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!