Not intended as a scare but more a celebration of the year that has been and what's to come! It is the countdown to the end with just two months to spare - what have you accomplished and what are your plans next?
This has been a ridiculously busy year for me taking on as editor for two print mags, copy editing for one, and editing for another website on a regular basis apart from clients old and new either being referred or finding me through my site and social media.
If that wasn't all, looks like I might have some additional new clients signing on even as the year closes out. Not bad, considering this time last year I had just moved to the west coast and knew nobody here. Zilch. Nada.
No professional connections and barely any personal either. I definitely had to give myself time and promised a year for my career here to start up. And then it did. And how!
I am thankful for connections old and new and definitely for the role that technology has played in keeping me on the radar with old friends as well helping make headway with new business relationships. I usually send out my thank you cards to business acquaintances and associates, clients and other professional connections during the month of November. Simply listing them now shows me I have much to be grateful for.
Hope you are doing well professionally, and wishing you much success in all you do. Happy November!
Yes, I get that a lot. The minute folks hear I work from home, for myself, they want to know how I maintain a routine. Here' the gist of it:
And all of these are pretty much non-negotiable unless something major, say a work commitment or travel, occurs last minute...
1. Waking up at the crack of dawn - I adjust this for time differences but it has been a steady 6 am for a while now. Have no trouble waking up early and usually beat the alarm clock by 5 minutes or more. Of course, the trick is to sleep on time and give your body enough rest. I sleep by 10-11 pm to give myself a good 7-8 hours of shut eye.
2. Exercising - I know I do not have the willpower to pull myself away from work during the day to exercise so instead I wake up early and take time folding in the fitness that best works for me - walking! I do a two hour walk along nearby neighborhoods or at the hike trail near my home which gives me a little over 10,000 steps on my Fitbit - quota for the day achieved.
3. Cooling down - Once I am home I take time to cool down as well as hydrate with plenty of water. Currently off coffee so a glass of warm milk is my morning beverage. No sugar, no flavor, just whole milk. Takes about a half hour. The husband is usually up by this time so we get to catch up on our day ahead.
4. Shower - Again, there have been days where pulling myself away from work was a big no and I'd work all day before realizing it was 5 pm and I had not showered yet. Exercising takes care of that. I come back home all stinky and sweaty so a shower is not negotiable. And I get ready for the day so I am dressed and all set for work mode. Half hour on this.
5. Breakfast - Another great part of exercising is I am hungry by the time I get home, cool down and shower so I head straight to the kitchen like clockwork and whip up a breakfast smoothie, sandwich, bowl of cereal to get me going. Half hour for this as well.
This routine usually gives me about a half hour to spare before I start my work day 10 am. I use that half hour to read a magazine I subscribe to or book from the library.
So, what's your morning routine?
It has officially been a month since I moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles. This day, a month ago, we drove into L.A in our car with a trailer towing along carrying our belongings. We lived in an AirBnB rental for close to a month, during which time we tried to find an apartment we liked, could afford and wanted to call home for the long haul. Happy to say we have moved into one such space now and are busy unpacking. Professionally though, this move has meant leaving behind everything I had built over almost 10 years in Atlanta and building new professional connections and networks. Much of that has happened online with virtual introductions and emails. I have only yet started meeting with folks in-person to see how I can continue freelancing, editing and writing in this new city. I have a few things lined up but as always, you never know which ones come through and which will fall away, along the way. Keeping my fingers crossed for some promising projects in the near future. Stay tuned here for updates!
Still breathing? I stuck to my word…except for a few routine jobs, I did no other work – no writing or blogging or networking – nada! Feels good though and somewhere along all the New Year cleaning, feel like my mind is refreshed as well.
1. Let’s get started with planning your work week. Do you use a print or online calendar or diary to schedule your dates and appointments? I use Google calendar on phone, laptop and iPad but also use the American Express Appointment Book (leather bound standard paper sized book) as my back-up calendar so if ever any confusion about appointments arises then I have two sources to check up on. Pencil in important dates, events, etc. that you need to remember.
2. Now take a look at the month. Have you marked in monthly chores? This includes a term I recently learned called a PFD – Personal Finance Day. Make sure you have once a month to review finances and know where you stand with income and expenses. When you allot specific time to the activity you tend to focus on it more than when you just try to fit it in with everything else. Give yourself the time you need to figure out your finances.
3. Of course you must consider planning your day. You may not stick to the plan and some say they feel restricted by such a thing but at least it gives you a framework of what your day looks like, what you need to work on, who you need to meet, where you need to go, what must be accomplished for the day before you call it a day. I do more writing and editing during the day and marketing and pitching in the afternoon.
4. Important things to include in your plan are exercise – whichever form of it suits you best, and food – that thing you tend to overlook when you are typing away endlessly. These are two very simple elements of the whole that most of us don’t give much thought to but once you decide what it is and when it will be, it takes so very little time and effort but contributes to your health and your wellness - that cannot be denied!
5. Lastly, do you have everything you need to be professionally productive? You don’t need an office cubicle set up at your home to be productive but you do need some sense of a professional home office, even if it is just a desk but do you have reliable systems in place – phone, computer, internet connection, copier, scanner, fax, supplies, recorder, etc for you to be 100% happy that you are working from home and good at it!
Taking the time to plan, however little (or much) will help you be more organized and efficient in everything you do. A game plan is always good-it’s a sure sign you plan to be in the game! Get yourself ready to get set and go next week!
Don’t work the first week of the year. Revel in the holidays and memories of sharing with near and dear. Use this time to nurture that good feeling and let it ooze into your life. Do a few things that will set you up for the year instead of start burning you out already.
1. By this time, most greeting cards and postcards have been cleared out so send your thank you or New Year cards out now. Your recipients will find them this weekend or next, it will stay fresh on top of mind. A simple ‘thanks for the opportunities to work with you last year, looking forward to more occasions to collaborate in the New Year’ will do. I buy blank cards in bulk over the holidays and print a simple message created/designed on my computer.
2. I also use this time to send cards out to close friends and family, although, over time, these have ended up being electronic considering how many such cards have to be mailed. Past the Thanksgiving flurry and definitely after the Christmas and New Year greetings have done their rounds is a good time – I know from experience, I have had friends commend me on waiting out the yearning to quickly mail holiday cards all around.
3. Clear out your emails during this first week. Your vacation response from Christmas and New Year’s better be active! Clear out all folders on your email and ensure only what is absolutely necessary stays on. Clear out folders on your computer as well. Label them right, organize them for future ease, do the groundwork you need to do to ensure the rest of the year is smooth sailing, at least from your end. And clear out those spam and trash folders as well as the recycle bin.
4. As an extension of the point above, this is a good time to start preparing for your taxes. If you need forms coming in from employers, that can wait but make sure the papers you need in place are all sorted and organized in aptly labeled folders. You will be thankful in April when tax deadlines close in and all you will do is simply add in the forms sent in by employers and you are good to go. Works like a charm every single year, I tell ya!
5. Also a good time to engage in some well-deserved new year cleaning if you must. If your home or office witnessed holiday parties last year, do a quick look around and make sure you have cleared up all signs of the shenanigans that ensued. If you are a freelancer working from home then clean up that dirty work desk, drawers, et al and do give your laptop bag, work purse, etc. some TLC as well.
Try it. I officially began working only from the 13th onwards. You will see how much you will be relieved to start the year on a fresh note instead of what seems like a continuation of the scurrying and disorder that was 2013.
Malika Bowling, 36, is of Indian origin, born in Mumbai, India and currently residing in Atlanta, GA with her husband Glen. She has a BBA in Marketing from Kennesaw State University and is an author, writer, marketing consultant and community manager with two businesses, Blue Sky Virtual Assistants and Association of Food Bloggers. Connect with Malika through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Read up about her latest adventures on AtlantaRestaurantBlog.com
Malika began working from home in 2009 when she was laid off from her marketing job. She started out doing accounting part time for a friend but at the same time started blogging and learning social media which got her some clients and added to her income. She slowly built her business from there.
Choice or a necessity? Both. I was laid off from my FT position and decided to build my own business rather than go to work for another company.
Obstacles faced? Doing everything myself, having to learn new technologies, keeping up to date with trends. I find it really exhausting keeping it up with all the latest information and best practices in my field. So many people want to pay freelancers hardly anything at all yet they expect them to know everything.
Benefits experienced? Flexibility and creativity. I love that I don’t have to sit in traffic each day and sit in pointless meetings and report to micro-managers.
Business or game plan? I thought I’d have a career blogging and doing social media. That has evolved into being more of a marketing consultant with some Public Relations thrown in as well.
Financial, emotional and social observations? Financially, it was a struggle at first but I was determined NOT to work for a corporation again. I waited until I had enough clients / income to pay my financial obligations at the minimum before quitting my PT job. Emotionally, I definitely had more good days than bad. But sometimes it was a bit hard on my ego to lose a client. But it happens and I’ve learned that you can do everything right, and still a contract might not last. Socially, I’m definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert. So, working from home works well for me. But I still would miss the social aspect of seeing others, but because I write a food blog I go to several events per week so still get to socialize. The hard part for me is the sales part of business as I’m not inclined to do that or have a fondness for it.
Family support? My dad has always encouraged me to be entrepreneurial and he is, and I fell into it pretty easily. When I started my business, I was 100% responsible for my financial obligations, but my then boyfriend, now husband, provided much encouragement and emotional support.
Factors that helped you get started? Hating working for companies as so many treat employees badly, so I was determined to work for myself. Also, I am naturally entrepreneurial, so it was a good fit for me to go into business for myself and I have a habit for doing multiple projects at the same time, so this certainly encouraged me to get started, to allow myself the free time to pursue some of the other projects I was interested in.
Currently Malika works from home as a Solo Entrepreneur!
Average day - Sleep in. Not a morning person. So, don’t usually get started until about 9 am. I check email and respond to the most important things. I consult my to-do list that I made the day before. I take care of the most important and unpleasant tasks first. I may have conference calls or writing as well.
Work schedule - Yes, I maintain a work schedule but it is not a typical schedule. I don’t think most entrepreneurs have typical schedules. I try to stick to a Monday – Friday work schedule. I sometimes have to attend special events on evenings and weekends for clients but it is rare. I also try to go to the gym 3 to 4 times per week during the day. Work hours are Monday – Friday 9 am – 6 pm, for client work. Often times I take Friday afternoons off. Side projects, blogging for myself are on evenings and weekends. During the day around 1 or 2 pm, I take a break to go to the gym for an hour.
Biggest challenges now and how do you deal with them? Being able to do everything I am responsible for. I might need to update a website but don’t have all the technical skills to do it. Things like that frustrate me. So, I’ll have to find someone to outsource it to. Also, making clients understand the value of what I provide for them. There’s always someone who will do it cheaper than I will, but that doesn’t mean they are getting the best value. I try to let them know about small wins when I get them for them and try to have face to face meetings when possible so they don’t forget about me and my importance to their business.
Most celebrated moments being 100% work from home? When I hear about horrible traffic reports and know I don’t have to sit in that mess! I love when it is a beautiful day outside and I can spend the afternoon working on my deck or take an hour or two and go for a hike. I set my schedule, I don’t have to bend to the will of a boss. And, being able to spend more time with my husband.
Liberties/restrictions of being 100% work from home? Liberties – being able to set my schedule, take a long lunch, etc. when I want. But it is my responsibility to update all equipment – I can’t rely on a company to do that. It is difficult to not have the benefits of vacation or health insurance or other benefits. As a freelancer / contractor, I don’t get paid if I take any time off.
What parts of your work do you enjoy the most and which parts do you not enjoy as much? I love setting my own schedule. I feel guilty whenever I take time off though. I feel like I always should be trying to produce / grow my business. I hate spending so much time trying to land a client and have them pick my brain and not sign a deal.
Support network? Yes, my husband and father are very supportive. They encourage me to keep doing what I’m doing and that it will all work out.
Tools/mechanisms to success? I love my break in the day at the gym. I don’t bring in my phone and have an hour to escape, re-energize and come back to my home office more creative.
Current financial, emotional and social observations? Financially, I’m doing fine. My business is slowly growing and I am comfortable, but I would really like to have more of a nest egg, be able to buy a new car, take at least one nice vacation per year, etc. Socially - Fantastic. Running my own business has forced me to be more social and outgoing. I think I’ve built some good relationships – not just friendships but business relationships as well. Great emotionally – I have lots of opportunities to go out several times a week to media events and see fun and interesting people. I love engaging and talking to new people whenever I’m out and about.
How important is face-to-face networking? Networking per se doesn’t really work for me. The events where you go and everyone is trying to pitch themselves are awful. I got very frustrated going to those events because they never got me any business. I’ve gotten business from meeting others in my field (blogging, writing, social media) and they recommended others who they knew. It is because I developed a relationship with these people that they got to trusting me and recommending me.
How important is social media? It is what I do for a living, so I have to demonstrate that I know what I am doing. I spend at least an hour a day on it for clients and myself. I also spend time reading articles on keeping up with it and trends to keep my clients satisfied.
How important is marketing? Marketing is important, but I’ve learned to do it indirectly. I’ve gotten more and more clients from referrals. These are friendships and relationships that I’ve developed over the years within my industry. I help these friends and they help me. Online ads and straight up networking events never worked.
Do you find time to indulge in pursuits that are non-professional? Yes, I enjoy cooking occasionally and get to do that a couple times a week. I enjoy hiking as well. I sometimes get to do it during weekdays and on weekends.
The highlight of your career while being 100% work from home? Being a published author. I was contacted by a publishing company to write the book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Atlanta. I never thought I would be an author. I am so thrilled to have written a book.
Malika plans to continue working from home fulltime in the future. "Yes, I love it and I’m good at it. You have to be disciplined to work from home with all the distractions, but I feel very satisfied doing it. I’m writing at least one more book, if not two. I expect that these will give me even more credibility than I had before and catapult me into even more and bigger opportunities. I plan to continue going to media events and making good connections. I look forward to writing more books and for travel but even though I like to stay busy, I’m not someone who likes to be so incredibly busy that I don’t have time for friends and hobbies. I could see my business growing to the point that I won’t have much free time. I don’t want to be one of those people that has to work 70 or 80 hours per week."
Advice to others currently considering 100% work from home? Make sure it is a good fit for your personality. Some people can’t handle all the distractions of working from home. The other thing is so many people crave that social interaction that you don’t get when you work from home. So think about these things before doing this.
Specific tools that helped? Fiverr.com is a great tool. They have lots of things skilled people will do for five bucks. You can get help with websites, writing, video transcription, anything!
You can also read up more about Malika on Idea Mensch !
Angela McKeller, 37, is an Author, Writer and Recipe Developer with her company, Jella Enterprises, LLC. Born in Augusta, GA and residing in Decatur, GA, she has a BA in Spanish from State University of West Georgia (2001). Angela currently lives in Liege, Belgium, with her partner, Shiva, French bulldog, Kosmo, and English bulldog, Butch. Read more about Angela and her work on her Website and Blog or connect with Angela on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Let’s start from where it all began! I began working from home six years ago when Time Magazine profiled YouTube as a growing phenomenon. I thought, “Now that's interesting. The internet is making people famous. I can do that!” Working from home was a necessity because I had become chronically ill, and I needed something that was going to generate income while giving me the space to heal. I did not have a business plan. It was an intuitive process. I created videos on YouTube and then people asked for a cookbook. I created a cookbook and then it didn't sell. Over time, I shifted to a gluten-free diet for my cystic acne and created a new book to reflect my new path.
Obstacles and benefits: Finding my niche! When I first began, I was trying to reach everyone. I later created an avatar of myself, where I asked myself what was important, and I began by asking myself some tough questions. Then when I really honed in on what would help me develop personally, that's what I began creating - what excited me and made a difference in my own life. Suddenly, my market was there. I experienced balance in my life, because I was creating what I needed, rather than focusing on what others needed. I achieved peace not only because I was creating it for myself, but also because the people around me were finding peace through my work. I also experienced freedom. I live by my schedule rather than someone else's schedule and it feels great!
Financial, emotional and social aspects: Financially, I did horrible at first! As I went on, I redefined what ‘rich’ means and while I make plenty of money now, it's not the money that matters to me. It's the richness in experiences and the experiences that others share with me and how amazing it feels to help others create what they want in their lives - be it happiness, a great meal, or a creative new path to freedom! Emotionally, it was a roller coaster in the beginning. I was invited to be on Paula Deen's show on The Food Network, to be a guest on "Carolina Kitchen" and later on PBS with Chef Marvin Woods' "Georgia Cooks" and while the publicity is great fun, it doesn't pay the bills! Socially, I excelled. That is the wonderful thing about being in business for yourself. You have a great excuse to get out and meet new people. Get out there, talk, and don't be afraid to tell others how great your new venture is! I found that when I shared what was working for me rather than the services I hoped they would buy, people were intrigued by my authentic peace and happiness and they would share my story with others.
Memorable factors that helped get started: Don't worry about how things will unfold in the future. Focus on the resources (friends, family, office supplies, space in your home) that you have right now and ask yourself how you can begin creating what you want here and now. Define what "ideal" means to you. Let go of your current definition of ideal. Things can be less than perfect and when you don't mind imperfection, you'll have the space to create something that perhaps isn't even on your radar right now! Don't worry about money. I know that sounds really hard to do, but if you focus on the money rather than how you can create something meaningful, ideas will be few and far between. Focus on what you want and need in your life and begin creating from there. If it makes your life great, other people will naturally want it!
Currently, Angela writes books and develops recipes.. She loves the creativity behind cooking but writing books inspiring others to create meaningful change in their lives is where her passion lies. “I do not have my own team, but I work with others. Bilal Choudhry is my online marketing guru and he's phenomenal. I have a few different folks that design book covers. Jenny with Jigsaw Indexing does the indexing. Never feel like you have to do everything alone. Elance and oDesk are great resources. It's so true that we all get by with a little (or a lot!) of help from our friends!”
Average day? Work schedule? I get up around 4 a.m., eat a light breakfast, go back to bed until about 8 a.m., and have a snack. I reflect on what I've learned from the previous day. I write blogs, update Facebook, write recipes, return emails, and get administrative things done. I eat a light lunch, take the dogs for a walk, spend about two hours catching up with my better half, connecting with nature and really allowing myself to experience peace (not just think about peace!). Then I return to my computer, continue writing recipes or working on current books, and around 6-8 p.m. we enjoy dinner and I call it a day. Then it's time for another walk with the dogs, X-Files, The Twilight Zone (I love the old 60s version) or even "Brave" - I love Pixar! I personally don't adhere to a schedule. I find that every time I try to make plans, something comes up or gets in the way. I do what feels right and everything falls into place just as it should. Trust yourself. Allow mistakes and learn from them. I work Monday through Sunday, and take days off when I feel I need a break. I find that if I feel super creative on Monday, why force that creativity into five days? If I want to write for 12 hours and take two days off, that's what I allow myself to do.
Biggest challenges: Bad days! It can be so hard for me to accept that I'm having a bad day. I don't feel creative, I feel lazy because I slept too long (or didn't sleep enough), I feel worthless because I'm fighting fatigue, then I'll try to force myself to write. It doesn't work. It's like my bad days try to tell me that no matter how much I want to turn a bad day into a good day, a day is just a day. None of them are really bad, the "bad" is just telling me to slow down.
Celebrated moments: When I can go outside and paint, walk with the dogs, play badminton with the neighbor's son after school. A 9-5 job would have me missing out on moments like that. It's the little things that I celebrate most. The little things that I never even knew existed.
Liberties/restrictions of being 100% work from home: The liberties are being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. The restrictions? Being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. I have to remind myself that it's all about balance. Don't focus on restrictions, otherwise they'll keep showing up. Don't focus on liberty or it will be elusive. I just do what feels right, moment by moment.
Work you enjoy the most or least? I despise the pressure of deadlines. So I ask my clients to tell me what they need for the whole month or year. This way, I can do the work as my creativity flows, rather than trying to schedule my creativity. Monet didn't schedule the water lilies - he painted it when it felt right! So what I enjoy most? Creating an environment of creativity rather than work!
Do you have a support network? I am a member of "The End of Fear Project" and that has been instrumental in helping me create balance by eliminating fear. Are the people there perfect? No. Sometimes we behave quite poorly, but we work through it! That said…are the people there inspiring? Yes. By seeing people consistently face their fears without shame or embarrassment, I have been inspired to do the same. Personally, my better half balances me extraordinarily well. It's so important to have the support of a partner, to encourage you, and help you work through the obstacles.
What are your tools/mechanisms to success? For several months, I talked with Jessica Schab and Diego Kricek Fontanive as mentors. Now I have reached a point where I no longer need to be mentored one on one, but maintaining a presence in the End of Fear Project keeps me on track. I have learned that it's who the mentor is that is important, but who makes me help myself is most important. If I'm stressed out, I give myself the freedom to take a break from it all.
Current financial, social and emotional status: I'm happy with my finances, which were practically non-existent up until about six months ago! I have created enough passive income with my first book, "Gluten-Free Made Easy as 1,2,3: Essentials for Living a Gluten-Free Life" that I can work part-time developing recipes. Soon I am publishing a cookbook, "Vol 1: The Gluten-Free Shopping Made Easy Cookbook: 25 Gluten-Free, Egg-Free & Dairy-Free Slow Cooker Dinner Recipes". Another book I am in the process of writing is "Releasing Fear Now: Freedom from Belief in the Mind". So many people are afraid of working from home because they believe it isn't possible for so many reasons. It has been incredible to help people see the source of these fears so I'm really excited about writing this book. Socially, fantastic! I don't attend networking events any more, but I love meeting people when I travel. Emotionally, it's night and day from when I first started. My perspective on life has shifted, and this has enabled me to create a work from home experience that is not perfect, but wonderful.
Networking, social media and marketing: I network the most on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Word of mouth has been most instrumental in my success. When others feel that you have peace and balance in your life, they'll naturally think about mentioning you to others more often. I don't schedule time for social media, but when something pops up in my feed I respond. I keep my posts timely and relevant. Marketing is huge. My colleague Bilal would be the one to ask about that!
Finding clients: Face to face networking almost never worked for finding new clients. A great example of this is how I met Ruksana. At the time, I wasn't writing books, so I never considered the possibility that I would need her services. She and I became friends on Facebook and years after I met her, I saw it pop up in my feed that she was an editor. Synchronicity? Serendipity? Maybe. LinkedIn and word-of-mouth has been the most helpful for finding clients.
Do you find time to indulge in pursuits that are non-professional? Absolutely! I tell people that life is a game, so have fun with it. I paint like a 5-year-old (and yes, it looks extremely amateur!), go bowling, hula hoop, sing karaoke, make a fool of myself in front of strangers. I just do not care what others think. I march to the beat of my own drum and while I may not love every minute of it, life is a fantastic adventure!
Your best achievement – Wow, that's the toughest question so far! It's hard to say if it's the difference I make in the lives of others or the difference I make in my own life. It's rewarding to experience and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with people reading this now.
Your worst failure – Broke and suicidal. I'm not proud to admit that, but I won't pretend that it's all been easy, glittery unicorns and fairies. It was hard and I had to dismantle some serious fears to get to where I am today. That said, face your fears. It's so worth it and beyond any words I can write here to convey the pay-off.
So does she plan to continue being 100% work from home? “Yes! I cannot imagine life any other way, nor would I want to!” Angela wants to take everything as it comes, moment by moment. “The universe has a way of stepping in and saying, “Plans?! What plans?!”, so I don't even pretend to be able to plan five years out any more! I am looking forward to facing the unknown without fear. Every day is a new lesson and a new experience.”
To others currently considering 100% work from home, Angela dishes out this advice: Don't be afraid to fail. If you fail, get back up, brush yourself off, and ask yourself what you learned without beating yourself up. I constantly remind myself that the source of all pain, frustration, and sense of failure can be reduced to three words: I don't understand. My own example here, as it relates to business, is “I hate marketing!” So, I asked myself, “Is it because you don't know why the marketing failed?” Take away the frustration behind marketing and ask yourself gently how you can do it differently. Don't take life too seriously. Life really is a game and if it's not, don't be afraid to ask yourself why life is so challenging. Every step of pain along the way has been a learning lesson to get me to where I am now. As long as we learn, there's no reason to hold on to the past in an effort to stop it from manifesting in the future.
Thanks Angela for sharing your inspirational 100% Work from Home experience!
Lisa Tilt is a Marketing Communications professional at Full Tilt Consulting, her branding and public relations firm. A resident of Marietta GA, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Media Communications from Florida State University. Reach her on Twitter or LinkedIn and visit her website and blog.
In 2006, Lisa left her previous job to start her own branding and public relations firm Full Tilt Consulting. She began her 100% work from home journey and has been successfully running her business even as her firm grows. “It was a conscious choice to work from home as I didn't have a need for office space as a sole practitioner. It saved on start-up costs and I did not want to commit to that kind of expense without knowing how my business would grow,” shares Lisa. “I wouldn't say this is an obstacle, but rather a significant change in work environments. Coming from a company in which I was managing teams, to being a solo entrepreneur was a new and different environment and work dynamic. I had to get my head around this change, which became natural pretty quickly.”
On the benefits of being 100% work from home, Lisa comments, “Before I had children, the benefits included working from home in a quiet environment with very little distractions. This made me extremely efficient. My plan was always to get my business up and running before I had children so I have the focus to dedicate to getting that off the ground. When I did have kids, I wanted to see them sometimes throughout the day, give them a hug after school, or attend a school play. In addition to spending time with my family, I enjoy tennis as both my personal time and source of exercise.”
So what helped her starting on her new business and getting to 100% work from home? “My entire career has been in Atlanta, and that fact alone made starting my own business just that much easier. My very first client came from a personal connection, and all of my business since then has been by referral. I believe that when you start out in a business community and continue to build relationships there, it lends itself to successfully starting a business in a much more seamless process – whether out of your home or out of an office building. Presently, we work on brand development and communications strategy, helping organizations, primarily professional services firms, to communicate their expertise through information and branded content. Our aim is to enable our clients to sustain the programs we create. We are a small yet mighty team working out of my home office four days a week with remote work days on Fridays.”
The average work day begins with Lisa getting her girls ready for school. “Because the school is so close to our home, I drop them off and return home to start my day at 8:30 a.m. I spend the first part of my morning reading the newspaper and writing for clients while I'm fresh. I am currently ghost-writing a book for a client among our other work, which takes immense focus. My team comes in at 9:30 a.m. We will typically have at least one client call during the day. And then we will either take a break for lunch or eat at our desks while continuing to work and catch up on the latest news. I’ll then review documents from the team, talk about new story angles for our clients, go over media pitches and get caught up on reading and researching for projects. Toward the end of the day, I’ll determine what the next day or week looks like in terms of deadlines and priorities. At 5:30 p.m., I have a hard stop to relieve our nanny and focus my time on my girls. We figure out dinner (usually as a group), spend time together and then get ready for bed. Once they’re all tucked in, I’ll usually hop back on the computer and finish up some emails or writing to prepare for the next day. My work schedule is pretty specific: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and half days on Fridays. Client meetings and work take place within those hours, and then the rest of my day is dedicated to family or personal activities.”
Lisa enjoys her 100% work from home arrangement. “I really don’t face challenges working from home, it all works seamlessly. I love the fact that I'm able to work my schedule around the needs of my family. Seeing the milestones of my children, whether it’s a school play, dance performance or gymnastics meet, makes work become even richer because I don’t feel like I have to choose one aspect of my life over the other. I definitely do have a support network, made up of my husband, family members, our nanny and my Full Tilt team. My husband also works from home, so when he isn't travelling he helps with carpool. Our nanny is available for after-school care until my work day ends at 5:30 p.m. Family members who live nearby help with the girls when my husband and I attend client events during the evenings. And, from a work perspective, my team is incredibly good at what they do and accountable for their work. I don’t have to question whether their work is getting done, which makes us a highly effective team. A support network is critical, not just for professionals who work from home, but for anyone who works. We all need a little help at some point.”
On the importance of marketing and networking, Lisa stresses, “Networking, both in general and building relationships with your clients, is important. Whether it’s face-to-face or the occasional meeting, it depends on the kind of relationship you have with each of your clients. Some of our clients are out of town, so we are able to get together a few times a year and have frequent phone meetings. In other professions, it’s easy to work out of your house and become insular. But, it has to be a concerted effort to get out and meet people. Most of my networking is done at coffee meetings or lunches from someone who has recommended a connection. Other ways are industry meetings which may include a speaker on a related topic. Regardless, I find that it’s important to make the specific effort to get out of the house every now and then to meet people and refresh connections.”
“Social media is an important aspect of my business, but also to our clients due to the fact that it’s an industry in which we work on their behalf daily, adds Lisa. “For Full Tilt, we find LinkedIn to be our most prominent focus, supported by our efforts on Twitter. For our clients, mostly professional services firms, we find the same to be true – LinkedIn is where we are discovering and talking to a more business-focused audience. So, it is through this social media network that we maximize our content strategy. We secure contributorships on media outlets such as Huffington Post and are able to maximize those opportunities through the use of social media every day. We are lucky to be in a position in which all of our business is referral based from current clients and relationships we've built over the years. As a small business, typically a process like a RFP (request for proposal) often takes a lot of time and energy and doesn't yield high results. Therefore, as a philosophy of the firm, we generally build our business through referrals.”
Lisa plans to continue being 100% work from home in the future. “My business is in a good, solid place with the team that we have. Economically, it makes the most sense right now to keep the business at my house versus spending money on unnecessary office space. Instead, I used company money to build out a nice office in my home to afford our team to work efficiently from this location for the foreseeable future. We have a pretty good thing going – and we’re growing every year, very deliberately, and with clients who will grow with us. We always like to take on new and exciting companies and entrepreneurs who are doing and saying things that are interesting within their industries. We look forward to bringing more clients into the fold and growing our offerings and capabilities along with them.”
For folks considering a 100% work from home arrangement, Lisa advises, “First, make sure you have a clearly designated work area. The risk in not having this opens the door for your life to encroach on your work, and vice versa. It’s important to have a physical reminder that you are leaving work and joining family, such as walking out of the doors of your office and being able to close them on the weekends. Without this, the two run together too much. Also, keep your relationships fresh. Have a plan to stay networked while working from home. Book a few lunches per month, meet new people, and reconnect with former mentors and colleges. You’ll always get something out of these meetings, whether it is intellectual stimulation, leads on potential clients or staying relevant in your area of expertise. And always keep yourself and your company top of mind.”
Thank you Lisa for those wonderful words of advice and guidance on your 100% work from home experience!
Jonda Beattie is a professional organizer and the owner of Time Space Organization. Born in Portsmouth OH, she resides in Clarkston GA with her two cats. Jonda has a Master of Education, Georgia State University (1984). Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and read more about her work on her website and blog.
Jonda founded her business Time Space Organization in June 2006. Retiring after 30 years in the field of education, the last three as a Lead Teacher of Special Education, she wanted to use her skills developed as a special education teacher to help adults reclaim their time and space.
The beginning: I was very fortunate to end up in a networking group that helped me understand what I needed in order to run a business. I chose to make the change to work from home full-time because I felt my health was affected by the stress of the job I was doing. My biggest obstacle was complete lack of business training. I had no clue as to how to write a business plan or plan a budget. I saw myself going into homes and small offices and teaching clients how to organize their time and space so that they could flourish. I did not know what was necessary to make my business successful. After a few years, I did develop a business plan which I now update every year.
Starting out: One of the biggest benefits was the pure joy of doing what I loved. I flourished in the positive affirmations I received from my clients. I began to feel a more complete person and more in control of my life. I tried to keep a balance. However, there were times when I allowed myself to become overextended. I gave too much of myself and became depleted. I usually became aware of this soon enough to step back and evaluate what was going on. The first couple of years were a financial disaster as I was still finding my way. I am fortunate that I have a teacher retirement plan that kept the wolf from the door. Currently I am comfortable financially and am still seeing my business grow. I also became more social in my business than I had as a teacher. I am very conscious of the importance of taking time for my family and friends. I have made many new friends as a result of my business.
Finding motivation: I joined a networking group that eventually became my “village” or “team.” From that group I got an accountant, a marketing coach, a person to help me with my brand, a graphics designer, a printer, and a web master. Later I met a book coach that helped my write and publish my workbook From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home. I also formed a Goals Group that met once a month and gave each other support.
An average day in the life of a professional organizer: It seems each day is different. At the beginning of the week I first plug in my client hours. Then I fill in the day with client contacts, phone calls, networking, project work, financials, etc. I do work a full day five days a week most weeks. I will often do office work in the evenings. Sometimes I work with clients in the evenings, sometimes I work with clients on weekends but I try to keep my client work between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. I have tried to have an office day with no clients but that rarely happens on a scheduled basis. I would like to say my work hours are Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but I have to remain flexible to meet client needs while still taking care of my needs.
The good and the not so good: My biggest challenges now are trying to bring in more income with fewer hours and finding more time in my week for a relationship. As a sole entrepreneur you get to set your own hours. The advantage is that you have no clock to punch. The disadvantage is that you have no regular schedule. You alone are responsible for the success of your business. This takes a lot of self-discipline and keeping your eye on your goals. But I enjoy the ability to close down my office for a few days or a week in order to be with my family or the ability to take a half day off to do something special with a friend is always worthy of celebration. I love the idea of being able to meet someone for lunch. I feel much more in control of my life and happiness than I did when I was in my previous line of work. I love the part of working side by side with my clients. I do not enjoy the paperwork alone in my office.
Along the journey: I have a vision board and as part of that board I have a word that I put forth into the universe each year. I believe in the power of attraction. I also try to take care of my body. I do some exercise (not enough) and attend weight watchers to maintain my weight. I do positive affirmations. I am in a comfortable financial position right now. I am actually not trying to grow my business now so much as trying to maintain it and serve more people with fewer hours. I am very active socially. I am in a serious relationship. I have friends that I see on a regular basis. I go out to many events. I take time to enjoy pursuits besides my business. I like to go to theater, concerts, and festivals. I enjoy dancing and travel and hosting parties. I try to have fun away from work on the weekends and occasionally on a weekday evening. I feel very strong emotionally. I am happy with my life.
Networking, marketing and social media: Face-to-face networking is important. I am a solo entrepreneur but I am a member of NAPO-GA and use other members of that group if I need to put together a team. I network at Atlanta Independent Women’s Group, Dunwoody Business Forum, and the Decatur Business Association. I also network when I am giving presentations or in groups. I am never without a business card. I have several support networks. My Goals Group is very personal and supportive. My networking group that I joined when I was still wet behind the ears still continues to support me. Social media is one way I market my profession but feel the value of it is still uncalculated. At a minimum I am on Twitter once a day, Facebook three times a day, and LinkedIn once a day. I set a timer, usually 15 minutes, to keep from getting sucked into it for too much of my time. All of this is done from my office computer unless I am traveling – then I use my iPad. I have a newsletter, send out email blasts about organizational events, have a blog I attach to my website. A couple times a year I do print advertising at Decatur events. I track where all my clients find me. In the past, the avenues have been very varied with no one way being outstanding. In the past year or so, I have had more and more clients tell me that they have found my on a web search. Conversely, paid advertising rarely pays off.
Highlights and lowlights: My best achievement was completing my workbook From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home. The concept started as worksheets for my clients and then with encouragement from my Goals Group became a workbook. It was a lot of hard work to layer on top of working full time. But I have had a couple of clients that I felt I was not able to give the support they needed at that time to make a difference in their lives. This is a big disappointment to me but I just couldn't make the connection.
Jonda plans to continue working from home. I enjoy the independence. I look forward to having more paid presentations. In the past, I have done many pro bono but recently that has been changing. I am going to give myself permission to say “no” to some of the non-paying presentations. I am trying to avoid hoarding situations. I like being able to touch more people and love the interaction and synergy that comes with working with groups. I also plan to incorporate a virtual organizing component into my business. I am currently working on updating my website to facilitate those new directions.
Her advice to others currently considering 100% work from home? Be very careful of your time management. Have a scheduled time that you work in your office area and honor that time. It is very easy to take a break to work in your home and not spend your full day working toward your business goals.
Thank you Jonda for your valuable inputs and list of books below!
Tamara McElhannon, a 49-year-old native Georgian of Celtic heritage, has a BFA, and is a Graphic Designer and Fine Artist at her company Tamara McElhannon Graphic Design and Illustration / Southern Studio Arts.
How did you begin your 100% work from home journey? I was part owner of a graphic design agency and sold my half to my business partner. After taking time off to travel, I began freelancing from home. It was a natural progression. I wanted to provide a service that was valuable to my customer. Making sure I had a great workspace and the latest technology to do what I needed to do was critical. The benefits? No commute! I am way more productive at home. However, that only works because I am very structured with my time. My office feels like an office. When I leave for the day, I shut the door. It’s a mind game.
Where was it going? Financially, I have done as well, if not better, than I would have if I had a full-time job with a company and I have my FREEDOM! This lifestyle is a perfect fit. Rarely have I felt like it was going to crash in on me. This last recession was the closest but I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years. I do have to make an effort to stay social. I go to meetings, I meet colleagues for lunch and I don’t mind productive meetings outside my office.
Some important factors that helped get started?
1. My first job was with a small graphic design company. I did a large majority of the work but not the bookkeeping and sales. My boss supported a family of four on the work I did, plus his part of the sales. I decided if he could support a family of four, I could take care of myself!
2. When I got to Atlanta, I tried to find a job with what I knew was a sub-par portfolio. I could do better but the only way to do that was to find the jobs that would up the quality. Portfolios are a MAJOR necessity for a graphic designer.
Today, Tamara is still a graphic designer. “I now include illustration in my title and from time to time I am a set/space designer. I am a fine art painter and show at galleries. I can do all of this because I am a solo-entrepreneur. I team up with vendors and other solo-entrepreneurs on various projects.”
What is the average day like? These days, I hit the ground running. Early mornings, coffee, and the news gets me going. I am in the office between 8 and 9 a.m. and out by 8 p.m. I try to stay committed to exercise in that time frame but my commitment comes and goes. A schedule is the most important thing to have. I get up, get dressed and go to my office as if I were working in a corporate job. Because of this, I take myself more seriously, and my clients do too. I do not return emails over the weekend, even if I am working. Right now, my work hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and most weekends. Can’t complain, I am happy to have the work! I feel 100% in control of my life. Even if I am working around the clock, it’s by my choice.
Biggest challenges - Work-life balance. Vacation is in 10 days AND I’ve started telling new clients that I cannot work on their projects until mid-June. My initial fear was losing them but I am now booked until August! Also previously, when clients wanted to meet me at my office, I felt a little insecure about working from home. These days, it’s not taboo.
Lowlight of your 100% work from home career - Our accountant did not file sales tax forms and we were hit with a $30,000 tax bill!
Highlight of your 100% work from home career - I just finished a project for a huge Solar Power Plant just outside of Boston, MA. I created the environmental graphics for a solar trail around a bunch of solar panels for Cox Enterprises. High profile project, great cause, I’m proud of it.
The love/hate relationship - I like clients to stand out from the pack and when we do that successfully, it’s a lot of fun helping a client realize their vision for their company in a creative and compelling way. However, routine production work is not my favorite. I’m currently working with a production artist to take some of that load off.
What gives? I have a support network. Not a “team of people” but in general, I feel supported by my social and business networks. I have faith that I have a unique skill that can help someone else. I’m not a huge goal setter. I do hold myself accountable for moving forward every day and I’m a big believer in self-evaluation, regrouping and redirecting when something isn’t working.
Current status - I am happy financially. I am saving for retirement. I am happy socially and emotionally…I don’t sit well with the demons. If they sneak in, I kick them to the curb as fast as possible. Life is good.
Networking, social media and marketing - When a current client passes my name on, that’s the most valuable. Face to face networking, for me, is more about staying social and supportive to/with others in my community. Social media has been an eye-opener. Since I started an e-newsletter, my business increased by a third. I spend some time conceptualizing it and creating it. I feel it must be a professional job, look like “I” did it and not pulled stories from somewhere else. I also show a project that I have worked on and have a testimonial. I am working on being more social on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m giving it a good try, but I can’t say that I am that comfortable with it. The e-newsletter and cross selling to my clients are my best way to network. General ads to a general market suck! I learned this with my fine art business. Target marketing is the key and sometimes it takes a while to find the right niche in your target market.
Tamara plans to continue her 100% work from home streak in the future. “It suits me,” she adds. “I will tweak what I am doing and plant seeds for a career in the fine arts when I retire. I’m sowing the seeds now!”
Thank you for sharing your experience Tamara!