The holiday season is upon us. Depending on what your work from home business is comprised of, you could be freaking out more than ever. Here are three things that are true about this time of year for new home business owners:
- You want to enjoy the holidays with your family, friends, or even by yourself.
- You want to have the money to pay your bills and give your family nice things (or, at least, not starve).
- Most of your clients don’t have much work this time of year because they’re wrapping up their projects for the year.
And the combination of those things can leave you feeling stressed out. You could have more free time on your hands. While you can take advantage of that and enjoy some downtime, you may also find yourself worried sick about whether you’ll have enough money to pay your monthly expenses (let alone buying gifts for your children, other family members, or friends).
The Truth about the Stress You’re Feeling
I’ve worked from home full time for a few years. So, I am speaking from experience. The stress you’re feeling right now (during the holidays) is cyclical. What you’re feeling right now is something you’ll likely feel next year unless you become a six or seven figure business owner (but even then, many people struggle because what most people have isn’t an income problem…it’s a spending problem – and, yes, I know the necessities in life can be expensive. I mean spending more along the lines of trying to keep up with the Jones’ when you don’t even like them…).
Businesses slow down toward the end of the year. Since we’re conditioned (in America and in other countries…but I’m American so that’s all I can really speak about) to make a big fucking deal about Christmas and spend, spend, spend, stress is exacerbated.
Now That You Know the Truth, You Can Be Proactive
Even my business is a little slow this time of year. Textbook companies are done producing for the year. Colleges are wrapping up administrative reports. Lawyers sometimes keep shorter hours. Last year? Last year was rough. So rough. I was constantly worried. Bull’s type of work (general contracting) can also be slow this time of year.
This year? I decided I was going to be more proactive. I knew it still wasn’t going to be as busy as other times of the year for me (I am usually slammed from February through October). Here’s what I did:
- I reached out to clients I only work for once or twice a month and told them I was available for extra work should they need me. This resulted in two clients immediately sending over more work and asking if they could use me all month because other contractors weren’t working. Uh, yes.
- I looked for extra work. I don’t look for new clients very often. Most of my clients are referrals or repeat clients. Some people find me and ask me to help them. This landed me two more clients…one of which should end up being long-term. The other one? Maybe. It depends on how well we work together (starting with a test project).
- I made plans on how I can use my extra time. It’s no secret that I have C-PTSD. When I was a child, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I have a freelance business course I am putting together. I’ve scheduled a seminar. I have my own manuscript to work on. I am hitting the gym. I am getting some small home improvement things done around our house. The weather here is unseasonably warm so I plan to spend more time outside. I am meditating more. I spend time working on my giant loom every day. I go to the gym and I work out at home (both, each day).
- I follow through on my routine. I have a specific time during the day when I work (usually. Days where I have to take care of my mother and on days where Baby Bull has something going on, obviously that changes!). If I don’t have enough work to last through that entire time, I look around for a little extra work. Otherwise, I move on to the next item on my list.
And, one final tip for you on being proactive. If you give gifts during Christmas or Yule…I know that some people don’t for religious or personal reasons and that’s cool…I just know that the extra strain of buying presents this time of year can really take its toll. At the beginning of each year, put back money for this time of year. Think about what you need to cover in terms of monthly expenses and presents. Then, start putting that money back. Don’t wait. Don’t skip a pay period and think you’ll make up for it later in the year. This can help you feel less stressed and help you get through the holiday season without a Britney 2007 moment.
Okay, so let’s be honest. The purpose of working from home is to be with our families while making money. For me, effective communication is right up there with time management and self-discipline. How you communicate with others is the catalyst that determines whether someone wants to do business with you (or continue to do business with you). While I’m going to reveal some practical communication tactics that will help you sell more, it’s important that you remember that no one is perfect when it comes to communication. I am an excellent writer. I do well with public speaking IF I have plenty of time (at least 24 hours) to prepare. If I’m talking off the cuff, it takes good questions from another party or it’s likely I will sound like a drowning goat. I am a professional writer for a reason – writing is a special form of communication. I can write and rewrite something (more formerly known as editing) before I turn it over to the client or publish it. Fact is, I know how to make people feel all the things or to educate them on whatever subject I’m writing about. So, why I am I telling you that I am great writer and not so great at things like being on the phone? Because no one is perfect. When it comes to phone meetings, I can put on a brave face and do them because I practice, practice, practice basic things…but I can also come off as extremely fucking awkward.
Yet, even with that said, the same basic communication tactics can be used (you know, if you can get the fuck out of your own head, amirite?). Read more
Hey everyone! Freelancers Union and Upwork just released the Freelancing in America 2017 survey results. I was part of the survey (through Upwork). It actually came out a couple of weeks ago, but until I went to visit Freelancers Union’s Facebook page, I had no idea the results were ready. I dunno…I probably just missed the official announcement made in the middle of October. Anyway…here are some highlights (view the full study, including the ability to download a PDF here): Read more
I work really hard when it comes to running my business. I also stay fully involved and committed to my family. So, when people I don’t know ask me to hire them through social media, you can guarantee it’s a no…but every once in a while, I’ll offer to look at a writing sample or a resume and give advice. Because as hard as it is to run a business, it’s equally hard to get started.
So, I said…send me a writing sample. I received that as expected and I responded and asked several questions. Lo and behold – no answer. Reason #1018 that people fail at working from home? They’re flaky. People want to work from home until they figure out it’s actually work.
If you’re a flake, if you’re lazy, if you have no self-discipline…you will not successfully work from home.
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- Abide by city, state, and federal laws because a law suit is really the last thing that you want or need to deal with when it comes to business. For instance, did you know that in some towns you can’t run certain types of businesses from your home? Some cities or states may require you to have a certain type of license to run a specific kind of business. It doesn’t matter whether you think the law is stupid.
- Respect client confidentiality. You may or may not sign an NDA with your client. Even if you don’t, remember the golden rule and treat others how you want to be treated. If you’d like to share something related to their project, get the permission of the client.
- Be honest and upfront with clients and potential clients. No one likes a liar.
- Be respectful with your words and actions toward your clients and prospective clients. Not everyone is going to be a good fit. You can part ways amicably. Remember that the entire world is watching you on social media. Everything you say and do even on your personal accounts is subject to scrutiny. You’re free to say what you want, but you won’t be free of the consequences.
- Be honest in your advertising or description of services.
- Stay away from slang words and misleading phrases.
- Deliver on time, every time. The only exception is delivering early.
- Clear, concise, and professional communication with clients, potential clients, former clients, and other providers.
- Use contracts that are fair to everyone involved.
- Stay committed to education.
- Stay committed to excellence.
- Uphold your promises and agreements.
- Act like a professional. I realize we live in the information age and people want everything now. That’s no excuse for being unprofessional. That’s no excuse for treating people poorly. Remember that others who work from home are your colleagues. You may need a reference or you may want people to send you overflow work. That’s not going to happen if you’re unprofessional. Don’t act in a demeaning way toward clients or potential clients…or anyone else. Not only is it rude, it can also affect your business in the long run.
- Be courteous. Basic courtesy can go a long way in growing your business.
- Don’t talk down to anyone. Clients have a choice. They can find another provider.
- Keep semi-regular hours. I know that part of the draw to working from home is flexibility. I know I appreciate being able to set my own hours. Remember that many of your clients already keep regular hours and they need to know when they can talk to you.
- Be honest about your policies. If you plan to act as a middle man and outsource all your projects to others, make sure that clients know and that they are okay with this. Otherwise, you could hurt your reputation.
- Respect the time of others. Your day is no more or no less important than that of anyone else. While long-term clients may be very understanding of a day where your child is sick, it’s really not the problem of your clients and I’d bet a nickel that you could have avoided missing a deadline by better time management earlier during the project. One of the ways you can respect the time of others (and your own time) is by setting up a schedule and sticking to it. When school is in session, my work hours are 9 am to 3 pm. That’s six hours of uninterrupted time. During the summer, I get up before anyone else and work. I also work throughout the day.
- Stay on top of your email and reply where necessary. Triage and trash. Triage your email to determine if you need to respond or put it on a to-do list. Trash what you don’t need. Clients and others you work with shouldn’t have to wait days or weeks to hear back from you because you lost an email.
- Understand what your responsibilities are and uphold them. If a client or other work from home professional sends you a project, you get on the same page about the requirements. You ask questions where necessary. You adhere to what they say they need done. If they say no outsourcing, then you do it yourself. Anything less than upholding your responsibilities is a form of dishonesty.