Fire your Boss! The Successful Home Freelancer’s Guide

Most people, at one time or another, have a job that rewards their time and effort with wages or salaries. An increasing number of people, however, are becoming dissatisfied with that time-and-effort economy and seek the greater rewards that a results economy can provide.

Indeed, more and more managers are abandoning the safety of company careers to become consultants in their chosen fields. They cite a number of reasons — a need to pursue their vision, a desire for increased independence, the lack of a meaningful future in a large organisation, or the reality of redundancy. This change inevitably means establishing their own businesses, working for themselves, and — if necessary — employing others.

Making the decision to start your own freelance business or consultancy from home is not an easy one. There are numerous considerations that need to be taken into account. This article aims to consider the key issues, and provide varied expert opinions and advice on how to address them.

Here’s what we’ll consider:

  1. Are you ready to start your own business?
  2. How to understand, consider, and address the risks involved.
  3. How to set up your home business, from establishing an office, to scheduling your time.

Let’s get started!

Are you Ready to Start your own Business?

If you know yourself and know your enemy, in a hundred battles you will never fear the result. When you know yourself but not your enemy, your chances of winning and losing are equal. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you are certain in every battle to be in danger.

— (Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 400 BC.)

Most consultants agree that consulting provides for them an ideal lifestyle. Contributing towards this, they say, are the following:

  • They can work on their own terms — choose where, when, and with whom they want to work.
  • They have fewer interruptions — no meetings, fewer phone calls, no office banter and social gatherings to gobble up time. More productive work.
  • They have less commuting — less wear and tear on their car, and themselves, less money spent on petrol or public transport. They can travel to appointments in off-peak traffic.
  • They have more time for themselves and their families, and can pick up the kids after school, attend daytime school functions, exercise at lunchtime, let in the repair man, shop when the supermarket is empty, and make a real dinner.
  • They no longer have to dress up — less money spent on office clothes and cosmetics, less laundry.
  • They no longer have to buy lunch or pack it — have money, sit in peace and sunshine on the back veranda.
  • They can follow their own body rhythms — work at 4 am or 11 pm. Take a break when they feel like it on the comfy couch with coffee and the newspaper, have an afternoon nap.

On the other hand, three of the main disadvantages include:

  • You can be interrupted or distracted by the everyday life in a home.
  • You may be tempted to overwork and rob yourself of relaxation.
  • You can become less visible in your business community.

Are you Ready to Start your Own Business?

So, are you ready to start your own business? Consider the following questions — you should answer in the affirmative!

  • Are you a self-starter?
  • Can you get along with other people?
  • Can you lead others?
  • Can you take charge of things and see them through?
  • Are you a good organiser?
  • Are you prepared to work hard for something you want?
  • Can you make decisions?
  • Can people trust what you say?
  • Can you stick with it?
  • Is your health good?

— Les Taylor in Starting and Managing a Small Business.

How did you go? That’s not all it takes, of course, but they are the key, basic concerns that you must be able to meet.

Are you Suited to Working from Home?

Of course, many people who decide to start their own consultancy or freelance business decide to do so from home. Yet it takes a special kind of personality to work from home successfully. Not everyone is suited to it. If you can answer "yes" to the majority of these questions, then working from home may be for you:

  • Are you well-organised?
  • Are you easily self-motivated?
  • Can you set your own work timetables?
  • Can you work with occasional distractions?
  • Are you sufficiently self-disciplined to keep your nose to the grindstone?
  • Do you have good time-management skills?
  • Can you work alone, or is your personality better suited to a team setting?
  • Can you set goals for yourself, and stick to them?
  • Is there a space in your home for you to set up exclusively as your office?
  • Do you have all the equipment necessary to operate an efficient, professional office?
  • Can you manage without traditional office support, and resources?
  • Will you be able to cope in relative isolation, without the social interaction which a corporate office provides?

Are you Cut Out for Consultancy?

Consultants of all kinds — including those working in the design and programming fields — need certain qualities. For success as a consultant you’ll need to:

  • Know the business environment. You must be worldly, plugged in, and fully understand new developments and policies in your field.
  • Be a trend spotter. You must ride the waves of change, recognise the trends and get in first.
  • Be self-motivated. You must be a self-starter with a get-up-and-go attitude and lots of ideas.
  • Be willing to work long hours.
  • Be results-oriented. You must stick to the promises you make, must not overcommit, and have good time-management and organisational skills.
  • Have the ability to write well. You must be good at identifying the client’s needs and writing to the client’s satisfaction.
  • Have a customer focus. You must possess good listening skills, patience and the tolerance to work within a wide range of client idiosyncrasies.
  • Be willing to sell yourself. You must be confident and charismatic and believe that your skills can make a difference.

— Linda Vining, ‘Becoming a Consultant’, The Practising Administrator, No. 4, 1997.

Now that you’ve considered the basic qualities outlined above, we come to the big question: are you cut out to be a consultant? A SOHO (Small Office Home Office) consultancy may sound very appealing. But before you go ahead, take a few minutes to answer this questionnaire. Be truthful in your answers! While it’s not definitive, this questionnaire is designed to give you a good idea of your potential for success as a consultant working from home.

In answering the questions, give yourself 2 points for a "Yes" answer, 1 point for a "Sometimes" answer, and 0 points for a "No" answer.

  • Are you a results-oriented person? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Do you set goals and clear objectives? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Do you work well in isolation? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Is your home free of distractions (e.g. children, dependents)? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Can you quote the rules of time management? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Do you support the concept of marketing your school? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Do you see school parents as ‘customers’? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Do you have a room in your house to convert to a SOHO? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Are you a good writer? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Are you a good public speaker? Yes/Sometimes/No
  • Do you have financial reserves to survive without a salary for one year, if necessary? Yes/No
  • Do you have good computer skills (e.g. desktop publishing, database, spreadsheets)? Yes/Sometimes/No

How did you score?

0-14 Look for a job in the paid workforce.

15-19 You’re a potential consultant, but you may need to make some changes to become a successful consultant.

20-24 Go for it!

Approaching Consultancy: Understand, Consider, and Address Risks

So, you’re ready to take the plunge. Spend a moment reflecting on this definition of consultancy…

A consultant is simply anyone who gives advice or performs other services of a professional or semi-professional nature, in return for compensation. This means that regardless of your area of interest or expertise, you can become a consultant. Everyone has a unique background, with special interests and experiences duplicated by few others, and in demand by certain individuals or companies at certain times.

— William Cohen, How to Make It Big as a Consultant, AMACOM, NY, 1985, p. 2.

Reducing Your Risks

As we mentioned above, the transition from a time-and-effort economy to a results economy is a major personal growth experience, inherent in which are a number of risks. How can you reduce these risks?

1. Know what it takes to succeed.

People who succeed in a results-economy believe two things:

  1. that they’re prepared to rely only on their own ability to achieve financial security
  2. that they will never get any opportunity in life unless they have first created value for someone else

Those two considerations identify entrepreneurial behaviour, which applies to any structure — sole trader, partnership, franchise, or limited company.

2. Try to be different.

Most business strategy comes down to one of two approaches: doing things differently, or doing different things. Few businesses have the luxury of being the only player in a market, so doing things differently will be the only way to differentiate themselves from others in the field. Identifying that area of uniqueness leads to planning and strategic action. Most people recall first and second placegetters in a class and, after that, only those that differ in some way. Few people who are just starting out in business can be number one or two: most have to rely on being recognised for their differences.

3. Investigate your market.

Market and competitor intelligence is vital if you’re going to differ meaningfully from the opposition. So get to know as much as you can about those competing in your market. This process must be reviewed constantly: competitors will quickly match those characteristics that previously differentiated your product or service from theirs. Change, therefore, is a constant for any business that realises the need to stand out from the rest.

4. Get the best resources.

People, planning, and equipment make up the important resources you will require. Your accountant, financial planner, and legal adviser will have the information you need on taxation, insurance, investment, and other legal issues like tenancy agreements and restrictions on business activities. A business plan will not only be an invaluable tool for yourself: it’s also a requirement of banks and other fund providers. The quality of your office equipment must help to deliver the services you advertise. Quick turn-round time on tasks and projects demands the right equipment and expertise.

5. Develop and maintain a positive attitude.

A positive mental attitude is an essential life quality, especially when you’re establishing a new business. "I will", therefore, continues to have a greater effect on the success of businesses than "IQ". Stories of those who have succeeded in their chosen fields identify desire and focus — "I will" behaviour — above education and giftedness or "IQ". This "fire-in-the-belly behaviour" leads ultimately to…

  • loving what you’re doing
  • learning new things
  • gaining extra energy

6. Be daring, but don’t be reckless.

People with entrepreneurial flair who leave the security of employment to venture into their own businesses are sometimes labelled as daring risk-takers. In truth, studies show that successful entrepreneurs avoid high-risk situations. They do choose challenging goals, but they do everything they can to reduce the risks. They usually enter their new venture with an advantage — they are experienced in the business they intend to start. They are aware of, and seek information on, the risks and potential problems. They remain open to feedback, both positive and negative. They have confidence in themselves and in their ability to make their new ventures work somehow, even if things don’t happen as they hope. They work to minimise risk within the confines of their basic aim: meet challenging but not impossible objectives.

7. Heed your own advice.

"The best advice you can take is your own" is the best advice you’ll ever receive. Although listening to the advice of respected others is important, the one person with a better understanding of the entire context in which your business operates is you. For various reasons, many people underestimate the value of their own contributions and place greater emphasis on the views of others.

8. Do it!

The most important four letters for people in business are "Do it". Having the best plans, the best advice, and the best intentions are essential qualities; but if you never do anything, nothing will happen. Yet gaining a reputation as a "do-er" is easy — just do it!

Understanding, Anticipating and Addressing Risk in the Field

We’ve talked about the personal risks to you in stepping out on your own into your own freelance business or consultancy. But once you do so, you face a whole new range of business risks. Some small firms are endangered by owner-managers being too impetuous and taking risks that the firm can’t afford to take. Many others suffer from owner- manager attitudes to risk which paralyse them by making them afraid to take any risks at all. Being in business involves some risk; so do driving a car and getting married.

Astute owner-managers must be able to calculate or estimate whether the risk of doing something new and different is one that the firm can afford to take, or one that the firm cannot afford to take.

Sometimes, when survival depends on doing something different (e.g. changing to a new location, adding a new branch, or taking on a new product), that may be a risk that the firm cannot afford not to take! Doing nothing is often more risky than doing something new and different.

If you want your small business to survive, then, insist Wal Reynolds, Warwick Savage and Alan Williams in Your Own Business, you must understand the various types of risk:

  • the risk of being in business
  • the risk we can afford to take
  • the risk we cannot afford to take
  • the risk we cannot afford not to take

They elaborate as follows:

Some small firms are endangered by owner/managers being too impetuous and taking risks that the firm cannot afford to take. Many others suffer from owner/manager attitudes to risk which paralyse them by making them afraid to take any risks at all. Being in business involves some risk; so does driving a car and getting married.

Astute owner/managers must be able to calculate or estimate whether the risk of doing something new and different is one that the firm can afford to take, or one that the firm cannot afford to take.

Sometimes, when survival depends on doing something different (for instance, changing to a new location, adding a new branch, or taking on a new product), that may be a risk that the firm cannot afford not to take! Doing nothing is often more risky than doing something new and different.

Rules for Business Success

In ‘Your Own Business’, Wal Reynolds, Warwick Savage and Alan Williams summarise the rules for success in small business as:

  • Create and build the business on a real market opportunity (find a niche).
  • Identify or create some distinctive competence and convert this into a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • Realise that competitive advantage is temporary; the firm will either be extinct or different in five years’ time; therefore planning ahead and the search for new opportunities must go on continually; and change must be welcomed.
  • Create and improve the firm’s image.
  • Strive to be the best rather than the biggest.
  • Remember that success comes from finding and/or creating opportunities.
  • Build on strengths and concentrate effort and resources.
  • Recognise the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Be innovative.
  • Seek and use expert advice.
  • Recognise the various types of risk.
  • Avoid being over-dependent on others.
  • Get rid of unprofitable and/or unsaleable products and services.
  • Manage the firm’s resources efficiently and effectively.
  • Realise that every business/management decision and action will affect the firm’s survival-ability.
  • Use time efficiently and effectively.
  • Keep good records.
  • Regard cash flow as the life-blood of the business.
  • Hire the right people, use them and involve them in the business, reward them wisely and get rid of all ‘dead wood’.
  • Continually update product knowledge and technical skills.
  • Regularly review the suitability of the firm’s location.
  • Learn from errors made and do not repeat them.
  • Watch for signs of mental stress and, if these are found, decide on the cause and deal with it.
  • Be decisive and assertive — decide on the best course of action and follow it.
  • Believe in yourself and your business.

Setting Up your Home Business

So, you’ve assessed your personal capabilities, and you’ve decided that you have a strong potential for success as a freelance consultant working from home. You’ve also considered the risks inherent in this decision — both in terms of personal and business risks — and you feel comfortable that you can manage risks of both kinds. If you’re contemplating starting your own consultancy, here are some important actions you might take.

1. Identify existing demand.

Successful businesses provide services that people want and are prepared to pay for — this is the concept of supply and demand. Demand will result either from providing different services or from providing those services differently. As very few consultants have different products or services, they usually attempt to differentiate their services in other ways, such as targeting niche markets, being increasingly responsive, and so on. One indicator of demand will be that you have potential customers lined up before you start, so that, before making the jump, you can tell existing clients of your plans and secure their continuing support before.

2. Get your networks established.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Good things come to those who wait — but only that left by those who hustle." Networking is an important means of hustling, so use your existing contacts to make new ones. Hustle at business breakfasts and lunches, industry seminars, and other events conducted by professional associations; have your work published in industry journals or in the local media. Then, when potential clients need the types of services you provide, they will associate your name immediately with their needs. Hustle also in directory listings and Yellow Pages. Try starting a newsletter. Create a website. Even approach former employers. Hustle for work.

3. Get a mentor and a coach.

A mentor will be someone who has succeeded in your field or in another field and who is prepared to nurture your development by taking you under his or her wing, offering guidance and advice. Mentors are role models and valuable sources of advice in such areas as getting started, providing services, finding niche markets, and advertising. Coaching differs from mentoring in that it focuses on providing specific assistance with a specific problem. A coach, for example, may teach you and help you to improve your public presentation skills so that you can, for example, increase demand for your services as a conference speaker.

4. Choose your business name wisely.

Time spent on choosing a company name and logo is time well spent. You’ll want a name that helps to distinguish you and your services from the competition — and one that provides credibility. Do not add "and Associates". In business, "and Associates" often means "small", usually a one-person operation trying to sound big by inventing associates. Register your chosen name with the relevant authority.

5. Establish essential support.

Develop a sound working relationship with those whose support you will need — for example, an accountant, a banker, and a solicitor. Initially, you may employ part-time accounting or bookkeeping support, seek income protection and other professional insurance, use a graphic designer to design your logo and present your reports and tenders professionally, an office supplier to provide everything from furniture to stationery, and even a fashion consultant to keep you looking the part.

6. Know what it takes.

Being a consultant and being outstanding are two different things. Top consultants possess a bedside manner or a capacity to get along with clients, an ability to diagnose problems and find their solutions, technical expertise and knowledge, communication skills, self-marketing and selling skills, management skills, a willingness to work erratic hours…

7. Ask: "Do I really need that?"

It can be tempting to want at once all the "trimmings" often associated with a successful business — for example:

  • A fancy office. Most consultants go to their clients, not the other way around — so use technology and save on rentals.
  • A bank loan. Some would say that if you can’t set up a consultancy without a loan, don’t do it.
  • Elaborate professional marketing and advertising. You should know your own business best. Keep these experts on tap, but never on top.
  • Partners. By joining forces with other consultants you can offer a broader base of skills, target a wider range of market niches, and reduce overheads. Informal partnerships are often preferred.

8. Stay focused on the bottom line.

In the establishment phase of your business, expenses will probably exceed income. Don’t panic. Just keep overheads low without skimping. You’ll need the best equipment you can afford, but the Mercedes can wait until you’re well established.

Golden Rules for Earning from Home

Derryn Heilbuth, author of ‘Earning Money from Home’, says changes in the job market have resulted in unlimited opportunities for people to work from home. To succeed, however, he recommends that those working form home take the following advice:

  • Pick something that maximises your abilities.
  • Have fun, because you’re unlikely to stick with it if you’re bored.
  • Do your homework. For every bright idea for a new business, find out who’s doing something similar, how crowded the market is and how well others are doing.
  • Find a niche.
  • Be patient. A start-up enterprise always takes more time and money than expected.
  • Take it seriously and others will do so too.
  • Keep good financial records.
  • Work hard and don’t get discouraged — sticking with something is the reason that small enterprises grow into major companies.

Even with these Golden Rules, you must beware of the common pitfalls for newcomers. Having made the decision to begin your own consultancy, it’s vital to be aware of the traps which can bring about your downfall…

  • Overcommitting your time. It is easy for a consultant to take on too many commitments and promise too much.
  • Missing the boat. Those who miss the waves of change and fail to recognise the trends have to share their business with others or go without.
  • Miscalculating the fee structure. Over-the-top fees curb the customer base. Fees that are too low fail to finance the SOHO.
  • Giving it away for free. Ideas are the professional currency of the consultant. They are easily stolen.
  • Having the wrong attitude. Some consultants have the attitude that they know it all and ride roughshod over the client’s ideas.
  • Failing to market your services. Hiding in a SOHO does not bring in business. A consultant must be seen and be heard to be hired.
  • Being poorly organised. Failure to keep records, send invoices, and poor accounting erodes a business.
  • Failing to keep those killer overheads in check. Rent, equipment and staff can unbalance the equation so that costs exceed income.
Reap the Rewards of Working from Home

Increasing numbers of people are working for themselves. In 1996, management guru Peter Drucker predicted that, by 2004, more than half of the working population in the United States would be self-employed. Others, for a variety of reasons, would establish home offices but continue to work for the company from home. Working from home, therefore, will continue to be the preferred option for more and more people.

In starting your freelance consultancy from home, there are a number of specific goals you should work towards and, ultimately, master.

1. Manage yourself.

Your self-motivation, planning, and preparation are the keys to maximising the benefits of working from home. Self-motivation will come from the picture or vision you have for your future — what you want to become or the way you see yourself operating in, say, five years’ time. Planning means translating your vision into actions supported by reasonable time lines. Preparation entails activities leading to the achievement of those plans. You will find plenty of tools to support these three essentials. Your aim will be to find the ones that best suit your operating style.

2. Manage your time.

Dan Sullivan proposes an innovative approach to time management — Free days, Focus days, and Buffer days. Adopt it, says Sullivan at an AIFP Success Forum, and your productivity will experience exponential growth.

Free days are when you take total time out from what you are doing. This full twenty-four hour period should be free from any work-related information or activities, giving you time to recharge and come up with a fresh perspective on things. Free days become your reward for successful task completion.

Focus days occur on about one hundred days a year and are periods set aside for completion of one or more particular tasks. Sullivan advocates 80% focus on these days, with minimal interruptions. Focus days will be your main fee-generation days.

Buffer days are when you do a little of this and a little of that — a little free time, a little focus time. Buffer days are essential for focus days to happen. Tasks can be delegated, staff know what is required of them, and you tidy up a myriad issues requiring your attention. (Dan Sullivan, Closing Keynote Presentation, 1996 IAFP Success Forum. )

Others will soon learn your habits associated with free, focus, and buffer time, allowing you to reap the benefits of this simple but effective time-management technique.

3. Overcome feelings of guilt.

Self-discipline is rarely a problem for people working for themselves. Many, however, feel guilty if they are playing a round of golf or engaging in some other form of relaxation when office-workers are heading off to work. Free days, focus days, and buffer days happen according to demand. There is no need to feel guilty if a free day occurs when others are at work. Remember that you have chosen this lifestyle for the added benefits it can provide. One of those benefits may be not having to queue before teeing off.

4. Maintain your business networks.

Make a conscious effort to retain business networks. Continue to attend industry meetings, lunches, and other events that will keep you in the public eye. Use the telephone, fax, and email to maintain regular contact with your clients. Remember those important marketing maxims:

  • Talk to every client at least once every 90 days.
  • Your telephone will ring only if you make it.
  • Don’t just sit there: phone someone.

5. Continue to project a high-quality image.

Wherever you are, image remains a key quality. Your personal appearance, the appearance of your office and your stationery, the way your phone is answered, the appearance of your car — all will be just as vital now as they were before. Working from home may have been a life-quality choice but should not detract from the image you project. The quality of the company you keep will always provide an insight into you and your operations.

6. Become your own best friend.

At times, working from home can leave you feeling a little isolated. Recognition and rewards are most frequently identified as what people miss most of all. Rather than rely on others to provide those essentials, you can use this experience to out-grow the need for continued recognition. Find ways to reward yourself. One example of a reward could be additional free days to celebrate the successful completion of an important project.

Overcoming Isolation

Those who work in the isolation of their own homes often face feelings of loneliness, lack of direction and support, and so on. In some cases, these issues can reduce the consultant’s chances of success, and may cause them to return to the daily grind of an office job. Here are five proven isolation-busters, suggested in Optus’s Business Advantage 1/2003, which you should plan to address before you embark upon a work-from-home consultancy.

1. Employ the "buddy system".

Choose a friend or colleague who would also benefit from sharing ideas and make a commitment to meet up at least once a fortnight to have a chat about the latest developments in your businesses. You are probably both facing the same challenges, so it is useful to get a different perspective on the way you work. Ask your "buddy" how they deal with isolation, as they might have some ideas you haven’t thought of. If it is logistically impossible to meet face-to-face, take the time to chat on the phone or send each other an email.

2. Enrol in a course.

Attending a university, TAFE or college business course is a great way to expand your knowledge base. There can also be some positive networking benefits, as you get to meet with other people to exchange ideas. You may even be able to turn one of your classmates into a customer.

3. Play sport.

Sport is a great way to de-stress after a hectic day’s work. Playing a social or competitive team sport will not only provide you with health benefits, but perhaps some unexpected networking opportunities as well. The social atmosphere that sport provides is conducive to making new friends, who in turn could become clients or suitable "buddies" with whom to share business ideas.

4. Work with "the enemy".

It’s a natural reaction to consider your competitors "the enemy" and have as little to do with them as possible. However, there may be benefits from networking and acting in a cooperative way to attract customers, particularly in the retail sector. For example, if you are one of four stationery stores within close proximity of each other, you could all work in a united way to promote your suburb as the place for customers to go for all of their stationery needs, providing benefits for all stores.

5. Work with a coach or mentor.

A coach or mentor is an ideal person to talk through the issues your business is facing. They provide you with a sounding board for new ideas and with constructive criticism about the way your company is operating. Being accountable to someone else provides added motivation to get things done, so you are likely to follow through on the initiatives suggested by the coach or mentor. So, if you’re a farmer and you’ve been procrastinating about updating your inventory system, there’s a good chance you’ll go ahead and do it if your mentor thinks it’s worth doing. Best of all, a coach/mentor is someone who takes a genuine interest in what you do.

The Practicalities

The practicalities of setting up a home-based freelance consultancy are fairly detailed. Give some thought to the following basics, as well as to any other considerations that you can identify as being relevant to your own specific situation.

1. Set up your home office.

Spend a few days setting up your home. Doing this now will save countless headaches later. Consider location, access, security, lighting, furniture, storage, image, distractions, and creature comforts. Determine what office equipment you’ll need for work and for telecommunicating with clients and colleagues-telephone, answering machine, computer, modem, or some similar device that allows you to connect to other computers and the Internet, printer, fax capabilities (fax software, or a dedicated fax machine), and perhaps a photocopier. Purchase all the office supplies you’ll need-paper clips, envelopes, stationery, pens etc.

2. Call a family meeting.

Establish ground rules and discuss expectations. Be flexible, but make it clear that, when you’re in your office, you’re there to work. Make sure your neighbours and friends know this too.

3. Schedule your day.

Try to discipline yourself to normal working hours, and "go to work" each day, at least until you develop your confidence, and enjoy some success, in your home-based consultancy. Once you become comfortable with your ability to focus, and to achieve, you can begin to experiment with some of the suggestions I’ve outlined above for optimising your time- and self-management. Since your clients and any colleagues may need to get in touch with you at specific times of day, try to have your schedule coincide, at least to some degree, with theirs.

Finally, to summarize, here are the basic practicalities that you’ll need to address in order to give your home-based freelance consultancy the greatest chance of success:

  • Set up ground rules with your family.
  • Discipline yourself to begin work at a definite time each day and establish office routines, such as checking e-mails first thing each morning, sending out invoices on Fridays, etc.
  • Set priorities and deadlines, and stick with them.
  • Establish good work habits — but don’t spend too much time at work, or at weekends, simply because your workplace is so close. Balance your life.
  • Dress appropriately — and that doesn’t mean getting around in your dressing gown. Productivity relates to how you feel, and look.
  • Avoid temptations — sofa, television, novel, golf, refrigerator.
  • Report in to the corporate office at least daily — to avoid isolation and to keep in contact with colleagues.
  • Maintain accurate records of activities and expenses.
  • Reward yourself from time to time — take a walk, play with the dog, water the plants. Take regular breaks or productivity will suffer.
  • Seek contact with others — for lunch or tennis. There’s no need to go stir-crazy.

Many people think that starting a freelance business involves a spare room, a computer, and some good contacts. But if your business is to be successful, you’ll need to be able not just to stick out the tough times when those hot leads dry up, but to battle your own feelings of isolation, and lack of motivation. You’ll also need to be willing and able to research, assess, and react to your market, control cashflows, and work with clients and contractors.

As we’ve discussed, numerous factors need to be considered before you embark on setting up your own home-based freelance business or consultancy. You need to assess your own capabilities, devise strategies to anticipate, respond to, and manage risks, and successfully tackle the challenge of setting up a physical office and scheduling your own time. I hope that the pointers I’ve provided here help you to do all these things and, ultimately, put you in a strong position to make your fledgling freelance consultancy into a great success.