In a previous post, I talked about valid reasons and some benefits of working from home as a Virtual Assistant. Things such as: walking to your office in less than 1 minute, working in your pajamas, having flexible work hours and control over your live.
For me, working as a services professional for the past 5 years, the benefits of working at home far outweigh the concerns and I cannot imagine ever going back to a corporate office again.
However, there are also a couple of things that are not as glamorous. There are many challenges that you have to deal with on a daily basis working as a Virtual Assistant. So, here is a list of some of the top challenges and some ways to solve each.
No fixed income
It’s true that you are in control of your financial destiny when you work at home. That destiny can be very rosy, but unfortunately it can also be (for some) disastrous. Working from home inevitably means that you do not have a fixed pay-cheque every month. Your income varies from month to month and especially in the beginning, it is difficult to earn the same you’ve earned while working in corporate.
When you start out, evaluate your situation. Are you the sole provider for your family? Do you have a spouse that can take care of your day-to-day living costs for an indefinite period until your business is sustainable and profitable? If not, do not quit your job immediately – start your business part-time because you need to live first. It’s quite stressful living off your savings and seeing it reach a point where you are forced to take up employment again.
Separating work from family life
One of the main advantages of working at home is to be closer to the family. But, this can be one of the biggest challenges too. The daily routine in the house could get in the way of getting your work done: children demanding your attention, hubby returning home early from work and wants to chat about his workday while you know there’s still a ton of work to do.
The easiest to separate work from family life is to set some rules and to have specific working hours as the first wave of defense. Do it in such a way that it fit your lifestyle. For me, I work in the mornings and then the afternoons are usually occupied by the children and playing mom’s taxi. So I rarely get to do some work during the afternoons. But, at night when everybody goes to bed and the house is quite, I return to my office and put in another 3-4 hours of working time.
Struggling with self-discipline or self-management
It is much harder to stay on task in a home office when there is no one watching over your shoulder. It is also easy to get distracted – even if you have the best laid out plans and intentions. A friend can show up unexpected, or you need to run to the shop for bread and milk, or there is a party coming and you need a new outfit or the washing is piling up and you need to attend to it. There are so many things that can test your self-discipline at home.
One of the best solutions that really help with this is to set specific working hours and rules – mostly for yourself. Show up at your “office” at the same time each morning. Block out the times that you will work and then stay focused on the tasks at hand. When in your office, you work. Schedule breaks for times when you need to do the washing, and limit trips to town for weekends and afterhours when your “work day” is over.
You’re “always” at work
I must admit, this is the one challenge that I struggle with the most. I often allow the temptation to work too much sneak into the picture. It is easy to quickly check some email while cooking dinner or run to the computer when you have a few minutes or take work with you everywhere you go. The technology beast humankind created even allows me to take my work on vacation (much to the frustration of my family).
But, you need to create some balance. Apart from setting work hours and rules for yourself, it is also important to “be in the moment”. When you work, you work fully, but when you are with your family, you are fully with them. This is sometimes easier said than done. Something that works for me is to involve my daughter in my work. At times when I have a deadline looming and cannot give my attention to her fully, I ask her to assist me with things like writing my goals on colourful paper and decorating it with picture or drawings. That not only keeps her busy but helps her to understand what I do, makes her feel part of my work and when we achieve that goal she feels part of the success as well.
As Virtual Assistants we work with many different clients and clients do not enjoy (or understand) background noises when speaking to you on the phone or on Skype. Things like children playing and shouting in the background, the dog barking outside the window, the TV or radio playing in the background are all diminishing the professional image you want to portray to clients.
To be more productive and to feel professional when working, it is best to have a dedicated workspace and preferably in a room with a door that you can close to block out background noises. If space is a problem, be creative to find somewhere you can put a desk away from the noisiest areas of the house.
While these are not the only challenges Virtual Assistants face, they are some of the most common ones. Everybody will not face the same challenges, but we all have some to deal with daily. Luckily we are by nature entrepreneurs and when we face challenges, we will find a solution for it!
Share with us below what are the challenges of working at home that you face in your business.