As a producer I don’t often work from home. But when I do I find that I have to be extra disciplined to get stuff done. It’s so easy to get distracted when you’re at home and the comforts of, well…home, are all around you. But fear not — there are ways to be more productive when working virtually. Shilonda Downing, the owner of Virtual Work Team has a few dos and don’ts for being successful.
Dos and Don’ts for Working Virtually
by Shilonda Downing
As the owner of a successful virtual assistant company, there is one question I’m often asked by not only those looking to start their own virtual business but also by journalists who write for major media and that question is: “What does it take to work successfully, virtually?”
I think it goes without saying that you should have the skill set to pursue your virtual dream business, however, I’ll discuss a couple of “Dos and Don’ts” that people often forget and that can wind up causing problems when trying to start and run a successful virtual business. While I can’t provide as much information as I provide in my consultations, making a list of these few key points, will get you started on the right track.
Do: Have a meeting with your family and/or the important people in your life before you begin this new and exciting endeavor.
So many people leave this important step out and just announce to their loved ones that they are going to start working from home with a virtual online business and expect that everyone will be happy for them. Not so.
This is especially true if you have young ones in the home. Discuss whether the trade off of missed time with your young children is something you will not regret; as you can never get back the formative years of a child’s development, but God willing, you can always start your virtual business.
Perhaps there is a virtual business that allows you to spend quality time with your young ones, like creating scrap books and other crafts that you can sell; so that your children won’t feel neglected. Whether you’re a parent of young ones or single with close friends that you spend lots of time with, have an open and honest meeting with them to let them know of your new business endeavor and the fact that you may not have the time you used to have during the start-up phase of your virtual business. Accept honest and heartfelt feedback and proceed accordingly.
Do: Make sure your office is equipped with the hardware and software you will need every day and is inviting to a potential client or another team member.
While working virtually means you can take a Smartphone, laptop or tablet anywhere and carry on business, there are times when you will need an office that is conducive to working virtually. Take a moment and think of all the things you would have in a brick and mortar office or in your former cubicle and make sure you’re equipped with those things BEFORE you get started with your virtual business. There’s nothing worse than speaking informally about your business to someone who is ready to work with you right away and then finding that you don’t have enough toner, staples, folders, etc. to get the client’s needs met ASAP.
There is also the need to make sure your software programs or cloud computing is serving both you and your clients well. You don’t need to try to keep up with the newest and the latest, as you’ll run yourself crazy if you do. Upgrade when needed and make sure your team, if you have one, is also up to date on new software programs or systems you decide to implement.
Then there’s the little matter of office furniture, make sure you have chairs, mouse pads, etc. that make you feel more comfortable than if you were in a brick and mortar office. Ergonomic is always best, but if you can’t afford that right now, comfort is king. These may seem like small things; however they are key to working virtually in a successful manner.
Lastly, you know you’re a virtual professional when you can invite a client and/or another team member to work alongside you in your home office. Make sure your office is set up to seat more than one person and that it’s an environment you’d be proud to have your ideal client visit. The kitchen or dining room table really doesn’t work here.
I personally invite local clients that I’m interested in doing business with to my home office all the time. It really impresses a potential client when they see how professional your home office looks and when they know that you have the equipment needed to assist them. I also have a team member work with me several days a week in my home office and she loves it and truly enjoys the “vibe” I’ve created in our virtual space.
Don’t: Think that working virtually means that you can always do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Entrepreneurship is about autonomy for the most part, but if you use a bit of empathy, you’ll also find that your ideal client wants to be dealt with professionally and on time. While my company works on deadlines and we pride ourselves on hitting those, I find that many people who work virtually don’t take time constraints seriously. They think because they work from home or virtually that they can allow everything to get in the way of a clients work and the client will understand.
Clients don’t want to hear: “My dinner is burning, my child is yelling or it’s time to walk my dog, so I’ll have to talk to you later.” You wouldn’t say those things if you were in a brick and mortar office and you won’t be very successful if you constantly make those excuses working virtually.
Don’t: Neglect to take a daily break.
If you’re like me, you’re a hard worker and know that having good morals and a strong work ethic will get you one ideal client after another and referrals to boot. However, working virtually means, there’s no clock to punch or no bell ringing to say “STOP WORKING”, so you can burn yourself out, if you’re not careful. You need to take time for yourself daily.
When I consult with business owners who are stressed out, I ask them: “What is one thing you love to do that has nothing to do with your business?” When they give their answer, I encourage them to take 30 minutes to an hour daily to do just that. For me, it’s reading and outdoor activities, so I read the Bible daily and/or I walk to my local library and if my husband is off work, we bike our local forest preserve together. Believe me, when you do this, you give the brain the mental break it needs to be productive and creative. You also give your body a break from sitting and/or the exercise that you need every day to stay in tip top shape. Remember if your mind and body goes, the virtual business also goes “bye-bye”.
Hopefully these tips will help you and if you want more tips, I invite you to sign up for our Newsletter list on the home page of our website.
Shilonda Downing is the Owner of Virtual Work Team LLC . Virtual Work Team is a premier Virtual Assistant company and Mrs. Downing has been quoted by FOX Business, WomenEntrepreneur.com, WSJ.com and CareerBuilder as an expert on working virtually in a successful manner.