Make Your Work-from-Home Dreams Come True

Step 3: Setting Boundaries in Your Home Office

Once you've established that your idea is sound and you figured out a financial plan of attack as we did in the last step, it's time to consider how your home office will operate.

A peaceful marriage of home and office depends on establishing effective boundaries. The office, with its phone calls, mail, paperwork, noisy equipment and business visitors, can invade the sanctity of the home. In the same way, friends, neighbors, kids, barking dogs, soap operas and peanut butter sandwiches can clutter the halls of business. This week, you'll learn what boundaries you need to establish and how to implement them in order to preserve the character and quality of your office space and living space.

Making Decisions Regarding Clients and Your Workspace

Telling people that you work from home
"I work with Fortune 500 companies," one consultant explains. "They're used to working with consultants who have Madison Avenue addresses. I don't know what they would think if they knew I was talking with them in my bathrobe, but I'd just as soon not find out." Eighty percent of people we've talked with say they don't mind telling people they work from home, but for some it is problematic. If you feel at all uncomfortable with people knowing you work from home, usually there's no need to tell them. By arranging outside business meetings and having a business phone and special mail service, you can just as easily appear to be working in a regular office setting.

Receiving visitors
Half of the people working from home prefer to meet business visitors away from their home offices. Several points to consider as you decide what works for you:

Security: Will you and your premises be safe if your business brings strangers into your home?

Privacy: Will you feel as though your privacy has been breached or that strangers are invading your home?

Image: Is your office appropriate for business meetings, and do you want to keep it looking presentable?

Handling phone calls
The dilemma of phone service is how to make sure you don't miss important business calls without becoming a slave to the telephone. Having a separate telephone line for business, answering it in a formal manner and using an answering machine, an answering service or voicemail when you aren't available are good ways to solve this problem.

Using your home address
The majority of people who work from home use their home address for both personal and business mail. However, if you're concerned about giving your home address to strangers or if you have an address on Sheep Dip or Sleepy Hollow Lane and don't like the image it conveys, rent a post-office box from a mail-receiving service like Mail Boxes, Etc.

Setting Boundaries with Other People When you're working at home, clients, neighborhood friends and kids can all want your attention at the same time. Let colleagues and customers know specifically when they can call you or come by for a meeting. Let friends and neighbors know that during work hours you aren't available, but tell them when you are. Go over your work schedule with your family so they know what to expect, when you need "quiet time" to make phone calls or concentrate, and what parts of your office space are off limits.

Realize Your Requirements for Optimal Success Discover what kind of home-office environment you need for your business to succeed. These eight questions help you find out how much privacy you need to concentrate, how much confidentiality your business calls for and how comfortable you are with household distractions. Answer yes or no.

  1. Do you close the door when you work?
  2. Does the sound of music, television, children's activities or people talking in the background distract you from your work?
  3. Do you prefer to work independently and autonomously?
  4. While you're working, would you rather not see what's going on outside your office?
  5. When you're concentrating on a particular task, do you ask people not to disturb you?
  6. Do you have phone conversations or business meetings that should not be overheard by others in the house?
  7. Is it important to your business visitors that they not be seen or overheard by one another while they are in your home?
  8. Do you have information in your files or records that must be kept confidential?

The more times you answer yes, the more private and separate your office space should be -- and the clearer the rules regarding interruptions need to be -- so you can work effectively.

Get more tips and ideas about the particulars of setting up your office.
Find space for your home office
Make a stylish home office in a small space
Glamourize your home office
Get more tips for setting up your home office

Still wondering where to put your desk? How to keep the kids out? Ask questions and share ideas with other women trying to conquer the same issues on the Working from Home: How Do I Start? message board.

In the next step, we'll look at how to effectively market your business and -- most important of all -- get clients.

© 1999 by Paul and Sarah Edwards. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin Putnam Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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