Passion for Life

Work Smarter

Work from home? My story and 7 tips for working smarter.

Working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be. It can be great for the VERY self-motivated, but it can also be incredibly difficult to stay motivated.

I was working for a small company back in 1997; it was a national distributor for building products. I absolutely hated it. Having to be there at 7AM every day, and abide by all of their rules. I am an independent thinker and I don’t like being boxed in, caged up, or held back.

One day I decided that I could do it on my own from home. Now I wasn’t going to be a stocking distributor like the company I was working for, no I would sell the product and have the manufacturer ship directly to the customer. I negotiated a great deal with one manufacturer, where they would do all the billing and I would just fax my orders over and they would pay me a 10-15% commission based on price sold.

I quit my job and started working from home. Risky? Yes. But I was confident and ready. The first month I worked day and night and only sold 1 order for $5000. That’s only $500 to me for about 350 hours of work. Do the math, that wasn’t going to pay the bills. But, I can tell you that that first order tasted so sweet and it gave me hope that I could do it. I kept at it, working and working, and the next month I sold about $25,000. Much better. After a while I was consistently selling between $50K -100K every month and that’s pretty damn good from home!

So that’s the short version of my story, it was not easy and I had to work very hard to make it work. After about 5 years I did move out of my house and opened a full brick & mortar store which I still own and operate. I have 3 full time employees and last year we did about $2 mil in sales.

So here some tips and things learned along the way about working from home:

1. Get up early, take a shower and get dressed just as if you had a regular job. When I first started I would get up early, grab a cup of coffee and dig right in… You guessed it, in my underwear. About noon I would take a break, get something to eat and take a shower. The problem is that if an opportunity arose to meet someone or take a client out to lunch, I wasn’t ready.

The other reason to be dressed and ready is to put yourself in the right state of mind. If you’re showered, dressed well, and ready to go at 7 or 8 AM your mind is right and you will be much more productive.

2. Set business hours. The tough part about working from home is that you never leave work. Every time you walk down the hall and look at your desk, something starts to nag at you and before you know its 2am and you’re still working. In the beginning, if you are eager, you will work almost 24 hours a day. But I learned after about a year that I had to close shop at a descent hour for my own sanity and for my family. My business was based on talking to other businesses, so 7am-4:30 worked well for me. So at 7 AM I was showered and dressed, and I did not take a call after 4:30PM. I found that I got just as much done within the set hours because I was better focused and more organized.

Set whatever hours work for you, but set hours and have some home time for yourself that is NOT work related. If you do not do this, you will soon find that your home is not a place to relax and you will be one big stress monster. Your home should be your sanctuary so separate work from home the best you can.

3. Start a corporation. There are many reasons to be incorporated, which would require many blog entries to describe. But for the purposes of “Tips” I will just go over some basics. All money is paid to the corporation, and then you pay yourself as an officer/employee of the corporation from payroll.

4. Get a corporate credit card. Use it for all of your expenses. Office supplies, restaurants, travel, everything. This will give you clear documentation of company expenses at tax time.

5. Expense car and anything/everything else. You are self-employed now, no one is going to be withholding taxes from your paycheck. When tax time comes, you need expenses…otherwise you are going to owe big bucks on April 15th. Your corporation should own your car, pay for your auto insurance, cleaning bills, and anything else you can think of. The main reason to do this is: ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE PAID FOR WITH PRE-TAXED INCOME. WHATEVER IS LEFTOVER IS TAXABLE INCOME. As an example, if I pay for my Sushi client lunch out of my pocket, I am using my personal money that has already been taxed. If I pay with the company credit card, it becomes an expense before taxes and reduces my tax liability and overall profit. I still got a great sushi lunch, but the company paid for it and I wasn’t short on my own cash. By the way, my wife is an employee so EVERY REASTAUARANT GOES ON THE COMPANY CREDIT CARD.

6. Fax-a-deal…nobody uses fax anymore! How many email blasts do you get every day? If you’re like me you get way too many. Mine usually go unread. Ahh, but faxes…if you get a fax, you pick it up and read it. I used to set up my fax machine too run all night sending a promotional page to potential clients. I picked up quite a few new customers using this technique. In fact, writing about this just made me think…I need to do it again!!! It is still a great idea!

7. Don’t give up. Many days my phone didn’t ring. Many days I sold nothing. But I never gave up, I would attend trade association meetings and dinners, I would get involved on the board of directors of these associations, I would volunteer for as much as I could. I would make cold calls all day long. I did whatever I could think of to generate business. It’s not complicated or difficult, it just takes persistence.

And one last bit of advice… It is easy to get distracted when you are working from home. TV, Social Media, Hobbies, whatever. TRY THE BEST YOU CAN TO SAVE THOSE ACTIVITIES FOR AFTER WORK HOURS. I remember some days, I turned on the TV at 10AM to catch up on one of my favorite shows from the night before…before I knew it, it was 4 o’clock and I had gotten nothing done. It is easy to get distracted so stay focused.

After 5 years of working from home I decided I needed an employee, someone to help me with everything because I was selling about $1 million/ year from my house. I didn’t want an employee coming to my house every day, so, if I was going to have an employee, I may as well have some stock on the shelf to sell and things just kept growing from there. It was a well needed change for me, because even though I tried to separate work from home as best I could…it is still almost impossible to really do it. Now home is home and work is work. I really much prefer life this way.


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