Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Working From Home Is Forced Upon You

A couple of years ago I picked up a shoulder injury and needed some pretty serious surgery. This obviously meant I would be away from work,( I am a lorry driver specialising in moving dangerous chemicals) and consequently not earning. We were fairly confident that we could survive, but I was going to use that time to create an online business... I had done my research, and knew where I going to get my digital marketing education.
What we did not know was that my wife was going to be laid off the following month, no notice and no pay off, she was on a rolling annual contract and they just did not renew it.
We were stunned completely taken out I had just had the surgery and could not have gone back to work if I had wanted to... in the space of four weeks we had gone from double income and grown up kids, to no income, and panicking!
When Opportunity Knocks
Stunned by the shock of unemployment, and the total lack of money coming in. Judi did something that left me breathless. She took all our savings and bought three sewing machines, a work top cooker, an upgraded laptop, a virtual secretary and took three exams that allowed her to certify various health and safety qualifications.
She assumed that as I had been working my new digital marketing business and had successfully built my own website that I would drop everything and build her one too... After a bit of a discussion, not too high volume! We outsourced the build of her first site... I took the job of marketing.
Demarkation Is Vital When Working From Home Together
Let me clarify that, I was busy learning many new skills as an on-line marketer, those skills apply equally to off-line as well as on-line businesses. However it was essential that as we grew the businesses, that we respect each others skills, and each others time. From her degree days we knew that we had to schedule work time and home time, or certainly the edges would be blurred and family life would be lost. But this new challenge of two businesses in the same house was quite a strain. Add to that we were both massively out of our comfort zone. I had never really been technically minded, so venturing into this new way of life was hugely strange... add to that the pressures of little income, and we were heading for disaster.
The Solution To Potential Rifts
Obviously we needed clear channels of communication, and strong ground rules around who did what, but more importantly when things were done. We are both slightly workaholic and so we set our selves tough schedules. That we both made sure we stuck to. Even to the extent that if we managed a night out to the pub, phones had to be turned off, face down in the centre of the table... First to pick up, paid... silly but it helped us remember that we were still man and wife.
One Rule, Treat Each Business, As A Business
This was a tricky one. What it boiled down to was that my wife could not have favours from me, If she wanted to organise her social marketing or the SEO of her web site, she had to pay the going rate. I equally could not charge ridiculous rates. We actually put the jobs out to tender on Elance or Odesk, good respectable ways of accessing outsourcing. This did two things.
  1. It gave us an accurate price range for me (A Novice) to charge,
  2. It also gave us a realistic time scale of how long a job should take.
In many cases we actually paid the contractor, as it meant the job was done properly and quickly.
Outsourcing Saved our Marriage
This is a major lesson. I would be upset at first, that the money was going out of the family purse. However It did mean that the jobs we needed achieving, were done professionally. I learnt a lot by subsequently reverse engineering the delivered product, and most importantly, the two businesses flourished quickly.
The Virtual Assistant
Can I just emphasise the importance of this service.We have a virtual receptionist. She handles all incoming phone enquiries. We divert both phones. If they need urgent responses we get a text, if they need a brochure they get one. We receive a daily summary of calls at 4.30pm at which time we go through the names and numbers, call those that need it email those that it is appropriate to.
This single service keeps us so focused, we never get interrupted by the phone (we also have our email off so we do not get distracted) this means we both get the work we need to get done, done. More Importantly though in my opinion, it gives both businesses a very professional image. Can you imagine a head teacher phoning Datech Education, and getting a grumpy 15 year old watching Neighbours or playing on Xbox answering the phone... hardly the professional image we want to portray, and to be honest, not that fair to the kids,who actually have a right to be in their own home.
Did It Work Out?
Judi is now employing a team of trainers to deliver the training, so she is actually is a true Work at Home Mum, we converted a spare bedroom into her office ( our eldest two children have actually flown the nest ) My office is still a bit of a bone of contention... I use the family computer room, which is a shared room, although on busy days I sometimes over run making the children a bit grumpy... But we have a new office in the garden on order, so I will actually have to walk to work! But The Digital Marketing Business is Flourishing as well.
Could It work For You?
Would I recommend that you both work a different business from the same house? Yes absolutely, as long as you both respect what the other is doing... by that I mean demonstrate the respect... Judi used to text me saying put the kettle on, or what are you doing for tea... when I was halfway through a call... Or I would barge into her office talking without checking if she was on the phone... getting these little things right are no guarantee of success, but without them you will certainly struggle.

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