You’ve got all your ducks in a row: the business is registered, you’ve bought new fancy office
stationery and set up a shelf, a desk, or a work room. The products are made, the Instagram account is up and running and it’s all go. You’ve set up a business: a kitchen table enterprise or something a little bit bigger, and your home is now your office.
If you’re anything like me, the journey from hobby to business has been more of a learning helter-skelter than a learning curve, but I’m doing it and I’m - mostly – feeling like I’m doing it well. Mostly. I’ve had to pick up a few hints and tips along the way about making it work, and although it’s not rocket science, it helps to be reminded sometimes that yes, running a small business from home is hard, but it is also manageable, and every thing that you are going through someone else has experienced and survived.
So my tips for running a small business from home might seem obvious, but we all need to be
reminded about them sometimes – even me.
1. Have a start and finish routine
I’m a big fan of routine, and I’ve learnt the hard way how easy it is for your work to bleed
into every hour of the day, and how overwhelming and exhausting this can be. My start and
finish routines are based around the girls’ school bus run - it helps that we have to walk to
get the bus, so I have to get dressed and ready on time every day and then leave the house.
By the time I’ve walked back, I’ve had ten minutes to think about the day ahead, and I’m
ready to go. The end of the day isn’t usually so chilled, especially if I’m not quite ready to
finish by the time I need to leave to collect them. I set an alarm 15 minutes before I need to
go, and then rush to get finished, if not tidied up. It’s not ideal, but if I don’t stop and close
the door, nothing else will happen on time for the rest of the evening.
2. Eat properly and drink plenty of water - stop for lunch
Yes, stop for lunch. You don’t have to stop for long, but stop. Eat something proper and have
a drink that isn’t coffee. Put your head out the window, breathe. Give your pets a cuddle,
sing loudly to the radio. No matter how busy you are, stopping for a wee bit to regroup and
refuel will improve your ability to concentrate and be fully present all afternoon.
3. Have a support network of people you can bounce ideas off, and who will tell you what you need to hear
For me, this is the most important thing. Colleagues are the aspect of work that I miss most,
for generating ideas, problem solving, commiserating, celebrating, and keeping you on track.
When I remember to talk to people about what’s going on and to ask for help or advice, I’m
always amazed at how quickly – and easily – things seem to come back together. Working
from home can be isolating, so it’s worth putting effort into building relationships and
looking after the ones you have.
4. Have a plan in place
To run a business, you have to do the thing: make the products, pay the bills. It helps to
know what your goals are, for the year, the week, the next hour, so that you know when and
how much you have to make, forms you need to fill in and when your due dates are. Use a
plan to guide you, and on the days when you feel like you just can’t face it, use the plan to
help you ‘tick the boxes’ and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
5. Let your children in
My business tends to spread out from my work room into the house, and it’s impossible to
separate it from family life. I’ve had to find a way to let my girls participate – because when
they’ve had a turn or done some ‘helping’, they are more inclined to leave me alone. I treat their helping and creations with respect, and for the most part they do the same for mine.
So a few bars of soap, a couple of boxes, about a hundred meters of ribbon and twine and
ten minutes of explaining what to do are worth the sacrifice.
We’ve got one more week of school holidays left, and I’ll have to find my feet again as we
settle back into that routine. I’ll be trying to take my own advice – what will you be doing to
keep your small business running smoothly?