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For most of us, working from home will feel a little, well, weird at first. No boss, no fluorescent bulbs humming overhead, no cubicle. Strange. But I've been doing it since Jimmy Carter was president and over the years I've learned how to make working at home a workable solution. Some tips: 1. When you work at home it doesn't look like work to others. So you'll get calls from friends during scheduled work hours and your spouse will ask you to run a few errands around town - something that takes three hours out of your work day. Your inner circle (family and friends) must respect your work time. You must respect it, too. Caller ID shows you it's your neighbor - a time-waster if ever there was one. So, don't take the call. And ask your spouse to pick up her own dry cleaning. You have a web writing business to run. If you treat your activities as a business, others will come to do so, as well. 2. Create a work schedule. Whether you're going at this part- or full-time, time is money so you want to allocate it wisely. On the other hand, writing from home provides flex-time so you can manage the school carpool and still get to your desk by 9:30 - plenty of time to crank out a piece for syndication. A schedule is also good for those of us with ADHD and have the attention span of a gnat. If you schedule four hours to do a press release the next day, you become your own boss. It's always better to be on your boss' good side - even when you're the boss. 3. Create your sanctuary. This is the place you go to work. It's an easy commute and you can handle a conference call in your fuzzy slippers. The family should know that when mom or dad is "in the office" no disturbances unless the house is actually engulfed in flames. Then you want to know about it, but otherwise, leave the family problems at your office door for pick-up at the end of the work day. 4. Protect your business. Your business exists on your computer's hard drive. Content in development, addresses and phone numbers, templates, tools - all stored on that one hard drive. Gulp! It's essential to protect your expanding pile of business assets. So:
Use a separate computer for business. Keep the kids (and spouse) off. Use an outboard hard drive to back-up all your work automatically. This way, if the hard drive in your computer heads south, you still have your valuable files for download to your new (and more
powerful) system. And if you're really serious (and you should be), consider an off-site storage service - an FTP which stands for File Transfer Protocol. In fact, what you want is an sFTP - a secure FTP service. You simply upload your files to this off-site server. This way, if the house burns down or you find the office underwater during flood season, all of your critical data is stored off site waiting for you when you're back up and running. Google 'secure FTP' to find the service that suits your budget. (Yes, you'll pay a few bucks for an sFTP each month but think of how much better you'll sleep at night.) 5. Get a separate business line. True story. I was the lead on a conference call with 16 content experts all talking at once - and this was a Fortune 500 company - you know, a quality, deep pockets client. Anyway, right in the middle of the give-and-take discovery phase, my wife picks up the downstairs phone and presses an auto-dial number without listening to see if the phone was in use. Of course, when she realized her mistake she quickly apologized and hung up but you could feel the palpable silence on the other end of the line. I brushed it off with an "Okay, where were we..." but let's just say I looked like a total amateur and the tenor of the conversation took a noticeable turn to the left, as in, we all left in a hurry. (Though I was able to save the account with a follow-up to my contact point who had a good laugh over the matter. Tough to laugh at your own goofs.) 6. Run your business on a shoestring. Sure, if you're still using dial-up on the old Coleco 64 (anybody remember them?), you'll want to upgrade to a quality, dependable, new system from a reputable manufacturer. (No recommendations, here.) But skip the embossed, watermarked stationery. You won't use it. Who uses snail mail anymore except my electric company? Skip the engraved business cards. Buy business card software and high quality biz-card stationery and print as needed. Always a good idea to carry a couple of business cards. You never know when you'll run into a potential client. (Parties are great for networking, especially after the wine has been flowing for a few hours. Man, that's one easy contract!) If you're working at home you probably don't need a Blackberry or other PDA. You're home, already! You aren't going to need to be texted remotely. You're right there, or at least you should be. There's more. Self-discipline, the importance of deadlines and staying in touch with clients, marketing your services and so on. But, here's the bottom line - literally and figuratively: If you're going to write from home, you have a business. Treat it as such.
Paul Lalley firstname.lastname@example.org
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