Working from Home: Beginner’s Guide
Many people dream of being their own boss, of setting their own rules and working at their own pace. Indeed, these can be some of the reasons why people decide to work from home.
Opting out of the daily rat race, replacing the morning commute with a walk across the living room or swapping power suits for track suits can make working from home sound like bliss. However, whether you are setting up a new business or embarking upon a freelance role, there are a number of things which must be considered.
So, let our ‘Working from home: beginner’s guide’ set you in the right direction.
To undertake such a dramatic change in your work circumstances you need to be sure that a role exists that you can fill. Do proper research! If you have a business idea, you need to be certain the ‘need’ for your services or product exists. If you are hoping to do freelance work, consider if you can get the clients and jobs to make sure you can afford to cover your bills.
If you just want to work from home without taking on the responsibilities of self-employment, you can ask your current company if they would accommodate this, or seek out one of the many available customer service or virtual assistant type roles.
To work from home you must be certain you can remain motivated. Far from being a walk in the park, working from home often requires more self discipline and motivation than traditional office work.
There is no boss to breathe down your neck and meeting deadlines is entirely your responsibility. You need to avoid procrastination and resist the lure of surfing the web! Dressing for your day at work can often help, so give up the idea of lounging in your pajamas until noon.
Respect, Space and Time
You have to set boundaries from the beginning and be strict with friends and family. Just because you are at home does not mean you can be interrupted. Restrict times for personal calls and ensure visitors know they cannot just ‘drop by’ unannounced.
Likewise, having a defined work space, that no-one else uses but you, can be essential. Cordoned off from the rest of the house, enforce the rule that when you are in your work space – that is your time to be doing work!
It is easy to think that working from home can mean forking out for large quantities of office equipment. However, try to keep costs down, especially in the beginning, by shopping around and using existing services. A desk or filing cupboard will be essential but you can probably skip on the fax machine, especially if you have an all-in-one scanner/printer.
A separate telephone line is a good idea and many companies offer reasonable deals on answering services. You can rent virtual office spaces, but these can be costly. Offer to meet clients at their places of work or learn to love video calls.
Conference calls can be very useful for those who work from home but, again, expensive equipment is not needed. You can use your regular phone if you enlist the services of companies such as Conference Now. Using your own telephone on your own line, you simply arrange a time with your client and you both dial in using the number provided.
Tax and wages
Be clear where you stand. You must declare your earnings and self-employed status. You may still have to pay tax, almost certainly you will need to pay National Insurance Contributions and you will have to make annual declarations. Open a business bank account and keep all receipts! This can all sound daunting but, if taken a step at a time, can be no bother at all.
You may also be entitled to additional tax credits, free school meals, or free prescriptions. Contact the HMRC for further details and utilize free services, such as Business Link, to get you up and running.
Matt Smith – Freelance business, conference calling and technology blogger.