your business legally in your area. You should be able to find this out on your city’s website. You may need to register a business name (DBA or FBN), you may need a business license, and you may decide to incorporate. Find out what legal requirements you need to follow in your area.
32. Get appropriate insurance coverage
See about getting a rider on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance for your home business. You will need to check with your insurer to see what’s available in your state. Separate policies for your home business may also be available.
33. Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose on your home business
Most home businesses don’t cost a lot to run, but if you have a physical inventory or do a lot of advertising (even online), expenses can run up quickly. Sometimes it’s necessary to go a little into debt to get things started, but try not to go so far that it’s hard to recover if things don’t work out. Investing wisely in your home business is a good thing, of course.
34. Separate personal and business finances
It’s not always easy to keep these things separate, but do the best you can. It can be very hard to separate things out later, which is a big disadvantage at tax time. Use a separate credit or debit card for business expenses if you can.
35. Keep business receipts organized
When you spend money on your home business, keep the receipts organized. Given the online nature of many home businesses, you may need to create a file in your email and on your computer for any receipts you receive electronically. Separate them by year so you can find them quickly for tax purposes.
36. Consider hiring a bookkeeper or accountant
There comes a time where you can benefit from the services of a professional bookkeeper or accountant. They may be able to spot tax savings you would have missed. They’ll still need you to keep your information organized enough that they can use it, but they know more about what you can and cannot do financially.
37. Plan for retirement
Saving for retirement is especially important if you work for yourself or if your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan. Put money aside for your retirement. If you’re self employed, you may be able to save a lot.
38. Don’t be afraid to work outside the home too
Sometimes it takes a while to build a big enough work at home income. Sometimes it’s necessary to work outside the home while improving your income earned at home. That’s not a bad thing.
39. Dress for productivity
Dress in whatever way makes you most productive. Some work at home parents prefer to dress professionally, feeling that it gets them in the right frame of mind for working. Others can wear whatever they want. If you can work in jeans and a t-shirt (or even pajamas), there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as it works for you.
40. Sometimes your current job can become a work at home job
If you a have a job outside the home already, and you think it’s something you could do from home, find out if it’s possible. Some companies allow partial or complete telecommute schedules to experienced employees. Others can be talked into it if you present your case well. Give it a try.
41. Don’t pay to show interest in a work at home job
Employers don’t ask you to pay to prove that you’re serious about a work at home job. Don’t trust a company that asks for money with your application. Some few legitimate companies will require that you pay for a background check (such as Arise), but this is something to be viewed with a great deal of caution.
42. Working at home isn’t for everyone
I’ve seen this in my own family – one of my sisters is far, far happier working in an office than she is at home, even though she tried a home based job for a few years. Don’t feel bad if that’s what you feel after a time. We all have our own ways of supporting our families.
43. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is
People fall for all kinds of work at home scams because they don’t recognize this simple truth. If an opportunity looks too amazing, too appealing, utterly irresistible, easy, etc., take a more careful look. Get some good advice from someone not associated with it. There are all too many scams out there for people who desperately want to work at home.
44. Make sure you’re ready to work from home
Working from home isn’t as simple as some people think. Know where you’re going to work, when you’re going to work, and how this is going to work out for your family.
45. Give it time
Not everyone will be successful in working at home right away. Whether you get a work at home job or start a home business, it may take time to be as successful as you’d like. Don’t let frustration stop you.
46. Set your hours and take them seriously
The more regularly you work and the more seriously you take your work hours, the more seriously others will treat your work. This is especially important if you have agreed with your employer to work particular hours. You probably won’t keep working at home long if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do.
47. Take breaks
Just as when you work outside the home, regular breaks are a good idea. They refresh your mind and allow you to move around.
48. Keep in contact
If you have an employer or a client, keep in contact with them. Make yourself available to them during your work hours as appropriate. Let them know what your work hours are so that you can keep in contact with them at appropriate times and you can enjoy your family during non-work hours. You shouldn’t feel obligated to be available 24/7 unless that’s specifically a part of the job.
49. Check email on a schedule
Don’t check email throughout the day without a very good reason for doing so. Most days checking email at the beginning and end of your work day will be plenty. Otherwise, checking email can eat up a large chunk of your day without significant benefit.
50. Keep your email organized
I sort my email. I use GMail, and the filters do a great job of sorting things out for me, so I can check the email that interests me at the time and leave the rest for later. It’s wonderful having personal and professional emails separate rather than trying to spot what needs to be handled now versus later.
51. Give yourself an evaluation
Whether you work for someone else or for yourself, give yourself regular evaluations. They’re a great way to check on your progress and see where you could use to make improvements.
52. Set short term and long term goals
Goal setting is a wonderful way to keep things going. Set goals that will help you to make the most of your work. Daily, weekly, monthly, annual, 5 year goals all matter.
53. Learn to work without supervision
Not everyone can manage to work well without supervision. If you want to successfully work at home, you have to. Learn to motivate yourself to get each day’s work done.
54. Make the most of your work at home day
An effective work at home day is a combination of many factors. Sometimes you will have to work when someone else tells you to; other times you can set your own hours. Do your best to have as many factors as possible in your favor when you work at home.
55. Learn to ignore distractions
There are tons of work at home distractions you will face daily. Don’t let them keep you from reaching your goals each day. You don’t have to keep the room completely quiet – in fact, some people work better with background music – but choose the sounds around you carefully.
56. Get any training you need
Not all work at home jobs require training. Some require it and expect you to get it on your own, while other employers may handle the costs and scheduling for you.
57. Avoid procrastination
Know what makes you procrastinate. Identify the activities and times that you’re least likely to be productive, and figure out how to deal with them. Give yourself goals and time limits to help you avoid procrastination.
58. Be a good employee
One of the hardest parts about having a work at home job is showing your employer that you’re a great employee. This is especially true if most of your coworkers are at the office while you’re at home. Make sure you communicate regularly and clearly with your employer, track your hours appropriately and stick to your work schedule as best you can.
59. Think about ways to be more productive
If you want to earn a good living from home, productivity matters. Simple things such as planning ahead, giving yourself deadlines and tracking how you spend your time each day can make a big difference in your productivity in the long run.
60. Set up a workflow
A good workflow can help you to plan things out for your common tasks. It will help you to know what has and has not been done on each project you’re working on. This is wonderful when you aren’t sure what to do next – your workflow will have the answer.
61. Know how flexible your hours are
Many people work at home for the flexibility. The only problem is that not all work at home jobs are flexible. Know what times you have flexibility in your work and which times you really, really need to be right there. This isn’t just about employers – some home businesses are best done at certain times of the day too.
62. Blogging isn’t always an easy home business
Blogging is often recommended as an easy home business to start. That’s true, as far as it goes, it’s an inexpensive business to run, but it’s not always easy. Figuring out what to write about, driving traffic to your site, earning money all take work. Be prepared. It’s great when blogging works, but the path for most is long. Don’t blog if you hate to write.
63. Direct sales isn’t for everyone.
Odds are you can find a direct sales/network marketing opportunity you’d enjoy. It may or may not be the right business for you. There are a lot of rules to follow when you join an opportunity. Do your research and make sure you know what you’re getting into, especially the cost of the opportunity and the reputation of the company. Getting in on the ground floor means you’re getting in when the company has yet to prove its stability. That’s not always a bad thing, just an additional risk.
64. Affiliate marketing is easy and difficult
I love affiliate marketing. No inventory, no sales fulfillment, no customer service required (although sometimes people may send you questions). Find the right way to present a product, and the sales will come in. Finding that right way takes time and effort. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s great when it does.
65. Have a plan
Whether you work for someone else or run your own business, have a plan. Plan out how you’ll be productive. Make a business plan if you have a business. It doesn’t have to be all that formal or follow someone else’s suggested formula – just plan things out enough to help yourself work.
66. Don’t keep switching to the latest and greatest opportunity
The people who have the most trouble succeeding at home are the ones who cannot stick to a given project. Focus. Keep working on what you’ve started on, and don’t take on new projects until you know you can afford the time. For businesses, that means you’re either earning a profit or you’ve realized it’s not viable for you. For jobs, that means you know you can keep up with the requirements of that job and take on your new idea. Adding in new projects too quickly makes all of them more likely to fail.
67. Make the most of your smartphone
What can you do with your smartphone when you’re out running errands? If you’re going to have some time where you’re just sitting around, such as kids’ sports or other activities, try working on the things you can do on your smartphone.
Work on the most important things first. If you have a business, work on the things that need to be done first, especially if you have deadlines to meet or they will bring in money directly. Once the important things are done you can work on the other things that make your business go.
69. Don’t compare yourself with other people working at home
It’s often tempting to compare your progress with others, especially if you have a home business. Your situation is not exactly like the situation of others. Even similar businesses will work in very different ways for different people. Focus on where you’re doing well and where you would like to improve, not on how someone else is doing.
70. Grow your skills
The right skills make working at home much easier. Learn more about things that can help you do your work more effectively. But…
71. Don’t get stuck in the learning trap
For almost any kind of work at home opportunity there’s a ton of information available. Learning about different things you can do to make the most of your home business doesn’t do you any good if you never take action. When you learn something new that sounds like it would help your business, apply it. If you don’t have the time to apply a new tactic, file it away until you can use it. Don’t even bother reading up on it until you’re ready to use it. You can bookmark useful pages for future reference. Don’t be surprised if you never come back to many of these seemingly wonderful ideas because you don’t have the time for them.
Remember that doing is far more important to your success than learning. You can know all about how someone else succeeded, but unless you’re working toward your own success, that doesn’t mean a thing.
72. Find a mentor
A mentor can help you make great progress toward success. Their inspiration can help you better deal with the challenges you face in your work. If you admire someone, just ask. They might say no, they might set a fee, or they might agree to work with you.
Don’t get mad if they ask for a fee. Remember that you’re after someone else’s valuable time, knowledge and experience. Some can give that away, but others can’t.
73. Set up template responses for common email questions
If people tend to email you about your business, odds are many of the questions are more or less the same. Set up templates to save you time in responding to these emails. You can customize them as necessary, but the template will give you the basic information you need to respond.
74. Don’t multitask
Multitasking is not as efficient as most people think. You’ll generally do much better if you focus on one thing at a time. This won’t always be possible – if you have small children you may have to watch them as you work, and older kids may come up for help with homework, but avoid multitasking when you can.
75. Don’t be a perfectionist
I’ve seen too many people never get started with a home business because they want everything to be perfect before they launch. Make it good, but don’t expect perfection. You can improve as you go.
76. Keep working when you don’t feel like it
There will be days that you don’t feel like working. That doesn’t matter. Push on through, just like you would if you were working for someone else.
77. Pay attention to your natural schedule
When are you most productive? Least? Do what you can to schedule your work around the times that you’re usually the most productive.
78. Hire an assistant when you need one
As your home business grows, it makes sense to hire a virtual assistant to handle the details that don’t need your personal attention. It’s easier to be productive with the things that earn money for you if someone else is handling the other stuff. Don’t spend more than you can afford, but remember that the point of hiring someone else is to make it easier for you to earn still more money or to have more free time.
79. Keep up your resume
It doesn’t matter if you think you’re going to work at home forever or have your own business forever, keep up your resume. Sometimes plans change, and it’s easier to keep track of your experience as you go. The skills you gain working at home can be highly valuable in other areas.
80. Use the right tools
There are wonderful tools out there to make working at home easier. Tools such as Hootsuite make managing your social media presence much easier. Spending a little money on a tool can help you to work much more efficiently.
81. Try podcasting
Do you have a lot to say about your home business? Try recording a podcast. Not everyone will want to read the information you’re trying to share, and a podcast can be highly effective at getting to a new audience.
82. Don’t be afraid of video
I’m still working on this one myself. Video can be a wonderful way to present your home business to the world. You don’t have to sit and talk to the camera – you can use software to record what’s on your computer monitor as you talk.
Networking and Social Media
83. Keep the personal and the professional separate when possible
Do your professional contacts really need to know what’s going on with your family or how much fun you had on vacation? Don’t overshare personal things on your professional networks. Facebook, for example, allows you to control who sees what you post. If you keep friends and professional contacts on separate lists, you won’t have to explain embarrassing items to your professional contacts.
84. Use social media to find opportunities
Social media is a good source for professional contacts and opportunities. You can use it to find contracting opportunities or regular jobs.
85. Don’t let networking take over your work day
Networking, online or off, can take a big chunk out of your day if you let it. Keep it at an appropriate level. There are more things you need to work on.
86. Social media success doesn’t equal business success
You may have thousands of followers on various social media sites, but that doesn’t mean your online business is a success. Focus on what brings in income, not on your popularity when you use social media.
87. Participate in groups
Participate in group activities relevant to your work when you can, online and offline. LinkedIn group discussions, Facebook groups, Chamber of Commerce meetings in your area… they’re all opportunities to network and demonstrate your skills to build your home business.
88. Promote others
Don’t limit your social media to tooting your own horn. Promote the work of others, especially when it’s relevant to your audience or shows someone using one of your products.
89. Be active
Don’t join any social media site or professional organization if you can’t be active in it. The more active you are, the more benefit you will see and the more authority you will have. Just being a name on the site won’t do you much good at all. You have to be interesting, and that means being active.
90. Use social media buttons on your online content
Make it easy for people to share any content you put online by including appropriate social media buttons. People are more likely to share if you make it easy for them to do so.
You don’t have to put a button out for every social media site out there. Include the big ones, especially if you have a big audience on that site. Include any relevant smaller social media sites. Too many choices won’t encourage people to spread the word on more sites; it will just make things more confusing.
Don’t sit in your home office all day every day. Get out and exercise. Take stretching breaks at appropriate intervals during the day. You’ll feel better and be more productive.
Don’t be a total work at home hermit. Go have fun with friends. You’re missing out on the socialization that comes naturally with working outside the home; decide how you’re going to get time with others while you work at home. Even taking your laptop and getting in some work time at a coffee shop can help. Otherwise, the isolation of working at home may get to you.
94. Enjoy a hobby
Aside from work and family, what do you like to do? Make time regularly for things you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s reading, watching television, swimming, or whatever. Do something that you enjoy, just for fun.
95. Take a break to eat
You’ll feel much better if you stop working for meals. Meals are a wonderful time to give your mind a break from work. You’ll be more refreshed and productive if you take regular breaks in general.
96. Take a vacation
You shouldn’t work all the time. Once in a while, take a vacation with your family. Leave all your work behind if at all possible. Schedule things around your vacation so you have as few work worries as possible. Hire a virtual assistant if that’s what it takes to keep things running while you refresh yourself.
97. Drink water
Water is usually the best thing you can drink. Keep a bottle of water by you while you work. I use an insulated bottle with a straw so the risk of spilling is minimal and my water stays ice cold.
98. Keep snacking under control
It’s very easy to gain weight when you work at home. Keep healthy snacks that you enjoy more accessible than unhealthy ones, and don’t overdo the snacking.
99. Remember why you work
It’s easy to forget why you work when you work at home. Whether you work because it’s the only way to pay the bills or you work because you find it fulfilling, or some combination or reasons, keep that thought in mind. It makes it easier to keep working even though there’s no one supervising you directly.
100. Don’t try to do everything
It’s easy to overdo it when you work at home. Parenting, housework, work, it can all pile on and leave you exhausted. Get help with things as needed.