The Internet Home Business Magazine for Moms & Dads

Top Ten Working from Home Mistakes


Be wary of bad habits that can bring your business to the ground…

Speaking from true experience, here are the top ten ways I made myself miserable when working from home.

1. Not creating an office separate from the rest of the house

Imagine yourself in a regular office, and answer the following questions:

* You wouldn’t be able to unwind in your office cubicle, would you?
* How focused on work would you be if 8 loads of laundry, a pile of dirty dishes, and the dog were sitting on your desk?
* Would you really feel like you even HAD a weekend if you were still at your desk on Saturday and Sunday??

The answers are fairly obvious. If your living room is your office, you will never give your work the attention it deserves, nor will you give yourself the attention you deserve when you aren’t working.

2. Working at all hours of the day or night

A no-brainer. If you can’t take down time, you will burn yourself out no matter where you work!

3. Not setting a schedule

You wanted to do this for the flexibility, you say? That’s fine, but try to keep yourself on as much of a schedule as possible. When I closed up shop on my freelance graphic design business in 2004, I felt like I finally had my first day off in four years. I had worked whenever I wanted, and then didn’t ever feel like I could relax when I wasn’t working. I felt guilty for not working on my business, but also felt guilty for not keeping the house clean! I didn’t realize the level of my burnout until it was too late. Don’t let it happen to you!!

4. Starting without a plan

If you have no road map, you won’t know where you are going. Worse, you may be telling yourself, “Well, anything is better than my regular job” - thus you would be focusing on what you don’t want rather than what you DO want. It would be like getting into a cab in Chicago and saying, “I DON’T want to go to the Sears Tower”. HUH?

A plan is just that - a business plan. It may be intimidating, and you may have heard that you don’t need to do one if you aren’t seeking start-up loans. But do one anyway, even if it’s scaled back. You will have a clear direction to move forward and know your outcome on any given day.

Even if you just refuse to write a business plan, at least write out your goals.

5. Ignoring the legal aspects of setting up your business

Are you going to be a Sole Proprietor? S Corporation? C Corporation? Do you even know the difference?

It’s OK if you don’t, I still don’t either. :) But that is because I told my lawyer what I wanted to do, he gave me an overview of the pros and cons of each, and then we decided on an S Corporation for my freelance design business, Aminion Design Ltd. The thing I liked the most was that if for some reason someone decided to sue me, they couldn’t take our house or other personal assets away. Luckily for me, I never had the opportunity to test it!

6. Not consulting a Certified Public Accountant

I found out the hard way that you have to pay the Illinois Department of Economic Security unemployment insurance on yourself - from the minute you start taking an income from the business. I had thought it silly that I would have to pay unemployment on myself - I was my only employee! And for the first year of my business, I had only taken dividend income, so how could I owe unemployment insurance back wages?!

The joke was on me - to the tune of almost $900. And to this day, I wonder if I had ‘Laid Off’ myself, could I have collected unemployment on me?! I doubt it!

Lesson learned = talk to a competent accountant and get your payroll set up accurately before you take a cent out of the business.

7. Keeping disorganized records

There is a LOT you can now write off now that you are a business owner. But if you shove your receipts into a box and come April (or March for corporations) hope you can figure it out, you are creating bigger headaches for yourself than you can possibly imagine.

I spent weeks dreading the time I needed to set aside to get my records straight every year. I spent more energy on putting it off than I did actually doing it!! For my first two businesses, there weren’t as many options for electronic record keeping as there are today. This time around, I have invested in a good version of Quicken Deluxe 2006, I have my bank records download and categorize themselves automatically, and I print all of my receipts to an image file so I can save them in one folder on my hard drive.

8. Making my hobby my business

There’s nothing wrong with this, if done correctly. The thing to ask yourself is, “Just how marketable would the product of my hobby be?” There are many moms who do well in the crafting business, but it depends on what your products are. My first business was hand-painted children’s furniture. In the early ’90s it was all the rage. I targeted my audience to parents so I could reach them easier.

What I found out was that parents don’t like to spend $200 on a rocking chair that will likely be trashed within a year or two. And it took me 15-20 hours to create each chair - but after expenses, I was making about $3.00 an hour! I was able to start creating products that made more sense and more money - smaller items that I created from templates. But not after loosing precious time and money to learn the lesson.

9. Spending too much time at home

With work, two kids (and a third on the way at the time) and a house to run, I got out of the house very infrequently. I am a social person, and was cooped up in my basement office for days on end. My friendships fell by the wayside, and I found myself lonely - and dipped into a depression. Only in hindsight can I see now that I was cutting myself off from the things that would keep me happy, challenged, and growing.

Schedule time with friends, and make it mandatory that you meet anywhere but your house. Even better, make it mandatory that you meet in public - a good dose of interaction will do you good!

Another way to stay out of the doldrums AND build your business is to join a relevant professional association. I volunteer on the board of CIMA, the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association. I have built great friendships there, built a great network of individuals who give me phenomenal advice, and I have also found many clients in the process. It’s a huge win-win!

10. Letting a fear of sales stop you

This one really killed any chance I had at growing my business. Many women are afraid of rejection - and thus also are afraid of sales. You may be able to create a business that doesn’t require you to sell - but that’s not very likely. More likely, you will avoid making sales calls, freeze up when you have to make a presentation, or let your fears feed a feeling of insecurity - all of which I can say I have (UN) successfully done in the past!

The turning point for me was when I went to a sales seminar and learned about what true sales is all about - helping people who have a need for your product or service. I can either help someone, or let them sell ME on their limitations. I prefer to help people - and to clarify, I only sell to people who will really benefit from my expertise.

Having and building a positive self image is, in my book, the number one factor for success in any business - especially your own!