Tips for Work-at-Home Side Hustlers

Got a business idea or two you’re itching to develop? Going all-in as an entrepreneur is  appealing? Serious side hustlers can test the waters before quitting that day job.

Is working from home your dream job? No more interruptive meetings, late nights, rush-hour traffic, grumbling workmates, unplanned snafus? Just your cup of coffee, serene music and focused creative time, on-demand with your work-at-home gig? Sounds fab-u-lous….and, it is. Actually, work-at-home is the best — and worst — of both worlds.

No time to procrastinate

I started a home-based business — our side hustle — when our first son was born years ago (more on that first venture later). I truly missed my co-workers, professional networks and adult conversations…but about those late hours and working uninterrupted? Ha! Those didn’t really go away, not even as the kids grew up! And in between? It was a real juggling act – to be on a client call and keep a toddler silent (yeah, right), choosing to answer emails over sleep, and sacrificing coffee with friends to meet a client deadline. Yes, the best — and worst — of both worlds.

Why start a side hustle anyway?

Seriously, it was the B-E-S-T. Running a side hustle was a great way to have flexibility, hone my professional skills and contribute to the family income. And being the lonely CEO? Well that cut out a lot of laborious meetings, developed my business acumen quickly, and allowed for far more creativity to pitch a client. After all, the buck stopped here — with me. No project…no client. No client…no money.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! But I’ve learned a few things along the way…check out my top 12 tips:

How to see success with your side hustle now

  1. Have a plan. Think strategically and outline your goals…How will you make money – services and/or product(s)? How much of your time will it take? Do you need help? Do you need to buy any equipment? What will you charge? Who is your market? Do you foresee business growing? If your side hustle is not just a hobby, you will eventually make a full business plan (more on that in another post).
  2. Manage your time. First, get a grip on time you have by defining what you consider family time, work time and flex time in your routine week. Then, decide if you need work time means meeting-away-from-home time, conference-call time or just quiet time. Next, carve out when you will work and how long your time blocks must be – can you fit small tasks in a few spare minutes or do you mostly need dedicated time blocks to work? Use a daily schedule, reminder app, planner notebook, movable sticky notes, or whatever suits you.
  3. Stay focused, on track. Make a habit to show up to work. You might be surprised how those “it-will-just-take-a-minute” chores eat into your schedule. Remember your time management – work time is blocked for work. So try to not get distracted by routine tasks, like loading the dishwasher, being absorbed by random social media or spontaneous chatting during work time
  4. Train your family. As soon as possible, train your kids (and spouse, parents, in-laws, babysitters) how to act, and interact, for your business. They should know how you want them to: answer your phone and take a message, greet someone coming to see you, know the name of your business and/or products, not interrupt a client meeting, and play independently on the spur-of-the-moment (yep, that one takes some practice). Be sure to reward good behavior. Note: Here’s a win-win opportunity for your kids, if they may like to earn money by doing legitimate tasks for your business. Start with simple work and increase complexity and hours as they age, and pay an appropriate wage. (My youngsters started by stuffing and stamping envelopes, shredding paper docs, emptying trash, sharpening pencils.)
  5. Carve out your best work space. Hint: It’s probably not your comfy couch or crowded kitchen counter near the tv. You need a space that’s void of distractions, conducive to working efficiently and keeps you focused. For some of us, that means solitude, for others white noise, and still others are most creative at a busy coffee shop. Know your style and work with it.
  6. Network professionally. It’s not easy to network when you work at home, by yourself. To keep yourself from being isolated, try to find suitable business networks you can join or frequent a co-working space or vibrant coffee shop. With young kiddos and babysitter needs, you might try a young professionals meet-up where you can spontaneously duck in/out and/or keep in touch online.
  7. Work on skill-building. With a home-based business, you suddenly become a jack-of-all-trades. But as they say…you don’t know what you don’t know. So be prepared to learn new skills as needed. You should know what skills make money for you, and figure out which others you need to further your business goals. For example, my writing/content skills were polished, but I hired illustrators and knew I would never be an illustrator myself. I knew accounting, but had to learn website/IT skills.
  8. Be professional while wearing your family hat. Working from home often requires spontaneity. That doesn’t mean you can skip the professionalism. Make sure you routinely dress appropriately, use proper grammar and phone skills, respond to clients promptly, carry your business cards, and be “on” even when you’re not working. So while it might be easiest to dash out of the house for a quick trip to the post office or another errand and not bother to look professional…reconsider! It’s the one time you decide to wear yoga pants and a frumpy sweatshirt that you’ll run into a business colleague – dang.
  9. Learn, play by the rules. Having a work-at-home business doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the laws for businesses. Be compliant for residential zoning, business insurance, taxes, copyrights, contract workers/employees, etc. And by the way, don’t plagiarize written content, videos, art, quotes or photos and pass them off as your own work.
  10. Who-you-gonna-call? Working from home likely means you may avoid full-time childcare and office costs, but there will be times you need help. Know what help you need when delegating tasks, and have a list of who to call. You’ll also need a backup plan for those unplanned snafus – Moms/dads/nice neighbors/friends are great for emergencies ; ) Of course, you don’t want to abuse those who help you, so communicate with plenty of notice when you can.
  11. Keep overhead low. Work-at-home businesses usually mean lower overhead, which is a benefit for clients. So don’t hide your status when it can work to your advantage.
  12. Be organized. Plan to be ahead of the eight ball, not putting out fires. Priorities matter, so try to anticipate how to be ahead of schedule with a work project. Because, it’s hard to change gears when emergencies arise and you’ve left client work until the last minute. Inevitably, a kid get sick, or you must juggle or reschedule something. But seeing ahead on the calendar (like getting Halloween costumes, team treats for soccer, school visits, dentist appointments) can be planned events and not add reactionary crises.)

Got any other tips?? Please share!

*photo credit: Laura VanWaardhuizen

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