Note: Although I wrote this for newcomers to the homebased business movement, feel free to borrow any advice that helps you survive as an employee suddenly working from home.
You finally found the perfect business idea. You’ve turned the spare bedroom into World Headquarters. You got a boxful of business cards you’re proud to hand out. You can’t remember the last time you were this excited.
Then one challenging day the honeymoon is over. It’s so quiet. No phones ringing, no co-workers gossiping around the water cooler. On an especially difficult day you remember that your former boss often praised you for being a team player. Now there’s no team. It’s just you. All by yourself.
Actually, you’re not alone. It’s a common experience for the newly self-employed. How can you survive the Deadly Quiet Phase?
The 16th century essayist Montaigne put it well when he advised, “If you are going to withdraw into yourself, first prepare yourself a welcome.” While I suspect he was talking about becoming introspective, his advice stands up if you’re going to run a solo business.
If you plan to work alone, you can head off the blues by incorporating these ideas into your schedule.
° Know your own rhythms. Nine-to-five is a thing of the past. Hooray! Whether you’re a morning person or one who is nocturnal, plan your working time to take advantage of your personal high energy times and don’t push yourself when energy is low.
You’ll not only accomplish more, you’ll feel more harmonious and that, in turn, will keep you in touch emotionally as well.
° Dress for the work to be done. The temptation to lounge around in your old bathrobe can be great when you work at home. Don’t give in to the temptation.
While suits, ties and pantyhose may no longer hang out in your closet, you deserve to wear clothes that are comfortable and feel good.
If you have a business that requires you to do different jobs, dress for the work to be done. As a solo entrepreneur told me, “ If I”m feeling like a serious writer, I put on my jeans and a sweater. If my duties are mostly secretarial, I wear a skirt and blouse. If there are client calls to make, I dress like a tycoon.”
Think of it as theater and costume yourself appropriately.
° Use background music. Like wearing the right costume, the right music can help set the stage for the work you’re doing.
London-based needlework/knitting designer Kaffe Fassett spends long hours alone in his studio. He acknowledges the companionship of the BBC’s classical music station makes his studio even more inviting.
Classical or instrumental music makes the best soundtrack for getting things done.
° Break up your day. Run errands, make phone calls, get away in the middle of your working day.
Some efficiency experts think that running your own errands is a waste of time. I disagree. A short change of scenery coupled with a bit of physical activity and human contact is energizing. You’ll return refreshed.
Once in a while take your notebook or laptop to a lovely park or local cafe. Changing the background can have a positive impact on your mood and imagination.
° Post your vision. Whether it’s a single photograph or a fancy vision board, put visible reminders of your goal. in plain sight. On days when you’re questioning yourself, it will serve to encourage you to keep going.
The bulletin board in my office urges me to Do Something Today Your Future Self Will Thank You For. Always makes me smile—and get back to work.
° Create a Joyfully Jobless Group. The mastermind idea was first popularized by Napoleon Hill in his classic success handbook, Think and Grow Rich. Meeting regularly with a small group of enterprising people provides creative stimulation—and keeps you accountable.
Coach Christi Hegsted explains, “Essentially, the premise is this: Each of us is smart individually, but when we put our brain power together, we essentially create a third mind – a ‘master mind’ – that is even better. I always find that to be true and leave each mastermind session feeling light and empowered!”
As you meet other self-employed folks in your area, invite those you feel a connection with to join you for regular brainstorming sessions. Sharing your successes and getting support when you’re stuck are power tools for growing your enterprise.
If you can’t meet in person, tools like Zoom make it easy to connect.
° Leave some time unstructured. Being spontaneous is as important as being efficient. Yes, you can be both.
At least once a week, do something that’s a pure diversion. Julia Cameron urges her readers to make an Artist’s Date once a week and use it to explore a place that stimulates creative thought.
Daydreaming on your patio can also be wonderfully therapeutic.
° Plan a collaboration. When she was in college, my daughter went to Europe by herself. She became an enthusiastic proponent of solo travel, although she frequently would spend a few days traveling with others she met on the way. When they tired of each other or had different destinations in mind, they parted ways.
You can adopt this idea for your business. While you may not want a long term partnership, you might find working on a project with another person from time to time is both rewarding and fun.
° Attend seminars. While all self-bossers are in charge of their own growth and education, savvy ones know that there are fringe benefits in participating in programs designed for enterprising folks.
Being in a room with other lifelong learners is not the same as pulling information off the internet. You never know who you’ll meet. Of course, during these times of lockdowns and isolation, an online program may be the only option.
° Take field trips. A temporary move can recharge your batteries. If you live in the city, take a walk in the country—and vice versa.
Drive to a small town with lots of local businesses and chat with the owners. Being in the same place day in and day out can dull our creative spirit. Move yours around from time to time.
I also like to get in my car and get lost on purpose, driving to a nearby area I’ve never explored.
° Reward yourself. There’s a good reason why companies have contests and prizes for achievements. When you’re on your own, it’s equally important to plan ways to pat yourself on the back.
When she’d been in business for six months, Karyn Ruth White sent herself six roses and a congratulatory card. She upped the number to a dozen for her first anniversary. It’s a ritual she’s continued to remind herself how far she’s come.
Both big and small accomplishments deserve to be acknowledged. Add to the pleasure and celebrate your way to success.