You've decided to take the plunge and become your own boss. No more morning commute, no more dressing for the office, no need to pack a bag lunch. Instead, you roll out of bed, pull on some comfortable clothes, grab a cup of coffee and sit down to work...at your kitchen table. Or your dining table. Or in that little unused alcove by the back door.
That's not good. Depending on where you live and whom you live with, it may be your only option, for now and maybe for the foreseeable future. But if you care about your fledgling business, please do yourself a favor and plan to have a workspace of your own as soon as you possibly can. It can be inside or outside of your home, but it must be a separate room with a door you can close. And it should be a room that no one uses but you.
Why is this so important? Consider the following:
1. An office of your own will help you shut out distractions.
The non-stop distractions of modern life are a major productivity-suck for millions of professionals today. Most of us already struggle with self-imposed distractions such as checking our email, responding to chat messages and texts, social media, and so on. The last thing we need is to add further distractions, such as someone watching television nearby, kids, pets, and/or spouses roaming through the home.
Even worse, family members and friends who see you in the room with them will instinctively include you in every conversation, no matter how often you tell them you're working, or how hard they try not to disturb you. It's a recipe for aggravation for everyone concerned.
2. You will sound more professional.
Admittedly, most work communications today take place via email, collaboration software, chat messages, or text. But for those that happen over the phone or by audio or video chat, it's important for you to have a relatively sound-free environment. I've suffered the embarrassment of having a loud meow in the background while having a business conversation. Don't let this-or other family sounds-happen to you.
3. You will do better work.
There's ample evidence that people are better at solving business and other problems when they are able to calm their minds and focus their attention on the task at hand. Put that together with the stat on lost productivity, and it's pretty clear that when you do your work in the middle of a distracting environment where you might be interrupted at any moment, that work just isn't as good as it could be.
Your business-and your new customers-deserve to have you at your best. So make sure to work in an environment that allows you to deliver that.
4. You will signal the people around you that your work should be taken seriously.
A very wise psychologist once said to me, "All behavior has meaning." Often the signals we send with the things we do speak louder than the words we say. What signal are you sending to your loved ones and neighbors if they see you hunched over your laptop at the coffee table? How is that signal different if you are behind a closed door in another room? Especially if that room is set up with your desk, your desk chair, your computer, your printer, and everything else you need to do a professional job?
And if your neighbors need someone to watch a child during a few errands, or come over and wait for the cable installer, which signal will make them likelier to think it's OK to ask you?
5. You'll have an easier time taking your own work seriously.
I know, I know-you're very serious about your work already. But the fact is, our own nonverbal signals work on ourselves as much as they do on anyone else. Giving yourself your own office will do that for you. It will mean being able to lay out your papers and other materials and return to them later knowing they won't be disturbed. It will enable you to have a private conversation without fear of interruption or disturbance.
It will also allow you to get lost in thought, to give deep consideration to the problems and opportunities facing your business and your customers. Which may be the most important reason of all that an office of your own is so essential.