Working from home is definitely one of the perks of running a small business. It can also be the biggest drain on your time. As a solo entrepreneur, it's imperative to separate work and home spaces, and time, to create better balance and get more done. (And with the right routine, it's easier than you might think!)
Here are six ways to do just that:
1. Set Ground Rules for Work and Play
When you work from home, everyone in the household needs to know the difference between work time and play time. That starts with setting a few ground rules for family members, and unexpected visits from friends who “know you will be home."
Create a dedicated work space. Not all solo entrepreneurs have a home office, and that's OK. Design a makeshift space that is yours during work hours (even if that means the kitchen table or a corner of the basement is off-limits to everyone else).
2. Get Dressed for Work (Even If It Is Across the Hall)
It is way too easy to roll out of bed and start working, still in your pajamas. (It's happened to everyone.)
Don't make a habit of starting the day that way. Get up and get dressed, even if you are just going across the hall to work. It'll put you in the right frame of mind to focus and get work done.
An added bonus? If a client needs to drop in or hop on Skype for a conference call, you'll be ready for the meeting and won't have to rush to make yourself presentable.
3. Develop a Schedule
This might be the most important way to better maintain that work-life balance. There's a misconception that solo entrepreneurs or freelancers have it made with super-flexible schedules; the reality is that many are working way more than 40 hours a week. You probably cram in jobs and work at all hours of the day and while juggling family or another job.
Stop trying to do it all. You'll just leave yourself feeling frazzled and burnt out.
Instead, create a work schedule. Develop “office hours" when you will work. (Yes, they can vary day to day.) Remember to give yourself enough room in the schedule to take breaks or time off for a vacation. Those little periods of relief can help you be a more productive worker when you return.
4. Join Networking Groups
Get out of the home office. Join at least one networking group that relates to your field (or a local small business group). Connect with other small business owners and entrepreneurs. This networking can replace some of the relationships that you miss by working outside of a traditional workplace.
And schedule meetings with clients in person or via teleconference when you can. Your networking circle isn't just like-minded business owners, it's also your circle of clients.
5. Consider a Co-Working Space
When the home office just isn't working for you – because of a lack of space, or inability to have meetings or lack of quiet time – consider a co-working space. These trendy office environments are designed so that solo entrepreneurs can grab a desk, network connection, and the space and quiet they need to get work done without the distractions that can happen at home.
Most are affordably priced and have long-term and daily memberships to meet your business needs. A co-working environment is also a great place to schedule in-person meetings because it keeps potential clients, vendors or customers out of your home.
6. Plan Out Your Day, Week and Month
Get organized and plan out your business schedule. What are you doing today, this week, this month? Figure out a system to create to-dos and check off tasks. (You'll be amazed at how much time you can save and how focused you can be thanks to a great list.)
A good plan includes everything from reminders to pick up business cards at the printer to major deadlines such as when tax payments are due. Spend a few minutes each week revising your plan and making necessary adjustments. It'll help keep you more on track in the long run.
Working from home can be frustratingly distracting. You have to communicate your needs with your household and develop a plan to stay organized to make it work. And remember to network. Even though you work alone, you aren't alone. There are plenty of other people out there just like you — tap into that network and those resources.