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Business Tips: Working from Home
How to get work, have benefits, get repeat business....

by , MBA

Working from home has definite advantages--or you wouldn't consider it. Unfortunately, it also has certain disadvantages. The good news is you now have a way to overcome those disadvantages. Let's look at some of the things you need to consider, then we'll look at some tips for succeeding at your business:

  1. Collaboration. When you work in an office of other people, it's fairly easy to collaborate. When you work by yourself, it's not so easy. You may be aware of their home workers forum. Other forums exist, too. Some of these are very good, and some just waste your time. When you think about it, the same is true of people in in a traditional office.
  2. Health Insurance. Working as a "wage slave" gives you some benefits you aren't going to get very easily on your own. At the top of the list is health insurance. If you belong to a professional group (e.g. the IEEE), you can probably get a discount on such insurance. However, most people who strike out on their own end up paying outrageous rates because they can't fit under anyone's umbrella. Well, you will be pleased to know third-party services  can help you out and lower your costs.
  3. Free publications. When you work for an employer, you have access to many journals and publications at no charge to you. When you strike out on your own, you no longer have access to these resources. Fortunately, several third-party services and trade organizations have free or low-cost publications available to their members. You need to develop an array of sources for such publications, including your local public library.
  4. Work assignments. At the office, your boss gives you work assignments. Granted, many of these are fodder for the Dilbert comics, but it is these assignments that keep your paychecks coming. How do you get work when you are on your own? You'll need to handle many functions to make this happen: résumé preparation (yes, you need a résumé, even if self-employed), job leads, networking, etc. The good news? Nearly any trade organization you join will have resources to help you with these functions!
  5. Business management. When you work for an employer, then someone other than you has to run the business. Doing so means dealing with plans, procedures, models, ideas, suggestions, taxes, forms, laws, finance and much more. And this can be overwhelming. Once again, you need to turn to trade organizations. Today, you can find these over the Intertnet.

From the list above, you can see there is a definite advantage to tapping into some existing resources--such as trade organizations, professional organizations, and third-party services. Here are ten free tips to help you succeed:

  1. Know your target market. Who are your customers? To whom to you want to sell? Focus your efforts on this group and don't try to be everything to everybody.
  2. Keep records. You should be using software to track expenses and income. Keep note of what  is working for you and what is not.
  3. Review your business strategy often. How often is often enough? How about continually? For some businesses, this is barely enough! Review to see if what you are doing is working, and what isn't. Then, think of some recommendations for a scheduled formal review.
  4. Know the competition. What are they doing to make the buying experience better for the customer?
  5. Price based on your costs. Don't price your products or services lower than your competitor just to make a sale. This isn't fair to anybody, and it is not a sustainable practice.
  6. Use an accountant. You'd be surprised how much an accountant can do for you. Ask an accountant to review your business plan (if you don't have one, then ask your accountant to help you draft a simple one), your accounting methods, your tax filing methods, and all the financial aspects of how you do your business. You may well find the accountant's fee is less than the money the accountant saves you.
  7. Outsource. Whether this means hiring a maid or a programmer, be thinking about those tasks that take you away from your work and which of those you can afford to pay someone else to do.
  8. Excite your customers. To succeed today, it is not enough to please a customer. You must think of small things you can do to make the customer feel so pleased that s/he brings other people to you.
  9. Be ethical. Shortfallings in ethics cost you in the long run. If you are working from home, then your reputation is one of your most important assets. Don't gamble it on "e-mail marketing" or other shortcuts to sales. If people don't trust you, your business will ultimately fail.
  10. Schedule downtime. You may think "a few years of hard work" will have you "all set" for a "normal pace" later on. The truth is, the sustained stress of too much work shows up in your demeanor, the quality of your work, and the overall success of your business. And it does not do so in a positive way. Even if you need every spare second, plan for an afternoon with a friend or loved one.


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