- Create a physically separate space for your office -- a separate room, if possible. If your office must be within a room used for personal purposes, use screens or dividers to separate personal from work space.
- Get a separate number for your business, preferably a business line. This will appear more professional. Keep your personal line for your family and children to use.
- Answer the telephone with a pleasant greeting that communicates you're delighted to hear every caller and at the same time creates a professional business image. Use a mirror to make sure you smile as you answer the phone. This helps you develop a "smiling voice."
- Set goals for every day and work on those first. Manage time effectively -- don't get bogged down reacting to interruptions and demands. Learn to separate the important from the urgent.
- Value your time as you value your money. Don't watch your fax machine send multiple-page documents. Instead of driving back and forth to a store to make photocopies or to hand-deliver documents, equip your home office with technology like a multipurpose office machine (priced at $500 or less) that serves as your fax, copy machine, printer, answering machine, scanner, and more. Also consider using your computer for sending and receiving faxes -- you'll cut down on paper costs.
- Save time by employing easy-to-use check-writing and accounting software, but keep paper copies of receipts, invoices, and checks. Tax records must be kept for at least six years after you've filed a return.
- Organize your filing systems so that everything is easy to find. To make them stand out, use color-coded labels on files and computer diskettes.
- Get furniture sized for home offices instead of standard office furniture. A number of furniture companies are manufacturing special home-office lines. Smaller furniture is better adapted to the entryways and available space in most homes.
- Dress in a way that helps you work productively. Some people need to dress as though they were meeting clients at an office; others prefer the loose and comfortable fit of sweats and denim.
- Have the attitude that you work from home, not at home. Hibernating is fine for bears, but not for people. Go out to make new contacts and keep old ones alive as well. Particularly if you're a naturally reserved person, remember that your home's a base, not a permanent place.
This article was excerpted from Working From Home, 5th edition, by Paul and Sarah Edwards.
Copyright © 2000 by Paul and Sarah Edwards. All rights reserved.