What is it really like to run a business from home?

There is a lot to be said for the lure of working from home. Independence, a chance to explore cherished hopes and dreams, and escape unpleasant work environments are but a few of the attractions.

I left the corporate world in 1995 without any firm ideas as to my next career move. Part of the downshifting trend that has become so common, I recognised at a young age that my working environment wasn’t right for me. The only way I could cope with the stress was by attaching a mask each day before entering the office. In hindsight, I had little opportunity to express my individuality or to be my normal happy self.

In moving to a home environment I looked forward to ample fresh air, reading in the sunshine and improved health. However, I have come to learn that you can not outrun stress. There are many challenges in self-employment including:

Companionship

You may not recognise it at the time, but the power of walking into the office each morning and greeting your colleagues is a powerful part of the day when you start connecting with your co-workers.

For anyone in this situation it is vital to create a sense of community. I recommend having a good group of friends that you can spend time with. In addition it is worth considering other devices to ensure you are not emotionally stranded.

A mentor can be extremely useful, or you might like to form a mastermind group. A mastermind group comprises six to eight people who meet on a regular basis. At each meeting two people get a chance to discuss their issues and receive input from the group.

Stress and Depression

It is worth mentioning that stress has become a serious issue that frequently evolves into more serious health problems including heart attack and depression. The incidence of depression has increased ten-fold since the time our grandparents, and is a danger likely to affect one-fifth of all New Zealanders.

Following on from the theme of ‘Companionship’ loneliness and feeling unsupported or isolated are potential stresses. The appeal of starting a home business can soon wane when you’re spending your entire weekend doing tax returns and paperwork.

For myself the least desirable aspect of self-employment is marketing. Give me someone else’s product to market and I’m happy as a clam. But extolling your own virtues is much tougher. Psyching yourself up to make the requisite phone calls and coping with rejections are aspects of business that I personally found tough when I was starting out. Rejection can wear you down and eat at your self-esteem.

The solution is to realise that it’s a numbers game. Every five “no” calls give you one “yes” call, or some other hit rate. Also know that it’s not you that is being rejected – it’s your proposal. The more you can depersonalise disappointments the happier you are likely to be. This is supported by research on the subject by psychologist Dr Martin Seligman. His book Learned Optimism makes for fascinating reading – particularly for anyone involved in sales. He has found a direct correlation between sales success and optimism, and uses science to demonstrate how you can change your attitude.

Finances

Money makes the world go round, but it also brings down many a budding business. If you’re not the sort of person who can be comfortable with uncertainty around finance, then you’re probably not suited to self-employment. Rejection (refer previous paragraph) is only one of the setbacks that you are likely to strike at some point during your business career. Self-employment requires specific skills. Without them you are exposing yourself to unnecessary stress.

One of the first lessons I learned was that some months you have more money than you know what to do with. Other months you don’t know where your next dollar will come from. If you can be comfortable with this (while taking all possible steps to maximise profits) then your stress levels will slide away.

Space Management

Are you one of those people that lets your business invade your entire house? Do you have bits and pieces of plans and ideas you are working on scattered throughout your home? If so you could be guilty of space mismanagement. A lot of people have difficulty segregating their business and personal activities when they work from home. This simply doesn’t work. You will be faced with arguments from your family, and the psychological cluttering of your personal space. To understand this, imagine you have one blue room in your house and the rest are pink. Your office/workshed is the blue room. Imagine if one day your dining room was painted with splotches of blue. Your logic says, ‘I know this is still the dining room’, but your psyche associates it with your work area because it’s blue and is now confused.

Going back to real life, if you leave work papers in non work areas you’re unable to get mental rest, and it will take a toll on your psyche. Motto – pop everything back into your office at the end of the day.

Ending the day

For employees when the day is over, it’s over. You can leave the office and in most cases forget about your day.

For self-employed there is a greater level of emotional and financial investment and as such it can be more difficult to switch off when the day is over. If you have ever experienced a myriad of work-related thoughts running through your brain while you’re trying to sleep or when your concentration should be elsewhere then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. To minimise stress in your life it’s vital to reduce to achieve balance in your activities, and to have periods of calm.

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds stated that one of his keys to success was learning to switch off at the end of the day. Without it he believed he would not get sufficient rest to perform efficiently. Using Ray Kroc as a role model I would recommend the following techniques:

  • Consciously clear your thoughts when you go to bed. If a thought enters clear your mind again. Focus on being still, relaxed and without conscious thought
  • I’m loathe to say this as everyone recommends it, however it does achieve good results… learn meditation, yoga or tai chi
  • Another favourite that I like to recommend is to have a ritual to signify that the day is over. If you have a filofax prioritise tomorrow’s activities and organise your day. If you have a wall calendar or a desk calendar, rip off the finished page and throw it in the rubbish. You can visualise this if you don’t have a desk diary. See all the worries of the day being thrown away

These are a few of the everyday stresses that those of us in self-employment face. Remember to take time for yourself and to heed your body’s warning signs. You only have one life – enjoy it!

Author's Bio: 

After a successful career spanning finance, marketing and management roles in Fortune 500 companies, Talia experienced stress-induced burnout, and left the corporate world to establish a consulting business.

Talia is a published author, professional speaker and business mentor. She is also a contributing author to 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life with Bob Proctor, John Gray and Jack Canfield.