Ever sat at your office desk and daydreamed about what it would be like to work from home instead? Forget the painstaking 45-minute traffic jam, that annoyingly chatty co-worker, and those judgmental looks your boss gives every time you go to the bathroom. You could be your own boss, set the perfect hours, and live by your own rules. Sounds dreamy, right?
Two years ago I began a journey of a lifetime – or at least of my life thus far. I was unhappy with my career in Student Affairs and knew I needed a change, so I followed a whim and started selling things online. Fast-forward to today and I just wrapped up a $325,000 sales year, in addition to writing two books, starting another business, and moving three times…yowza!
Let me tell you, one entrepreneur to another, that it’s not all butterflies and roses. Those daydreams you’re salivating over are only half the story and, while the outcome is certainly worth it, you’re in for some rough patches too.
My first two years working from home have been a rollercoaster ride, to say the least, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. In fact, the down days are what have made me a better business owner. But starting a business is hard and managing unrealistic expectations about working from home can be even harder. To help give you a clear picture of what you’re in for, here are several tips for entrepreneurs that I created based on what I learned during my first two years working from home.
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You can’t avoid them; they’re everywhere and, unfortunately, they seem to sneak up on you at the worst possible times. Doubters. Those people who buy into the scary business myths and are positive you’re going to fail because others before you have. But you aren’t “other people” and you know that. Just because someone else couldn’t hack it doesn’t mean you can’t. So when doubters invade, whether they be acquaintances, co-workers, friends, or even your adorable, little, ol’ granny, take what they have to say in stride. Instead of worrying about it or getting upset, dedicate your time and energy to quietly proving them wrong – it’ll make a bigger statement.
Overcome Fear with Action
I’m an anxious person by nature. I get worked up over little things pretty easily and, I’ll tell you, that really sucks in business. Even if you have nerves of steel, though, there are going to be days when everything seems to go wrong and obstacles keep piling up. That’s when dread really starts to settle in, squatting on your chest until you feel trapped, weighed down by the anxiety. This happened to me a couple times in the years after I decided to work from home, but I’ll tell you two secrets: you’re not trapped and the best way to overcome your fear is to take action. Don’t waste time avoiding the problems – just dive in and start hacking them to pieces!
Just Keep Trotting
I run a lot of obstacle course races with my husband. He’s a badass athlete and I’m…well I’m the quiet, bookish type that totally fails at sports. That’s my mantra during races: just keep trotting. When I want to walk, I use it to keep me moving. It’s just as valuable in my work life. Mine was a haphazard start to business, to say the least, but the important thing is that I kept moving after I got started. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, but I got up every day, put on my metaphorical business shoes, and set out to accomplish something. Anything really. And that’s the kind of mentality that will ensure you’re successful.
Do the Laundry
But really. When I decided to work from home I had no idea how temping it would be to work all the time. There’s always something to do with my business and I want to be doing it because I know every completed task gets me closer to achieving my personal goals. It’s easy to fall behind on life stuff, like laundry, because you keep thinking, “I’ll get to it just as soon as I [fill in business-related blank].” Don’t get caught up in this cycle. Make sure you set your work hours intentionally (whether they’re during the day or at night) so you don’t neglect the home things.
Failure Leads to Success
I’ve found that one of the biggest reasons beginning entrepreneurs give up is because they neglect to see that failure isn’t finite. In business, failure is actually a synonym for process, meaning every misstep helps find you a clearer path to where you want to go. Just because something doesn’t go as planned, it doesn’t mean it’s over. In fact, I’d argue that failure of some kind can probably be found at the beginning of any successful venture. So commit to this right now: when you make a mistake (and you will), promise instead to use that mistake to make you and your business better. The only completely useless failure is deciding to give up.
Celebrate Small Wins
I tend to bask in the satisfying glory of my achievements for…oh about 1.5 seconds before attacking the next task. Don’t be like me! It’s so, so, so important that you take time to relish in even the smallest of victories. Made your first sale? Do a happy dance! Posted your first blog post? Scream it to the world! Got a new follower (or 100 new followers) on Facebook? Woohoo!! Every “win” is a big deal, so don’t cheat yourself out of enjoying them. Taking a little extra time to congratulate yourself isn’t a waste of time. If anything, it will help you be more excited about moving forward.
Never Forget Why
If you don’t know why you’re doing something, you’ll likely experience a serious lack of focus and motivation. In order to be successful, you’ll need a clear understanding of whystarting a business is important. Personally, I didn’t like my job. I was tired of the workplace drama, hated the company politics, and didn’t like relying on someone else to see my true value as an employee and individual. I wanted a way out of the rat race and creating an online retail business was my way to do that. Hold onto whatever your “why” is too and use it when you start to lose focus. As I like to say, “When the going gets tough, the tough remember why.” Your “why” is your guiding light, so never forget it!
Why do you want to work from home? I’m guessing it isn’t so you can slave behind a computer 24-7, never see your family, and have less personal time than you did before. No, it’s the complete opposite of all that, right? Again, it can be hard sometimes to pull yourself away from your new business, but it’s so important that you do. The whole point of working from home is to lead a fuller, happier, and overall just better life. So make sure that’s exactly what you do.