Five years ago, I opened my own business, Complete Business Solutions, in Florence, South Carolina, where I began to teach people to use QuickBooks (I'm what's known as a “ProAdvisor" and also a reseller) and support them after they've learned the software. It’s the same type of work I’d been doing for the last 20 years, but now I’m doing it out of my home office, and I’m my own boss. That, in turn, has brought about the biggest challenge of my profession: striking a work-life balance.
I've had to teach myself to ignore the dishes and the laundry and background noise of family life. I’ve also had to train my two kids who live at home that when I’m in my office, they need to leave me alone unless there’s an emergency. It’s no easy task, but I’ve made a lot of progress on achieving at-home harmony. Here's my advice on how you can do that, too.
1. Set boundaries for your customer.
When I first started the business, I told my customers I was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was a huge mistake. I could never shut my working self off. So I started giving the customers boundaries. I don't give out my cell phone, only my business line, which is answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Any incoming calls before or after that time will go to voicemail. Making yourself available all the time doesn't necessarily benefit the customer. Boundaries are a good thing, for them and for you.
2. Set an after-hours rate.
Emergencies happen. While I try to avoid working weekends and evenings, there are times when a customer is in a dire situation, like they need immediate help printing their tax forms. When they're truly desperate, they'll be willing to pay for that service. I set my rate at time and a half if they need me to work after hours.
3. Communicate with your family.
My teenage daughter gets home from school and she is ready to talk about her day. I've had to train her to understand that unless it's urgent, she needs to wait until I’m done with work for the day. It's natural for your kids and spouse to assume that because you're home, you're available. It's up to you to set the ground rules on when you're available and when you're not.
It took me a while to realize this, but it is not worth my time to do things like cleaning, gardening and tutoring my kids. By hiring a housekeeper, a gardener and a tutor, I'm generally spending about one billable hour per task, and saving time, energy and stress. Consider the things that you can outsource and do it.
5. Take breaks.
My employee and I go out to lunch every single day. I've learned that we work better if we leave the office, get some sunshine and take a break. When we get back to our desks, we're refreshed and ready to work again.
Read more about Complete Business Solutions.