There are now over 23 million sole proprietors filing tax returns in the U.S.
Given the low overheads and other business and lifestyle benefits, a
significant number of sole proprietors also choose to operate out of
their home and are generating $102 billion in annual revenue in the
process (source: SBA
Office of Advocacy).
Numbers aside, sole proprietors and other home-based businesses
succeed because they are able to manage their life in a way that allows
them to enjoy the benefits of their entrepreneurial choices. But being a
sole proprietor in a home-office environment also means you are
bombarded with a myriad of conflicting work/life demands, 24
hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week.
Each of us has our own secret formula for success, but how often do
you actually stop and assess what’s working and what isn’t as you do
business from your home?
Here are a few tips that can help you dust off your home-based
business routine and strike a balance between the demands of your
business and the busy-ness of the home environment in which you
1. Learn to Delegate or Outsource
When you run your business out of your home two worlds collide and
without some discipline and planning you can easily get distracted.
Errands need to be run, kids need to be ferried around, dry cleaning
needs to be picked up, and so on.
Try delegating some of your daily home-life chores – consider sharing
school run or after-school duties with a friend or neighbor on a
reciprocal basis. If you need help in the home, try hiring a part-time
housekeeper or nanny for a few hours a day, and plan your errands in
advance so that they can take care of them while you focus on your
If you find yourself buried in administrative tasks, a virtual
assistant might be able to help. Virtual assistants are self-employed
individuals who use their own office equipment and software to help you
stay on top of administration for as little as $20-$50 an hour, but they
can also be drawn on for marketing support – and at a much lower cost
than hiring a personal assistant. Read this excellent article by Wendy Maynard that explains how VAs can
be the “savior of small businesses”.
2. Stop Wasting Time
Find yourself losing hours during the day? I call it the home-based
business equivalent of water cooler chat – that inevitable delaying
tactic that curtails productivity. My nemesis is Facebook and online
browsing, that will surely take bite-sized chunks out of my business day
if I let it!
Evaluate what your distraction of choice is and remove it. You’ll be
surprised how many hours you gain back in a week!
3. Stay Focused
For many sole-proprietors, the work can ebb and flow. One minute you
are in a dry spell and next you are so overwhelmed with work that
something has to give.
Try to optimize your work/life schedule so that you can work when you
need to be working. Avoid over-scheduling your calendar during busy
periods by bunching routine non-business related appointments and
commitments during periods when you anticipate that your workload will
be lighter. By planning ahead and protecting your calendar you can keep
stress at a minimum and give your business your best.
You can also optimize dry spells by using this time to build your
business or to get ahead on non-urgent business. For example, rather
than deliver a piece of work when it’s due, get ahead of the due date
and check it off your list so that you have more time to manage any
variables or unexpected work that might come down the line. Your clients
will appreciate it too!
4. Manage Time in Blocks