Much has been written about the pros and cons of home based virtual working but it all tends to cover the practicalities of business; contracts, accounting, pricing, illness, holiday time and such like. After conducting some research it seems there is more to consider, issues that are not normally discussed.
There are aspects of being a virtual business owner that can affect us emotionally and I'd like to discuss a few of them here. You may not face these problems at all, ever but you may find some of them will sneak up on you unexpectedly.
Forewarned is forearmed and developing coping strategies will help you to get through those 'have I really done the right thing?' days.
In the beginning:
So, you've decided to go it alone. You want to set up your own virtual business. The attraction of working from home is an exciting prospect. Being your own boss.
Your road to work freedom gets ever shorter, you've handed in your notice. You have a new venture that you can't wait to get started on. The plan, the website, opening those virtual doors and welcoming all those new clients that your market research assured you were out there for the taking. Those last few days as an employee, being shackled to that corporate desk seem to get longer but then - it's here.
You've finished. You're free! One of the most exciting times of your life, you are now a business owner, free to make your own choices. You are the boss, you make the decisions. You don't want to work today? You don't have to. Fantastic. Stress free! No more boring, long, fuel-fume filled commutes.
Then reality sets in.
There is no denying that self-employment is a great life-style choice but there can be a downside. Not necessarily everyone will be affected but if you are aware of negative influences that might creep in, you will be better able to deal with them .
Learning to cope with the bad days and creating coping strategies are vital, not only for the health of your business but for you and your relationships too.
You will need to truly master self-management, structure your own time effectively. Make sure that from day one you have an organised diary. Make a task list with realistic timescales. Stick to your deadlines - you will have to be disciplined otherwise you will be distracted and get nothing done. Prioritise the work you need to do on your business and set a schedule for it. Organise activity for each day.
You are likely to find that now you're working from home, friends and family may think that means you are available to chat, visit or whatever, all day every day; that you don't do a 'real' job anymore. You might even have well-meaning people suggest jobs that you could apply for - this happens but don't let it get to you. You need to create clear boundaries that will allow you to firmly but kindly deal with all the above requests, visits and suggestions.
Accept that you may need to learn new skills; for example, using social media to promote your business. There is plenty of material out there to help you get started, Google is your friend! Research, join forums - they can be great sources of support - but take the learning one step at a time. Learn only what you need to know. It is tempting to try and cover everything that others in your field can offer but make sure it is right for you.
You are not alone:
Loneliness and isolation are common feelings that develop if you've been used to a busy office environment. Don't allow those feelings to take hold. There will probably be times when you realise you haven't stepped out of the house for three days or you've stayed in your pyjamas and spoken only with the dog. Okay, it happens now and again but it should be an exception, don't let it become a habit. Human interaction is key to your welfare, we are social animals and need to spend time with other people. Make getting ready for work part of your daily routine. Go out every day for fresh air - even if just to the corner shop for a paper. Talk to people.
Find time to switch off - don't let the business be all consuming. Activities that divert the mind and give you something else to think about should be part of your daily routine - even if just for 10 minutes; focus on something not connected with the business to give yourself a break. Exercise regularly. It's essential for heart and mind!
The good news is; you now have so much opportunity to get out and meet new people. Networking is an important part of business, making new contacts, meeting people in the same situation as you. These are your new colleagues.
There are plenty of networking groups and some meetings are free to attend, with most meetings lasting just a couple of hours. Eventbrite is a great website for finding events in your area. Use the filters to select business & networking and see what's on. Sign up and go. Yes, it can be daunting to walk into a room full of strangers. People huddled in groups, chatting away - where do you start? The first thing to remember is that most of the people in that room felt the same level of apprehension when they walked in. Walk around, catch someone's eye and introduce yourself. You have a lot in common already, don't forget that. A really good tip that I heard recently is to arrive early; this way, as others arrive, they are going to head in your direction.
Hot desks in serviced offices can be a good way of escaping loneliness as can taking your laptop and working out of the library or a coffee shop. You never know where you will find your next client. People can be curious and may ask about your work - an ideal opportunity to make new contacts.
Learn to roll with it:
Clients will not come knocking at your door. You have to go out and find them and not everyone you talk to will want to work with you. There will be feelings of rejection at times. Don't take it personally. Think about the cold-callers who are doing door to door sales. They frequently have doors slammed in their faces (literally!) - not nice but they move on. Instead, take anything that you can learn from a negative experience and move on to the next person.
On the same theme, don't be tempted to accept a job because you feel you have to. Or adjust your pricing, or alter your working time. Remember those boundaries.
While you are building the business, income is going to be erratic. You've been used to a salary, the same amount of money dropping into your account every month. Security.
For that reason alone it is not easy to turn away work, especially in the early days. Trust your gut feeling and learn to say no. Sometimes the stress of working with a difficult client is really not worth the money you thought you needed!
If the business is not taking off as quickly as you'd planned, despondency can set in. This is a worrying time. It is very rare that anyone achieves overnight success. Those who are successful have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into getting to that point - quite simply, they didn't give up. They possessed an unshakeable faith in what they were doing and that gave them the drive and motivation they needed to keep going.
Head up, shoulders back, breathe deeply:
A high number of people will admit defeat very early on and go back to traditional employment - they felt dejected, that they'd failed, it just didn't work out. They couldn’t handle the rejection and disappointment. You need to be tough, roll with the knocks. If you believe in your business, have a solid plan and absolute conviction this will come across when you communicate. Any doubts will also show. If you are not confident, people will not deal with you. So be bold, perfect your pitch, know what you can offer and how that will benefit anyone who works with you.
Success may take time but it will come. And when it does, you can take all the credit because you have earned it.