One of the reasons I like to do the success profiles on Wednesdays and this expert tips post on Fridays, is that it can help you shorten your learning curve and work-at-home faster. These articles give you the inside, real-life experience of people who are doing what you want to do…work at home. They also can show you the pitfall to avoid and things to consider so that you don’t get slowed down. This week, I asked experts to share what they’d do differently if they had to do it all over again. There answers will give you the inside scoop on what to focus on and what to avoid in your own work-at-home journey.
It’s so easy to fall for every single new & shiny online tool that can help to improve your business, productivity, communications etc. The fact that you are a remote worker means that you are more dependent on technology to make sure that the job gets done. But it’s so easy to fall for them and end up paying for too nuch many of them, which is happened to me at beginning of my WAH-based career. Those little $10-$20 per month here and there could add up to hundreds of dollars per month and thousands of dollars per year.
It’s important to look at the bigger picture and think about how many of the tools will you really need and use regularly? And how many of them would make a dramatic difference to your work?Every time you see something that sounds really useful, think and ask yourself the above questions before you buy.
But if you really do think that it would be useful, take advantage of the free trials or free version that many of them tend to offer. If they don’t offer it, ask for it. That way, you do not place any financial burden on yourself at an early stage of your WAH-based career.
I’ve been a work at home business owner for 4 years now. Through that time the business has progressed from being an independent business consultant/coach to business book author, blogger and podcast host, to COO of one of my clients’ companies (also a WAH position) and simultaneous launch of my online “store” for strategic, business, and personal planning & management: a software, a network of consultants ready to provide services to clients, and a social community. A place for people to go for help with their business and to help others with theirs.
There are several things I would have done differently were I to start over, as follows:
- Set a target and strategy to build a social media platform first
- Then publish the book (I did them in reverse order)
- Assembled the team much earlier in the process (I tried to “lone-wolf” things for too long and while it may have saved out-of-pocket expense, the opportunity loss is immeasurable).
Holly Reisem Hanna
I’ve been in business for eight years now, and I’ve learned a ton of lessons along the way. But if I had to pick one thing that I’d do differently, if would be putting a greater focus on email marketing.
From the start, I knew that I was supposed to build a list and email them regularly as part of my marketing strategy, but I didn’t realize just how important email marketing would be in the overall growth of my business. Instead of making email marketing my number one focus, I choose to put the majority of my energy into third-party marketing efforts like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. While these outlets provided substantial returns (for a period), their algorithms are constantly changing which makes them unstable sources of revenue and traffic. With email marketing, you own your list, and you can communicate with them anytime.
Besides, not making email marketing my priority, I also used an inexpensive email marketing provider. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, educate yourself on advanced email marketing tactics and choose a vendor that has advanced features like list segmentation, A/B testing, good reporting, and autoresponder capabilities. Most email marketing companies offer a free trial — take advantage of this and test out a few platforms before you sign up.
If I were starting a WAH business again, I would plan to get out to a remote work area at least once a week. Any work area can become monotonous day in/day out, but when alone at home w/o co-workers, I think the monotony can be amplified. Even just a weekly trip to the local coffee shop can spice up the week, and potentially lead to networking opportunities!
I started a global marketing firm out of my home 16 years ago and I recommend NOT spending money on things like fancy brochures, letterhead, business cards, etc. Until you know your business is launched I would say to put your budget into things that help fill your pipeline with customers. Getting your URL and a website up and running is key. I created online stationery for proposals and invoices, ordered my cards online and made downloadable materials as leave behinds for people looking for more information to help me find clients more quickly. I know other business owners who spent thousands of dollars on these things and found it was a waste of money. Your story will evolve as you find your market, you need to look professional and have a web site to be taken seriously but embossed paper with watermarks and heavy card stock is not going to accelerate your sales cycle. Find those reference customers quickly, use them to get testimonials and referrals. There is plenty of time later to dress things up!
I also wish I had known that the people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you. The hardest lesson I learned when I started my company is not getting rid of weak people earlier than I did in the first few years of my business. I spent more time managing them than finding new customers. I knew in my gut they were not up to snuff but out of loyalty to them I let them hang around much longer than they should have. It would have been better for everyone to let them go as soon as the signs were there. They became more insecure and threatened as we grew which was not productive for the team. As soon as I let them go the culture got stronger and the bar higher. “A” team people like to be surrounded by other stars. It is true that you should hire slowly and fire quickly. I did not make that mistake again later on so learned it well the first time. I wish I had known it even earlier though but lesson learned for sure!
- Be focused on how I was going to make money and the different income streams available to me. It seems strange, but too many business owners love what they do and think if you do what you love the money will automatically come. I was guilty of this and focused a lot of the work and not enough on my fees and pricing structure. Now I find myself coaching others on the same thing.
- Plan for your worst work week, not your best. Especially in the beginning, you might not have a backup and life happens. If you plan this way and charge accordingly you’ll be way ahead of the game. The goal shouldn’t be to work as much as you did in the office. You should be gaining more freedom and flexibility.
- Make sure you don’t become your own worst client. It’s amazing what we’ll do for others but not for ourselves. Don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap. Schedule time every just for you.
Note from Leslie
There are many great tips provided by this week’s experts. You can waste a lot of time and money on educational resources and home business tools. I know, I’ve spent a fortune on such things. And while some expenses are necessary, there are many things I’ve spend money on that I haven’t ever used (i.e aMember!).
I also agree with Holly about starting an email list. Interestingly enough, I just posted an article about the importance of email marketing. Of all the marketing you can do, email is the one that will bring you the most bang for your buck.
I love all the other ideas as well. Sometimes it can be hard to know what to do or who to trust, so odds are you’ll do things that in high insight you’ll wish you’d done differently. But you’ll notice many of the tips here have to do with planning and focusing on the activities that make money. Don’t get bogged down in busy work or getting business materials (i.e. biz cards), and instead, do the work that brings in income (find clients, do work). Finally, anticipate problems so you can quickly move through them and not let them stop you in your tracks.
As for me, my biggest regret of my work-at-home career, is not making WAHS a bigger priority earlier on. While I was working at home as a social worker and other jobs, WAHS was growing but not always getting the attention it deserved. I love having multiple streams of income because it makes my day interesting. But it’s true that a jack of all trades can end up being a master of none. Therefore, it’s important that you decide early on your ultimate goals, plot a path toward them, and then work your plan consistently and diligently.