The secrets to a successful home business

The secrets to a successful home business

10 top tips for running a home business

Running a home business has a whole set of challenges of its own.  You are solely responsible for being disciplined in your work and not drifting off to do a spot of housework or accepting friends in for coffee who turn up on your doorstep.

If you are running a home business, here are my top 10 tips to help make the difference between treating your business in a professional manner in order for it to be successful, or letting it slip into the realms of an expensive hobby.

1. Create a separate workspace

Make sure that you have a separate home office or area for working so that you can keep all your paperwork and work related items in one place.  This helps to shut off at the end of the work day rather than having bits and pieces all over the place. It is important to let other household members know that this is your sacred space and not to be interfered with on pain of death!!

2. Get organized

The amount of time it takes to get organised in the first place will repay itself tenfold (or much more) further down the line.  Get files and organise a filing system for your workspace.  Clear away non-essential items that are causing unnecessary clutter.  Make sure you have all the necessary items for doing your work close to hand to save time hunting in the back of cupboards and drawers.  Treat your workspace with the importance it deserves.  Remember, you are running a business, not a hobby.

3. Define your working hours

One of the biggest failings of women running a home business is not setting working hours.  This results in either working a straight 15 (or more) hours with no break or working intermittently and fitting in household chores between work tasks that distract and disrupt the workflow.  Firstly, determine when you are most productive and then at what times you need to be available to clients.  Decide how many hours you are going to work each day and stick to this!

Running your own business from home gives you the flexibility to decide when you are going to work and it doesn’t have to be all in one chunk like a traditional 9 to 5 job.  You may want to do a few hours in the morning, take the afternoons off and then do a few more hours in the evening.  Having some sort of structure to your day can make you much more productive than just working on an ad hoc basis.

4. Have a support network

Constantly talking to yourself and losing your grip with what is going on in the outside world is all too easy when working from home which can easily lead to losing your motivation.  Make sure you remove yourself from your home once in a while to network with others to make new contacts, pick up new ideas and realise you are not alone.

5. Get into a routine

Having a routine and putting some structure into your day can make you so much more productive.  Create a monthly, weekly and daily routine where possible.  Block outset days/hours for marketing, admin, checking the finances, networking, calling new prospects etc.   Have set hours for checking emails and social media so that you don’t keep dipping in and out constantly which will take up far more time in the long run and keep distracting you from your key work.

6. Plan your work

The old adage goes ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ and this is so true when running a home business.  If you just get up each morning with no clear plan of what you intend to do for the day, you are likely to dip in and out of different tasks with no clear direction and end up not getting a lot actually completed.

At the end of each day set out your three priority tasks for the next day.  Make sure one of these is a key task that is going to take you, at least, one step closer to your end goal.  When you complete these three key tasks, you can then move on to a more fun task that you love doing but isn’t high on the priority list.  Working this way will help keep you motivated to complete the necessary tasks first with the reward of doing something more fun at the end.

If you find that you are not completing your three key tasks, move any unfinished item over to the next day and put a red dot next to it. If it doesn’t get completed on day 2, move it forward and add another red dot against it.  If you get to any item with three red dots you have to stop everything you are doing and either just do it, delegate it to someone else who can do it or delete it as it simply cannot be that important.

7. Take time out

Working from home can become all-consuming and we forget to take time out to recharge and refresh ourselves.  We keep trying to squeeze in just a bit more work and then a bit more which leaves us frazzled, irritable and resentful.  Schedule regular breaks from your workspace to do something non-work related such as going for a walk, reading a book or going out to lunch with a friend.  As they say, ‘a change is as good as a rest’.

8. Schedule family time

A danger of running a business from home is starting to neglect your family.  Just because you are at home and they can see you, doesn’t mean that you are spending time with them if you are constantly working.  Make sure you set out your working hours and allocate time out each week to focus purely on the family.  No taking calls or dipping into emails.  What is the point of working so hard if you can’t have some quality time with the ones you love?

9. Set expectations with family

When running a home business, it really can become a struggle balancing your business with having family around.  To help ease frustrations, set expectations with your family.  Set yourself specific working hours and let your family know that during these hours you will be working.

If you work from a separate room let them know that if the door is closed, you are not to be disturbed unless in an emergency.  Also, extend this to friends so they know they cannot just pop in for a coffee and a chat when they feel like it.  You need to be able to communicate with friends and family so they understand that just because you work from home does not make your work any less important than if you were out working for a large corporation.

10. Have fun!

It is all too easy to get so caught up in the nitty-gritty of our business that we start to lose the passion and forget the fun we had in starting up.  Recapture the passion and love for your business by taking some time to have fun.  This is both by booking time out and also looking for ways to have fun in your business day.  If you can start to enjoy it again, you gain more energy and the creative juices start to flow once again.

 

Follow these tips for running your home business and if you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments box below.

How to handle customer complaints

How to handle customer complaints

How do you handle your customer complaints?

Recently I had reason to lodge a customer complaint against one of my suppliers.  I had ordered a box of A4 paper which did not arrive on time.  I duly sent off an email and said the order had not been received.  I got a response almost immediately saying that the matter would be looked in to.

After a few more days with no further correspondence I sent another email in a rather more abrupt manner letting the supplier know how let down I felt and that I would no longer use their services in the future.

From past experience I expected a refund and that would be the end of the matter.

What I got was very much different.  I had an email explaining how they had changed courier services and had been badly let down by this new company which had then impacted upon their own customers.  They explained how much they valued my custom and were incredibly sorry that this had happened.  In a clear but concise manner the person on the end of the email told me what a nightmare they were in trying to sort out this mess but as I had been so let down, they would issue an immediate refund but would still send my order out for free.  They admitted they had received quite a few other customer complaints and were doing their best to rectify the matter and regain trust.

What made this response different to most of the standard ones I get and why was I so impressed?

Firstly, they put their hands up and admitted things had gone wrong.  This is so different to a recent response I had from British Airways after an appalling flight when they basically refused to admit anything was wrong.

Secondly, this was not an automated response.  This came from an individual who genuinely seemed to care.  They let me know how they were feeling personally in such a way that I instantly had empathy for their situation.

By not only issuing me a full refund but also still sending me the order free of charge, I regained my trust in them and will now stay with them as a future customer.  If I had simply been given a refund, I would not have ordered from them again.  They showed me that they valued my custom.

All too many companies hate complaints so much that they just get rid of the complainant as quickly as possible by sending a refund and not thinking of the bigger picture.  This company went out of their way to ensure I felt valued and to show they genuinely felt remorse for the problem.

If you get a customer complaint in the future take a leaf out of this company’s book and see how you can go over and above what is expected of you to gain a loyal future customer.

Make it easy for prospects to find you

Make it easy for prospects to find you

If you do any form of social media marketing (and I sincerely hope you do), you will more than likely come across suitable groups and/or pages that allow you to promote your business or special offers.

The sad thing is that all too often I see people wasting a valuable opportunity here by not making it easy enough for interested prospects to find out more about them.

There are some great posts out there that are really engaging but when I go to find out more information or how to book/get in contact, it is so difficult to find where I need to go that I give up.

Please, if you ever post out your offerings on social media, grab a coffee and watch this short (7-minute video) that will hopefully help you to make the path far easier for those valuable prospects to find you.