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Monday, June 16, 2008

Five Skills for Work-at-Home Success

When I tell people that I work form home, they automatically think that I have it easy. I'll tell you – even my husband and I have had it out on occasion over this very misconception. I mean, he of all people should know how difficult it is to run a household with five children, let alone trying to get some real work done while they're doing all the things that young kids do to make their parents go gray early. It's just that the "at home" part of "work at home" seems to stand out over the "work" part. Oh yeah, theoretically I should have time to throw a load of clothes in the wash, maybe fold a few, and do some dishes, but the reality of it is, I'm lucky to get the kids clothed and fed and my files turned in on time while holding on holding on to some shred of my sanity many days.

Working from home is definitely not for the faint of heart, especially if you have kids, but it's difficult even without. The potential for interruptions is much greater, and if you don't plan your time very carefully, you might find yourself missing your deadlines on a frequent basis. It's easy to be complacent and think, "Oh, I've got plenty of time. I'll do that file later." I've talked before about the dangers falling prey to procrastination without a boss looking over your shoulder all day long to make sure you're meeting your targets. However, it definitely has it perks, as well.

Do you think you have what it takes to work from home? I found a great article on HotJobs that outlines the five basic skills that you need to to have to be successful at working from home. There's probably a good possibility that you're weaker in some areas and stronger in others, but as they say, knowledge is half the battle. If you truly want to make working from home work for you, you have to be committed to bettering your weak areas while maintaining your stronger ones. Read on to determine if you can make this work for you!

One thing Chad Brown doesn't stress about is his daily commute. Rolling out of bed, washing his face, and walking 10 paces to his computer, he's already at work. The CEO of Plus 1 Tickets, a home-based, ticket-brokering firm that sells sports, theater, and concert tickets throughout the nation, Brown is one of the more than 4.2 million Americans who are ditching the daily commute in favor of punching in at home.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost half of the nation's small businesses operate from home-based offices -- and why not? As employer loyalty wanes and low-cost, lightning-speed technology becomes more accessible, it's easier than ever to launch your own firm without leaving home.

Below are five skills you'll need to kiss the cubicle goodbye.

Entrepreneurship

Sure you've got industry knowledge, but do you have what it takes to be the boss? According to Tamara Monosoff, author of the best-selling book "Secrets of Millionaire Moms" and the CEO of the Alamo, California-based product marketing firm, Mom Inventors Inc., it takes more than good ideas to make a business work. "A successful business is really about knowing what steps you need, and taking action," she says. "It's about making a plan, setting concrete goals, and shaping the business the way you imagine it to be."

Entrepreneurship courses offered through your local chamber of commerce, small business association chapter, or online through schools like DeVry University can help new home-based business owners get off the ground.

Tax Planning

When you own your own business, it's all about thinking financially. "As a new business owner, one of the first things you need to know is how to structure your company to have maximum tax benefits," states William Ellyson, a Richmond, Virginia-based attorney who specializes in small-business issues.

Entrepreneurs can find basic tax planning courses through local community colleges and small business association chapters. Those looking for more in-depth knowledge can check out year-long financial planning certificate programs offered online.

Public Relations and Marketing

"The main thing my major has taught me is how to network," states Brown, a public relations major at Virginia Commonwealth University whose networking skills grew his ticket-brokering firm from a sideline hobby into a nationwide company with more than $150,000 in sales each year. "I've also learned how to effectively talk to clients and efficiently deal with problems."

No matter the industry, all home-based entrepreneurs must be able to promote their services, reach the target demographic, communicate effectively with clients, and create a professional image for the public. While four-year institutions like Virginia Commonwealth offer bachelor's degree programs in public relations, home-based business owners can also find PR courses through their local community college or chamber of commerce.

E-Commerce

"Five years ago, the attitude was 'Yeah, I know I need to have a website, but I'll get around to it,'" says Gene Fairbrother, lead small business consultant for the National Association for the Self-Employed. "Today you've got to have a Web presence to be in business." According to the market research firm, Forrester Research, Inc., e-commerce retail sales topped $175 billion last year, with the industry projected to grow another $160 billion by 2012.

Brown fine-tuned his e-commerce strategy, moving his products from eBay to larger ticket broker sites such as Stubhub.com and Ticketsnow.com, increasing sales by an estimated 200 percent. To learn how to set up, manage, and promote your business online, check out e-commerce courses offered online through the University of Maryland University College and the University of Phoenix.

Project Management

Being the CEO, chief sales officer, HR director, bookkeeper, and janitor requires expert multitasking. "It's very difficult to manage it all," admits Monosoff, who leads a multi-million-dollar home-based business while raising two children and writing a monthly column for Entrepreneur Magazine. "You have to have discipline, organization, and be able to prioritize."


1 Comment:

margi said...

I have the same day as described in your first paragraph - oh heck, who'm I kidding - that's me most of the time.

The day that it dawned on me that my family is reaping the benefits of my working WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY being a SAHM, it tends to put things in perspective.

I take care of my children. I work full-time. I make fresh, homemade and delicious meals for my family (okay, that might be hyperbole). I'm here to take care of the home things.

So pay no attention to the dust bunnies in the corner. I'll get to 'em this weekend.

Heh.