We all know that in order to be successful in any field, you need specialized skills. It just makes sense for an I.T. professional to have technical skills, writers to have writing skills, etc. But what OTHER skills are necessary for you to be successful working at home? We asked these experts to share with us the skills they find vital to their success.
As someone who’s worked for themselves for well over a decade, I think the most crucial skill for WAH entrepreneurs is RESILIENCE. There will always be days when things go well and days when things go badly – such as the days when you work really hard and it feels like there’s zero financial pay-off for doing it.
In a home working environment there’s often nobody to hold you up on these bad days, let alone a team to go and drown your sorrows with! This is why WAH entrepreneurs must be able to constantly bounce back against adversity and keep giving it their best.
1. Professionalism – “Entrepreneurs that work from home need to have tact and diplomacy. Because you are not there in person to express your thoughts and opinions, you are reliant on telephone calls and emails. It’s amazing how what you say can be misinterpreted by colleagues and clients – even if you didn’t mean to be offensive in what you say, even one wrongly-chosen word in an email can lead you to offend someone. This is because they cannot always tell which tone you are using. Any entrepreneur who wants to retain staff and keep clients happy will need to have the sensitivity to word what they say carefully, especially remote business owners.”
2. Communication- “Clients and staff alike need to know what’s going on in your business. If you work from home, you should ensure that you are in regular contact with everyone involved in your business. If you have members of staff, set up project planners so that everyone can feed into them and keep you updated with what they are working on; similarly, your input to this planner will help to keep the rest of the team informed. Compile reports for your clients, which you can pass onto them every month. A brief email every Friday afternoon, detailing what you have done for them that week, will also show great communication.”
3. Focus – “It’s very easy to get distracted when working from home, even when you are the business owner. There’s always washing that needs doing, a dog that needs walking, or even just a trashy mid-morning TV show that ‘needs’ watching. When you have a workplace to go to, it’s much harder to succumb to such distractions, but when you work from home, distractions are everywhere. Entrepreneurs who work from home need to be able to stay motivated and stay on-track with the job in hand.”
Dr. Ty Belknap
Time management is one of the most important skills when working from home, and there are three simple things you can do to improve your time management skills:
1. Make a list. Before you go to bed each night, make a list of what needs to be done the next day. Write down every item, no matter how big or small.
2. Prioritize. Once your list is done, figure out which items are most important. Is there a task you are dreading? Do it first, get it out of the way first thing in the morning.
3. Schedule it. What takes priority over your to do list? Your calendar. So schedule your list items onto your calendar. It will also help remind you to complete each task.
1. Computer literacy. Working at home essentially means that from an IT and technical troubleshooting perspective, you’re on your own. There is no one in-house who can help you with any hurdles or complications that need to be cleared on your computer or in your work – there’s only you. Therefore, having a strong working knowledge of computers, the Windows or Mac interface, as well as internet connectivity is essential to working from home.
2. Self motivation. Working from home is not for everyone. To some, the freedom and lack of in-your-face supervision that comes along with working from home leads to a drop in productivity. Not everyone needs to feel a manager breathing down their neck, but working remotely and miles removed from a superior isn’t always conducive to work getting done. If you are not properly self-motivated, you may very well struggle to stay productive on a regular basis. Working on self motivation and discipline is essential to fostering a strong work-at-home career.
The top 3 skills for successful WAH entrepreneurs include:
1. Balancing Responsibilities – There will inevitably be distractions at home that you simply don’t have at a traditional job. That may include your children, pets, or just unfinished chores. It’s essential that you are able to effectively block out those distractions during work hours so that your mindset remains in work-mode. This might mean closing a door and wearing headphones to drown our those distractions, or working on sticking to a schedule. I use block-scheduling every day to identify what times I will be working on which tasks. Then I rely on my mindset to ensure that I stick to that schedule. I’ve learned that very few things in life are SO time sensitive that they can’t wait a couple hours if need be, and scheduling my time in this way allows me to be hyper-focused on the task at hand, so my clients get my full and undivided attention.
2. Flexibility – It’s equally as important to be flexible. Life is messy and imperfect and we can’t plan for every situation. As a work-at-home entrepreneur we must be flexible and give ourselves grace when we perceive failure. There are some days that my home-life requires more attention, and some days when my work-life requires more attention. And that’s okay. At the end of the day, if I have made progress for each of my clients, and my kids are happy, I have found success!
3. Networking – As a WAH entrepreneur, it’s critical that you have strong networking skills. The internet has changed the way that we’re able to network, and I’ve personally made some amazing world-wide connections thanks to social media. In addition to digital networking, I am active in local networking groups including the Chamber of Commerce. Working at home can be lonely, but it does not have to be. So, whether you start on- or off-line, ensure you are getting adult-interaction from other entrepreneurs in and out of your niche. Through networking, you’ll find people who will help motivate and inspire you to persevere through all situations – plus, it’s been the most valuable source of referrals!
Self-Discipline –Working from home and running or managing a successful business will require a lot of hardwork and discipline. Just because you are not commuting to an office every day doesn’t mean you work any less. WAH entrepreneurs have to be disciplined enough to work hard with the distractions that come along with remote setups.
Problem Solving –Entrepreneurs working from home don’t likely have anyone to call when major IT issues arise or client issues come up. You have to be capable of handling problems and unique situations on your own and with ingenuity.
Education and Experience- You need to be well versed and knowledgeable in the area in which you have chosen to work. Your background and experience are how you sell your business or skills. Being a novice in your chosen area of work may make being a remote entrepreneur more difficult.
1. Stop getting distracted! There are a million things that you can be doing, besides working, and you need to block those things out of your mind. For example, baking some fresh bread or cleaning out the closet sounds great, doesn’t it? No! Save it for the weekend.
2. Know when to stop. It’s easy to have days meld together as if the entire week is just one long work day. Make sure to stop, take a break, leave the house, and do something else. Take weekend breaks. It’s not always easy, but everyone needs a mental break.
3. Health comes first. Sitting is the new smoking, right? So get up and move around! Even if it’s a walk around the block, to the grocery store, or even during your conference calls!
The work from home entrepreneur needs to have great organizational skills, as well as the ability to work without supervision and still be productive at a high level. This type of entrepreneur or small business owner needs to be a self-starter, and maturity is a must as well. WAH entrepreneurs must be able to think creatively as well – there will be times when you need to come up with ways to get more work done in a short period of time, working a flex schedule can also come into play, and generally speaking you need to be able to figure out a way to get your responsibilities completed in the midst of simultaneously handling home responsibilities. It can sound like a tall order, but you can do it if you try.
Prioritization-The ability to prioritize tasks and potential directions is the number one skill that entrepreneurs need and especially work-at-home entrepreneurs as there are so many potential directions to take.
Think of the truly impactful, amazing people you know. Chances are, they have an uncanny ability to prioritize and proactively *decide* what’s most important at the time.
Focus-Once you know your priorities for the day, the next skill is to focus and stay on-task until these are done. When working at home there are a lot of potential distractions so this can be difficult. Work in sprints with breaks scheduled between focused work. (You won’t be as tempted to check Facebook or put washing on during your work if you know you’ll have time for this once you’ve finished this task.)
Online Networking-Working at home can be isolating and you can easily miss out on the benefits of other people to help with brainstorming, different approaches, balancing out mood swings, and more. This disadvantage can be overcome by getting skilled at online networking. Find like-minded WAH entrepreneurs and set up a mastermind group where you meet online once a week and set up a place where you can chat online in between sessions. You can also meet new people in subject-matter groups and forums. The trick here is to choose a few but invest heavily in those you’ve selected.
Note from Leslie
There are many skills needed for success, but I’d say the number one thing is action. Nothing happens without action. Even action that fails gives you feedback to fix and do better next time. When I talk to people who are struggling to find success, I often find they are spending way to much time studying, learning, and planning, but aren’t doing anything that actually makes money. Certainly there is a place for research and planning, but at some point, you’ve got to do too.
As far as other skills, I agree with our experts; resilience, good time management, motivation, focus, professionalism, and networking are all key factors for success.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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