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Room for Improvement

Does Running Your Business Out of Your Home Actually Work?


Working out of your house seems like the perfect scenario for anyone who wants to start their own business, unless you want to repair cars and find the prospect of having a Chevy Malibu parked in your living room problematic.

But for a one-person show — especially if the job is driven mostly by sitting in front of a computer to ply your trade — the idea of not paying rent for an office, avoiding bumper-to-bumper traffic, and staying in your warm and fuzzy pajamas is most compelling.

When Baby Boomers started getting laid off from their jobs during the recent economic downturn, many of those 55-plus folks suddenly realized they had a big house because the kids had moved on to greener pastures. There now existed wide-open spaces to set up a home-based business. All they needed was an upgrade in their computer software, a shopping cart full of supplies from OfficeMax, and new business cards.

But they also soon found some items they didn’t need, like a well-stocked refrigerator in close proximity, a 55-inch HDTV and comfy couch in the next room, and a dog that must surely have some kind of bladder problem since it always needs to go for a walk.

These entrepreneurs also discovered something was missing in their business lives — people. We’re talking about the need for real-life, face-to-face interaction and the ability to bounce ideas off someone to get opinions, feedback, and even constructive criticism. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it certainly doesn’t happen via e-mails, texting, Facebook, and Skyping. (OK, Skyping is close, but the camera never seems to be positioned correctly, and the people you are talking to always seem to be looking at something over your left shoulder.)

But all that being said, maybe a home-based business is just the way it has to be for budgetary reasons, and you are content to brainstorm with others face-to-face over a turkey sandwich at Panera’s. If so, here are some tips to help make working at home work:

Get out of bed. It’s great that you now don’t have to leave your house in the early-morning darkness to avoid being stuck in traffic for an hour on Route 3, but that doesn’t mean you can sleep until 10 a.m. on a workday. Try to make sure you’re on your computer no later than 9 a.m.
Dress for success. Sure, no one is going to see your footie pajamas, but working in your PJs isn’t a good mindset. Dress like you are at work, and you will feel like you are actually at work, not at a sleepover.
The couch is your enemy. Designate a room in your house as your office so that you’re free from distractions. Do not sit on the couch watching TV while juggling a computer on your lap. Unless Ellen DeGeneres and the Kardashians are your clients, you don’t need to be hanging out with them while you are at work.
Eliminate distractions. Every day shouldn’t be ‘bring your kids and pets to work day.’ If your children are school age, use that window of solitude wisely. If they are preschoolers, find a reliable day-care service … and one also for Fido.
• Communicate with your team. Keep in touch with colleagues, clients, and prospects via the usual channels, like e-mail and phone. That is, when you can’t make it to Panera’s.

Steve White is the owner of Steve White Public Relations in Norwell, Mass;