I love working from home!  It gives me


Telecommuting (Photo credit: ScottMJones)

One of the advantages of working at home is th...

One of the advantages of working at home is that you get to make real sammiches for lunch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love working from home!  It gives me a bit more flexibility than most “normal” jobs would, saves me time I would have spent commuting, and saves money on gas, wear and tear on my car, auto insurance, clothes for work, eating out,  and even hair and makeup supplies.  It also gives me tax deductions on my electric bill and business supplies, just to name a couple of things.
The freedom of working from home can take some getting used to, though.  A friend of mine recently asked me for advice about setting up her home office and what it takes to work from home.  My best advice about working from home is to discipline yourself and minimize distractions.  I wrote this more for the person who wants to work from home, but is having trouble avoiding distractions and needs more structure.  Some of you might find you need less structure, and that is OK.  Setting good habits in the beginning is key to becoming successful.
A lot of telecommuting jobs offer you some flexibility on hours, and in my case, I have no set hours.  I have to do the majority of my work during domestic business hours, which, due to time zone differences, can be anytime between 5am and 5pm my time.   So that gives me a lot of freedom, right?  Well, kind of.  Yes, I can take breaks and eat lunch and take my son to the park whenever I want.  But, while I can take breaks and eat lunch and take my son to the park whenever I want, if I don’t make any sales I don’t get paid.  The key is to set your work hours and stick to them.  Allow yourself breaks, but treat your job as you would if you went into an office every day.   If a friend calls you to chat do you answer the phone?  9 times out of 10 the answer should be “no,” because if you were sitting in a cubicle or working as a cashier you wouldn’t stop working to answer a personal call.  Unless there is true emergency ignore your cell phone.   If you were at an office would you take a 10 minute smoke break every hour?  Probably not.  Would you check you Facebook or personal e-mail all the time?  I doubt it.  Set up your work day as you would an 8am-5pm job, with breaks, and stick to it.  Let’s say at a regular job you get 30 minutes for lunch, a 15 minute break in the morning, and a 15 minute break in the afternoon.   The same rules apply at home, with the exception being that unlike a lot of jobs you can take your breaks and lunch at any time you want, and don’t have a set time or need to ask permission for when you can leave.  If you want to take a long lunch one day that’s fine, but then cut back on your breaks that day.  Or maybe you smoke, and want to take four 10 minute breaks and a 20 minute lunch.  That would work, too.  The point is to try and only break for an hour to an hour and a half during your 9 hour work day, just as you would at most full time office jobs.   And keep in mind that even little things like bathroom breaks, going to get coffee, and playing online for a few minutes all add up over the course of day.  Try to do those things during a break, especially when you first start telecommuting.
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