When I first started Northern Cheapskate more than 8 years ago, I never thought it would be a business. I simply wanted to share what I learned about saving money. It was a way to keep me on track financially, connect with some like-minded people, and keep my brain from turning to mush as a stay-at-home mom to three little ones.
When I started making money from the blog (through things like advertising, affiliate marketing and freelance writing), I saw the advantages working online from home would have for my family. I could be at home for my children while supplementing my husband’s income. I wouldn’t have to pay a fortune for day care.
It hasn’t been easy, but I have learned a few things from the experience. If you are considering working online from home, these tips can help make it an easier and more profitable venture.
10 Tips For Working Online From Home
Set your own hours and create an office space.
Setting your own hours is the reason so many people want to work from home. But many of us fail to do this, and instead work in dribs and drabs throughout the day. Set definitive hours you will work – deally during the times of day you feel most productive – and stick to them.
You should also make sure to have a dedicated office space where you can work. This can help you feel more professional and get more accomplished. Set hours and a dedicated work space mean you’ll be better able to step away from work when it is time for your family.
It can be tempting to hang out in your pajamas all day when you work online from home, but don’t. Put some clothes on. Even if your clothing is considered casual, you’ll feel more professional and present a more confident attitude than if you’re in your bathrobe all day.
Even with set business hours and a dedicated workspace, expect interruptions. The rest of the world doesn’t always understand folks who work from home, so expect friends and family to call you or stop by to visit when you’re trying to work. If you’re working with children in the house, expect them to interrupt your work. The dog will need to be walked. Create a plan for how you’ll practically and tactfully handle all your interruptions. You’ll also need to plan how you will handle technical difficulties like internet outages or computer repairs.
Be sure to network.
Working online from home can be lonely. Look for other work-at-home colleagues you can connect with online in Facebook groups. Find local business organizations you can join to make face-to-face connections. You will make friends and learn new things from each interaction that can help you run your business.
Keep business and personal finances separate.
It’s far easier to keep track of all of your income and expenses when you keep business and personal finances separate, and the IRS prefers it, too. Having separate accounts and systems in place can also help protect your personal assets from liability. Keep good financial records and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches at tax time.
Create a budget.
Just like with your personal finances, your work-at-home operation should have its own budget. You should know exactly how much money you need to bring in each month to cover your business expenses. There are so many ways to spend your money as a business owner that you can get yourself in a lot of financial trouble without a written budget for your business.
Take advantage of free education.
When you’re first starting off, it can feel like everything costs a fortune. But there are actually many low-cost resources that can help. Check with your local community for organizations like SCORE that offer free business advice. Head to your public library for inspiration and instruction. Find free podcasts, webinars, and ebooks online to help you find success working online from home. There are many ways to learn stuff for free or cheap. Take advantage of all of the free social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to promote your home-based business. If you want to succeed, never stop learning.
Make regular investments.
Even if you can get everything set up for free or cheap, you’ll still want to spend a little bit of money to help your business grow. Make sure that the budget you create allows for some investment back into the business.
When I first started running my own business online from home, this was something that was very hard for me to do. I am a saver by nature, and when I was barely making any money, it was hard to bring myself to put money back into my business. Each time I did strategically invest in my business, it has paid off, and helped me earn more. So set a little bit of money aside from your earnings to re-invest and then research how you can best use that money to further your business. For example, you may need new equipment or training to reach the next level. You may wish to attend a conference in another part of the country.
Don’t work without a net.
Working online from home isn’t easy, and it can take a long time before you make a decent income. Make sure that you have at least six months of living expenses saved up to act as a cushion, or have another source of income (such as a full-time income from a day job or a spouse’s income) to live off until your home-based business makes a living wage. In our home, my income supplements my husband’s full-time work. Our personal living expenses are covered by his salaried position, and my fluctuating, part-time income provides for the extras.
Learn to take breaks.
When I first realized I could work online from home, I thought the biggest perk was the flexible hours. What I didn’t count on was the temptation there would be to always be working. When you own your own business, there is always more to do. And when you work online from home, your work is always there and available. Set firm boundaries on your working hours and make sure to take regular breaks from the business to prevent burnout. Make meaningful connections offline. Spend time with your family and friends. The respite will make you a more thoughtful, intelligent and energetic entrepreneur.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from working online out of my home. If you’re interested in exploring more home-based opportunities, I highly recommend reading Money Making Mom and Put More Cash In Your Pocket. These two books will give you plenty of inspiration for making money at home.
Looking for more money inspiration? March 7-11, 2016 is Women’s Money Week. The purpose Women’s Money Week is to encourage and empower women to take control of their finances through discussion of all types of personal finance topics like making money, relationships and money, budgeting, debt, saving, and investing.