Working From Home Online: 23 Things I wish I’d Known Before
Last month I celebrated the end of the first official year of my coaching and training company, ThreeSixtySkills Pte. Ltd., which I launched in 2015 here in Singapore. Woohoo! (Before that I ‘only’ had a blog, not a real live business.)
I can’t believe how many things have happened in a year! I’d never have imagined how much my life would change and what working from home online would mean.
If I’d known… maybe I wouldn’t have done it? Nah, I’d have done it anyway, but I’d have been better prepared to tackle the many highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey ;-)
Here are the 23 most important things I’ve discovered about working from home online.
At first you’ll work like crazy, day and night.
People start their own businesses because they want more freedom and flexibility in their working hours. And then they find themselves working practically all the time, day and night, one weekend and then the next. Despite this, at first it’s a struggle to get results: hits on your website are pathetically low and it’ll seem like you’ve made a huge effort for nothing at all.
You know what I say? DON’T GIVE IN! Results will come with time. And it really is the people who get through the early, desperate months who have the highest chance of success. So hang in there.
You’ll find yourself doing everything and you’ll go mad
Building the site, writing articles, setting up your services, promoting your offers, developing relationships with your followers, preparing graphics, making invoices, reviewing the accounts, doing follow-ups with clients, holding coaching sessions, writing newsletters, studying and enhancing your skills, having a social media presence…
Yes, working from home online means that at the beginning you’re in charge of everything and you’ll end up doing a million things. To avoid going mad, identify what’s really important and start to delegate the less important things.
You might also be interested in: Four Ways to Make Sure Your Business Doesn’t Tire You Out
You’ll have to organise your time (much more than before)
You’ll wake up in the morning convinced the whole day is ahead of you. You’re your own boss and you can decide what to do and when to do it, right? WRONG! You have to be able to organise your time optimally, much more so than you were capable of doing when you were working for someone else. Otherwise you waste time on things that aren’t useful and end up with nothing to show for it.
You might also be interested in: How to Organise Your Time to Increase Productivity
You’ll have so many ideas you’ll lose focus
One, two, five, ten, a hundred projects. You’ll have so many ideas in your head you’ll start losing focus. And you’ll end up flooded with projects you began but never finished. This will only increase your frustration and make you feel unsatisfied with this business that’s failing to get off the ground. To move forward, identify a few priorities and decide what you need to focus on.
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A lot of people won’t understand what you do
At the beginning, you’ll enthusiastically tell your friends and family what you’re doing. And they will react by not understanding. They might think you’re playing on your computer. Or that you’re wasting time. They’re not doing this maliciously – far from it! Working online is just a different way of working.
You’ll feel alone and isolated
The great advantage of working from home is precisely that you can do it comfortably from home. It seems like a godsend, but after a while loneliness will get the better of you. Not having anyone to talk to can become a burden, particularly if you’re a warm person and used to sharing your ideas.
How to solve this? Look for groups for businesswomen and attend networking events. Find people able to understand you and support you, and who you can make a difference to. In Italy there’s the Rete al femminile, in the Italian region of Switzerland there’s Girl Geek Dinners and online there’s the SmartWomen Lean In Circle (set up by me :-) ).
You’ll discover you’re the worst boss in the world
As your own boss you’ll be a hard taskmaster. You’ll always want more from yourself. You’ll nitpick and you’ll often be unsatisfied with your results. Not even the CEO of the biggest company in the world would be so merciless towards his employees.
Then you’ll learn to treat yourself more kindly and to find a balance between looking after yourself and wanting your business to succeed. Remember: be nice to yourself – you’re doing the best you can :-)
You’ll have to avoid talking about nothing but your business
You’ll be so enthusiastic about your business that it will become the main thing in your life. And you’ll want to talk about it all the time, especially with your partner and your closest friends. With your partner in particular, to avoid monopolising the conversation (and to take care of your relationship) you’ll have to make yourself stop talking about your business and nothing else.
You’ll have to take time off, even when you don’t want to
Yes, if you’re passionate about your business you’ll want to give it everything you’ve got, all the time, no matter what. But you’ll come to realise that you’re not a machine and even you need time to rest and relax. Even if beforehand you couldn’t wait to go on holiday, you’ll end up (often) thinking about your business when you’re on the beach, in the mountains or at the spa.
My advice? Plan leisure and relaxation time into your schedule and make yourself take time out to look after yourself.
You’ll want to get away from your office
Working from home online means that your home is your office and your office is your home.
At some point, just being at home will remind you of what you have to do – the thousands of tasks to deal with, the things outstanding. You’ll have trouble switching off and you’ll want to get away from the place, go out and stop thinking about work.
The solution is to alternate working at home with working in a café or bar (Starbucks style) or in co-working spaces. This will give you a change of scene and you’ll meet new people.
Even if you don’t want to, you’ll have to learn the basics of marketing…
I used to hate marketing. I thought it was boring and a waste of time. I wanted to focus on my core business: coaching and training. But no!
I soon understood that to have even minimal success I would have to learn the basics of marketing and treat it like my best friend. Here’s the truth: marketing is fundamentally important if you want to succeed at working from home online.
…and of sales!
I used to hate sales even more than marketing! Picture those aggressive salespeople who use underhand methods to make you spend thousands of euros on yet another useless item. That’s what I thought selling was.
I was wrong: you can sell your own services ethically, by offering great value to your clients. There’s a whole science (and art) to selling and I have to say that the more I learn the more it fascinates me.
You’ll have to set prices for your services or products
At first you won’t be clear about what you want to offer, nor how much for. To make your business work you’ll have to get to grips with money: financial planning is essential for deciding the prices of your products or services, how much you’ll have to sell per month/year to avoid going into the red, and so on.
You’ll have to look at things as a manager and an entrepreneur, not only as an executor.
You might also be interested in: The Secret to Becoming a Successful Businesswoman
You’ll have to deal with money, regularly
And when I say money, I also mean accounting. You’ll have to deal with it and work out how much you’re earning, what is making you the most, what you can improve on. Of course, you can get help from an accountant, but you yourself need to have an idea of how your business is going.
You might also be interested in: Money Doesn’t Make You Happy. Or Does It?
You’ll learn to say NO
I’ve always had trouble saying NO and every time I did I used to feel as though I was doing people a disservice. Until I understood that saying no was a fundamental skill I needed for building the business. Many people ask for your time (free of charge), many want consultations disguised as ‘let’s grab coffee’, and they’ll ask you for discounts or exchanges.
You’ll learn the importance of defining clear boundaries to preserve your time, carve out your space and protect your mental well-being.
You might also be interested in: How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty
You’ll have many highs and many lows
At times you’ll think about throwing in the towel. You’ll be tired and demotivated. You’ll wonder ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ and miss having a steady job. But at other times you’ll be on top of the world, particularly after a sale. You’ll be confident and you’ll think that working from home online was your best decision ever.
The highs and lows will continue. Don’t worry, it’s normal: all the entrepreneurs I shared this with told me they experience the same thing.
You might also be interested in: How to Get Back Your Motivation Once and for All with a Vision Board
You’ll find that to do business you need to put your heart into it
To over come the lows you’ll need to reconnect with your vision and mission, and to be ruled by your passions. If you don’t put your heart into things you won’t get far. You’ll come to understand how much you really enjoy your work (or not) and how important it is to you (and to your clients).
You might also be interested in: How Your Business Will Change the World: Discover Your Vision and How to Find the Meaning of Life.
You’ll learn to face your limits
In your moments of desperation you’ll be faced with opportunities to better understand yourself and your own limits. You’ll take these as chances to learn and keep growing. The whole thing depends on you, on how you react and on the meaning you decide to give to events.
You might also be interested in: The only way to be in control of your life
You’ll fall into the trap of wanting to make a quick buck (but you’ll get out of it!)
You’ll find countless websites that promise you easy money – from 5 to 7 figures (particularly American websites). Except that they then ask you to spend just as much money on their courses, where they teach you how it’s done. I’ve done some of them and found them very good, mind you. The point is that you have to work hard and put the things you’ve learned into practice. Working from home online requires perseverance and dedication – there’s no such thing as quick and easy money.
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You’ll subscribe to a million newsletters and then unsubscribe
You’ll read thousands of promises and sign up for numerous newsletters, in the hope of acquiring that secret ingredient and finally finding THE MAGIC SOLUTION. Please stop! It’s true that there are strategies that work, and it’s important to learn from people who’ve already been there. But you need to put it all into practice.
Carefully select the people who really can give you something valuable and commit yourself seriously to testing out their strategies, before you move on to the next guru of the moment.
You’ll envy people who are doing better than you and this will frustrate you
Yes, unfortunately it happens. At first you’ll look on admiringly, but then you’ll be jealous of those who are more successful than you. You might even wonder ‘Why them and not me?’ And you’ll feel frustrated because, despite your efforts, you won’t feel as though things are getting off the ground.
Instant success doesn’t exist. Those people have had their work cut out too. Keep them as examples and inspiration, but only compare yourself with yourself (how far have you come since this time last year?).
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You’ll find your unique style and voice
Tom is telling you to do A, Dick is saying you absolutely have to do B, while Harry says that only C will bring you success. You’ll reach saturation point and will get sick and tired of all these strategies.
You’ll realise that the time has come to find your own unique style. It’s fine to read expert advice, but don’t become a copy of those experts. Discover what makes you unique, share your story, talk about who you really are. Don’t be scared of showing your vulnerable side!
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In the end you’ll work out what really matters
At some point you’ll realise that it’s not the goal but the journey that counts. You’ll come to see that success isn’t (just) reaching the finish – it’s creating your path and living it fully every day.
Because this will be a journey of huge growth and transformation, full of pitfalls but richly satisfying. And when you look back, you’ll realise how far you’ve come.
Recognise yourself? Are you ready for all this? Let me know in the comments box below :-)