Success Requires Attitude!

Some of us work from home because we own our own business and need to keep our overhead low. Others do it because they have convinced their employers of the benefits of letting them work from a home office or simply because their job involves working remotely or independently. However, what we all have in common is that we need to produce, we need to perform, we need to excel. And when we work from home, we need to self-motivate to get things done!

If we don’t meet our goals, we may lose the opportunity to keep our dream job at home. Furthermore, we all want to succeed at what we do, right?

I saw this quote by Lou Holtz, the famed football coach, this past week and although it was initially spoken regarding sports, it struck me as a perfect quote to motivate me to work hard at home. Working in isolation, it’s all up to me to make sure I have the right attitude to succeed!

 Take a look at your days and think about how much energy you bring to your job. Do you get yourself revved up in the morning and attack your to-do list with gusto? Do you exude confidence and positivity to your clients? Do you keep pushing forward when you have a rough day? Keep this quote in mind and make sure you are giving your job your all and keeping your attitude in line to achieve success!

Work-From-Home Job Possibilities – A Collection for Inspiration

Let’s have a different kind of “Work From Home” type post today! I’ve been thinking about all the many possibilities of jobs people can have while working from home and would love for everyone out there to leave a comment telling us all what you do for your work-from-home job.

It’s the setup everyone dreams of – flexibility with your schedule, no need to spend time commuting or to buy extra gas for the trip in to work, the ability to care for family members …. the benefits go on and on! So many people want to work from home but don’t realize how many types of jobs might allow for this set up. Perhaps by sharing what we all do, we might inspire others to find a work-from-home type job that is perfect for their strengths and personal goals!

Throughout my career, I have had four different work from home jobs. Three of these were attorney jobs (working as an in-house attorney for a company, as an attorney for an extremely small firm, and eventually working for myself) and one was a direct selling business. Here are some of the work-at-home jobs of acquaintances of mine:

–          Non-profit consulting

–          Nutritionist (clients come to her home)

–          Direct selling water business

–          Freelance writing

–          Photographer

–          Real estate developer

–          Mortgage Industry (off-site employee working from home)

–          Hair Stylist (cuts/colors hair in her kitchen for regular clients)

I receive so many comments from people saying they wish they could work from home – let’s share what we do while working-from-home to inspire others to take the plunge in their area of expertise!!

Best Work-Spots for Productivity

It’s a catch-22. We love working at home because of the ability to focus on what we want to do, when we want to do it. We have less distractions than an office full of chatty office workers and we can have the peace and quiet we need to get things done.

But then again, we have other distractions. Mainly laundry, dishes, mail, bills, and pets. And of course, the lack of office workers to look over our shoulder means we can surf the internet whenever we want.

Sometimes when us work-at-home type people need to get things done, we need to leave our carefully organized home office (or kitchen counter-top work-space) behind and find someplace where we can get our gears going with nothing to distract us at all.

Here are my top five “get work done” places:

  1. Barnes & Noble – I work best with coffee in my hand, so the quiet corner of the bookstore coffee shop gives me a great work environment. Plus, there are plenty of places to plug in my laptop and hop on the free wifi!
  2. Kinkos – They provide free of charge mini-cubicle style desks next to their computers, and they welcome anyone to come in and use their workspace! I love that no one is there to chat, only to work. And if I’m trying to put together a project or series of documents, I love the heavy duty copiers as well as the free use of the extra-large staplers and paper clips!
  3. Fast Food Restaurants – Free wifi, hot coffee, and if you go during non-peak hours, it is completely quiet and you can have a large table to yourself. Seriously, greasy, yucky food aside, there’s one on every corner and if it’s not meal time then you know you won’t be interrupted for hours on end. No distractions at all.
  4. The Park – If it’s nice weather (aka not too hot, not too cold, and definitely not windy), find a good picnic table and you’ll have the perfect spot to be inspired, let your thoughts pull your creativity into gear, and nature will help relax you as you work. Hard to be stressed in a spot like this, right?
  5. The Reading Room of the Library – Whether it’s the public library or the nearby university, this is a no-brainer. Everyone is super-quiet, leaves you alone to do your work, and there are ample tables, sockets to plug in, and space to spread out. Most even have wifi.

Have a good place in mind but it doesn’t have internet? Now the iphones can work as personal hot spots and can send internet access from the phone to your computer to let you have internet access anywhere! This makes it even easier to get work done anywhere that helps you accomplish your tasks.

So tell me – where do you go when you need to be uber-productive, or do you prefer to just stay at home?

Protecting Our Time While Working From Home

My work-at-home situation may sound familiar to yours. My husband works a traditional 9-5 office job while I own my own business and work from home. Naturally, this creates certain implications regarding how our household runs. Can anyone guess who greets the repairmen who come to fix leaks, do home repairs or work on our cable tv? What about those chores that can only be done during the day such as running to the post office or other errands such as the laundromat, pharmacy, or grocery store?

To make matters worse, my kids’ schools are big on parents volunteering with each and every event and even day-to-day school life. Because people know that my job is flexible, I am often expected to take on extra work and attend extra events. Little do people realize what a commitment this can be when there is work that I need to do!

My job provides me the flexibility to take time off to make sure our household runs smoothly, but it also means that I have lots (and lots) of extra items on my to-do list that just wouldn’t be there if I worked out of the house. Can anyone identify?

How do we, as work-at-home employees or self-employed business owners, protect our workday hours while still managing to help our household stay on track and be there for our family in all the ways that they need us?

  • Start by making a list of priorities. What are you willing to drop work for, and what should you say not to? A kid’s school play – super important. Helping cut out alphabet shapes alone in the teacher’s workroom – not so important.
  •  Take advantage of home delivery options. A sick family member can’t go without their medicine, but see if you can have that medicine delivered to your home by the pharmacy. If not, consider using a different pharmacy (nearby or via the internet) that does delivery. Even groceries can be ordered and delivered if you’re up against a deadline!
  • Hire extra hands. Need someone to run to the post office or speak with the repairman? Someone out there is willing to be paid to do these things for you. A virtual assistant can even help you do tasks remotely such as answer emails (where appropriate), update your website, or put together brochures.
  • Put your foot down when family members ask you to do too many things that they could do themselves, and which they feasibly have time to do themselves. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that you don’t have important work to do, or that you can spare the time. Have frank but kind conversations so that everyone is on the same page as to what you should be expected to do.

Working from home often means being smarter at how we organize our days. Many of us find saying no to others extremely hard. But by doing so, and by finding creative solutions to those measly errands that clutter up our day, we can better manage our time, become more organized, and be more successful at what we do.

what are your tips for managing your time when working from home?

Professionalism for Working at Home

One of the things that I struggle with at times as someone who works from home is that I want to come across professional despite not having a fancy office with state of the art office equipment and a huge marketing budget. This troubled me a lot at first, but I have approached the issue in three ways –

  • first by not worrying so much about what others may or may not be thinking;
  • second – by coming up with creative solutions for how to portray my business to others;
  • third – by making strategic decisions on how to spend limited amounts of money on those little things that make a big impact.

The easiest aspect to address in regards to this is the telephone. I personally only answer my work phone (my cell phone) when my kids are not in the background and I know that I can have a professional conversation. If I can’t, I let my voice mail answer. Be sure to have a voice mail that sounds professional – this way no one will realize they’re not calling an office phone! And make sure not to “pocket dial” any work contacts!

Because I don’t have an office where I can meet with clients, I tell them that “for their own ease and convenience” I offer the service of meeting at the person’s home or at a quiet coffee shop that is close to them. My clients love this, and most of them think that I do this out of the goodness of my heart to make their life easy, not because I’m masking the fact that my office is in my home where my kids are running around! If I need to meet with a client who has higher standards and wants to see a very professional office situation, I make a reservation to meet at a beautifully decorated office space where I can reserve a spot by the hour, or I offer to meet them at their own office “so they don’t have to take time off of work.”

The one area where I am willing to spend some money to look extra-professional is with my business cards and website. This is the first impression that most people have of me and my business, so I want it to be high quality. These days, there are online companies like VistaPrint that print very cheap but good quality business cards. There are also tons of independent bloggers out there who can help you set up a professional looking blog or business website. Spend time making sure that your website is user-friendly and professional – your customers or clients will appreciate it.

For a long time I felt bad that I could not offer credit card services to my clients, but recently I signed up for a Square (or “square card reader”) – a tiny gadget that fits into my iphone or ipad and lets me charge credit cards! There is a tiny fee per transaction and my money is deposited into my bank account each night. Amazingly enough, there is no fee to sign up and they ship you a Square for free! This service will leave a huge impression on your customers who will see you as not just professional, but tech savvy, too!

I don’t mean to imply that there is anything unprofessional about working from home, but if anyone saw me working in my cluttered office surrounded by kids toys, I wonder if they would question my expertise. By creating the illusion of a polished, professional atmosphere, I feel like my clients are more impressed and feel good about the service they are receiving. After all, we want happy clients and customers who will refer our business on to others!!

What are some of your suggestions for maintaining professionalism while working at home?

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Today’s Thought: This upcoming three-day-weekend cannot come soon enough.

The Secret to Productivity That No One Wants to Hear!

In this series of work-at-home articles, I’ve talked about creative ways to get inspired, fun ways to make your workspace enjoyable, and new ways to stay motivated. Today, however, I’m going to give you simply one piece of advice, and it won’t be popular but it is the truth! Here it is:

Sometimes the best way to be effective and productive while working at home is to simply get your head down, put on those blinders and get to work!

I like to think sometimes that if I print out pretty labels for my file folders, arrange my desk beautifully, write specific to-do lists, or read motivating sayings that I might do a better job at working. But spending the extra time to run out and buy or print out fancy labels isn’t helping my work get done… it’s called procrastination! And lots of times we use these creative ideas not to make us work better, faster, or more efficiently, but to simply procrastinate! I would much rather create pretty folders than work, wouldn’t you? But I know that it isn’t going to help me get anywhere but behind.

So the next time you think you need motivation, follow Nike’s advice in getting down to business: “Just Do It”!! Set a timer on your watch, your computer, or even on your oven and decide that you are going to work for X amount of time before taking a break. Then follow through. Don’t get up, don’t re-write your to-do list, don’t decide to organize instead of getting real tasks accomplished. Just bury your head in your work and forget about all the fun distractions.

The great secret is that you will feel so good when you are done spending those hours doing nothing but working. You will be proud of yourself for getting so much accomplished, and you will have been more productive than any cute pinterest idea could have produced.

Work is work, and sometimes we just have to get it done! Go for it, and then pat yourself on the back for putting in the effort!

Keeping Costs Low When Working From Home

Has anyone experienced this predicament? You are so excited about working from home, starting your business, or creating your home office that you decide to stop by Target or your local office supply store for a couple essentials…. and in your excitement you leave the store with arm loads of fun office products?

Many of us work from home to eliminate the long commute, save on gas money, or eliminate a lease payment on a separate office. And in fact, working from home can save huge amounts of expenses! However, if we’re not careful we can end up eliminating that cost savings through stocks of office supplies or other unnecessary expenses. Here are a few ways to keep your savings in your pocket.

Make a List of Essential Supplies. Before heading out to buy boxes of paper clips, personalized notepads, and exciting desk organizers – decide what you really need in order to work at home. We all have handfuls of stray paperclips and rubber bands around our house, so do we really need to buy the 100 count box just so we feel that we’re prepared? Post-its always seem to be useful, but they are more expensive than you’d ever know! Pretty desk organizers make us excited to sit at our desk, but perhaps this is the chance to make that DIY organizer you pinned on Pinterest last week.

Look for Discounts. Research which office supply stores are having big sales or raid the cheap “back to school” aisle for what you need. Office supplies can take a huge bit out of your wallet, so collect coupons for the big items and keep your rewards card handy.

Forgo Purchases for Freebies. Many office supplies are available to use for free at your local office supply or copy store. For example, I only need a huge heavy duty stapler once or twice a month; instead of buying one for occasional use, I simply use the one available for free at Kinkos. Although this sounds stingy, it doesn’t make sense to pay a lot of money for supplies you will use that infrequently. I usually end up purchasing something or making copies while I’m at Kinkos anyway, which is probably how they justify letting people use it at no charge! There are also programs such as online fax services that are less expensive than getting faxes sent at an office supply store, and many of those offer a free first couple months when you sign up. Freebies are always good!

Strategize Large Ticket Items.  When it comes to large ticket items such as fancy printers, binding machines, paper cutters, and heavy duty staplers, decide what options fit your needs. For infrequent printing/copying/faxing needs, do the job at an office supply store and pay as needed. As your needs increase, you may need to consider something heavy duty. For example, my office-style printer is more expensive than the basic home office version, but it is efficient and I seldom have to replace the printer cartridge. Sometimes spending the extra money pays off in the long run.

Find Other Work-at-Home Friends. Are there are neighbors or friends who work at home and might want to share big ticket office supplies? If it is convenient enough, this may be a great way to save.  For example, having a friend receive your occasional fax for you would be an idea solution instead of your purchasing an entire fax machine for only occasional use.

Remember Expenses for Tax Time. Don’t forget to save your receipts for even your small business purchases, as these are deductible for your taxes. Do some research into what surprising expenses might be deductible, and don’t forget that you can deduct even a portion of your home mortgage, utility, and property insurance expenses that are applicable to your home office!

Just as other types of business decisions require budgeting and close scrutiny, don’t let your home office finances skip your attention. By thinking through creative solutions, you can save a lot of money on office expenses in the long run!

Charting Work Hours for Work-At-Home Efficiency

Working at home is a monumental exercise in time management and one that I’ve recently tackled here at After Nine to Five. I want to talk about it a little more because I received such positive response about the topic and because it is so crucial to working at home! I previously discussed {briefly} the need to chart the hours that you work so that you know how many hours you are truly working and what that means for your work-efficiency. Today, I want to elaborate on what this entails so that we can all effectively implement this technique and reap its benefits.

Why chart your work hours? Many people who work from home think they are being productive without realizing how many things cut into their work. Others aren’t sure where the time goes, but finish their day without having gotten much done. Determining what the actual problem is allows you to find a solution.

Microsoft Word and countless other programs and online sites provide calendar templates that are automatically tailored for each month. Print one out, keep it accessible, and mark down how many hours you work. Note when you get up for breaks and how long you spend away from your desk. At the end of each day, see how well you did. After each week or each month, see if you make progress at being more efficient.

By keeping track of how many hours a day you work, you start to notice your trends. Some of us are plagued by phone calls because friends and family know that we’re at home and available. Others of us are constantly popping up to answer the doorbell, work on dinner, or attend to kids or pets. When we chart our work hours, we can see how many times we really get up from our desk for unproductive, unnecessary reasons. We can then see where and how we spend our time while at home, and numbers don’t hide the truth – they keep us accountable.

Charting how much time you are working can give you a goal to work towards. If you are working 8 hours a day at home, can you tweak your habits to make those hours more productive and only end up having to spend 7 hours working instead? Decide what your goal number is, and then make changes to help you achieve it.

Consider what you are doing during each of those hours you log. If you are spending a disproportionate amount of time answering emails or doing unnecessary busywork, make adjustments. For example, if chatty clients constantly call, put them through to voice mail and send them a quick answer via email instead. If you realize you end up surfing the internet when you should be working, keep your laptop closed to remove the temptation.

Sometimes no matter how organized and efficient we are at our work, household duties just can’t be avoided. For many people, these responsibilities fall on your shoulders whether you like it or not. Look at your time chart and decide whether it would be worth it to delegate or outsource the time consuming tasks. If you can’t ask a spouse or housemate to pick up the slack, consider hiring someone to help out. If you make $20/hour working but can pay an assistant $8/hour to sort through mail, make copies, and file paperwork, it is well worth the expense! More people are hiring outside help to do tasks from organization to errands to web design, especially in this financial climate. Take advantage of these opportunities!

Charting your work day can be enormously beneficial, but take care to be honest with the hours you log and make an effort to make changes based on what you learn. Try it out and let us know how it helps you to keep your days working from home streamlined and as efficient as possible!

Working From Home: Staying Motivated!

We all have our days when we’re tired, unmotivated, and just don’t want to do any work. Hello, Monday? It’s the worst feeling! People in the workplace have no choice but to get moving though, as there are co-workers and employers to look over their shoulder and who would notice a sleeping employee!

Not true for those of us who work from home. Without anyone to see what we’re up to, it is easy to get off-task and surf the internet, dawdle over the morning paper with an extra cup of coffee, call it quits early, or even crawl back in bed! We need an extra dose of motivation to be successful working at home! So how do we deal with this challenge? Here are some ideas from which to pick and choose and create a plan that works for you and your personality!

Pinpoint Your Goal. Why do you work hard? Is it to support your spouse or kids? To make your self-owned business succeed or get a promotion? To be able to take a long vacation, save for college or buy something special? There are a thousand reasons why you might want to work hard, but only a handful which will get you excited and motivated to keep doing your best. Think about what you want to achieve and even write it down to look back on when you hit a slump.

Source: Via Pinterest

Create an Inspiration Board! Place a bulletin board on the wall above your desk and tack up motivational quotes or pictures that remind you of why you want to work hard. Each time you get distracted, your eyes will eventually fall upon that inspiration board and you will remember why you should get back to work and enjoy working hard to achieve your goal.

Dress the Part. Lots of us who work from home enjoy doing work on the couch in our pajamas. It is so easy to roll out of bed and over to our computer when we don’t have to shower and dress up, but this isn’t the best way to get energized. Think about whether dressing the part would help you to wake up, get refreshed, and find extra energy.

Connect With the Outside. If you have co-workers or teammates who work in other places, get together for periodic face-to-face meetings. You’ll feel a stronger connection with the co-workers and be influenced to do your best.

Find a Motivation Partner. If you know someone else who works from home, collude with each other to get inspired. Send each other an email on Monday mornings, reminding the other why they should be excited about their job. Make plans to work hard all week and then reward yourselves by going out for drinks on Friday. Pick up the phone when you can’t find that inspiration, and ask them to help motivate you. If you have someone keeping you accountable and reminding you of your goal, it will be easier to succeed!

Take a Break. Don’t forget that when you just can’t pull yourself out of a slump, you sometimes just need a breather! Although you can’t be constantly taking breaks, you do need to create time just for you, so that you can recharge and reconnect with your goals and inspiration. When you get back to work, use that extra enthusiasm to move forward with extra energy!

We are all different and enthused by various kinds of motivation. What works for you personally to keep yourself excited when you’re working at home without being surrounded by co-workers? I’m sure there are a lot of other great ideas out there, so share what you’ve found to help you on those days when you feel uninspired!

what keeps you motivated when working from home?

Managing Your Time When Working at Home

One of the biggest challenges with working from home is time management: How do we keep on task and get good quality work done without being distracted by the mess in the kitchen, the pets under our feet, or the home telephone ringing with personal calls? On the other hand, it can also be very hard to put our work down at the end of the day and separate our work day from our personal life in the evening! Whether you’re the kind of person who gets distracted easily or tends more towards the never-ending work day, here are some tips that might help keep you on track!

1. Remove all distractions. Sounds simple, but it is hard to do. Start by giving yourself a clean work environment, free of anything that will make your mind wander to your personal chores. Remove stacks of household mail, piles of unwritten thank you notes, and miscellaneous to-do lists. Take your home phone off the ringer (if you have a separate work/cell phone) and put up the doggie gate to keep your puppy from beckoning your attention. And last of all, each time your mind wanders to the millions of things you need to do around your house, will yourself to get your focus back onto the task at hand!

2. Schedule Breaks and Personal Time. If you schedule time to do your personal chores at designated points during your day, you may find it easier to focus when you need to work. Allow yourself a mid-morning break to do whatever has been distracting you throughout the morning… just put a time limit on the diversion. Take your lunch at the table in your kitchen or dining room instead of in front of the computer, and make a couple personal phone calls while you’re at it. When you hit your 4pm slump (because we all have that low-energy moment), take a quick walk around the block while chatting up friends on your cell phone. By giving yourself scheduled personal time, you can keep your mind on work during your work day.

3. Set a finite end to your work day. Keep your work in your office or designated workspace instead of littering paperwork around the couch where you spend your evenings. Turn off your cell phone ringer to prevent co-workers from calling in, and power off the computer. If spending extra 15 minutes on work before bedtime allows you to clear your head and go to sleep without those antsy work thoughts keeping you up, then do it – just don’t get sucked into doing more than just a couple minutes!

4. Keep a time sheet. Print out a simple calendar and keep track of how many hours you truly work each day. By keeping a close eye on how much time you put into your job, you may begin to see areas where you are being unproductive and you will get a more accurate picture of how many true work hours you are keeping. Make a goal of how many hours you want to work each day and use this calendar to keep yourself accountable. See if you meet your goal at the end of each day, and the end of each week – if you’re not happy with the results, make changes to your routine to help you meet your goals.

Although these are the points that have helped me with my own work experience, what suggestions do you have that have allowed you to concentrate throughout the day and let go when the workday is over?