One of the hardest parts of running a home business whether you are a real estate investor or in an entirely different business is separating your work from your home life, family and friends. It is very tempting to do a load of laundry, fix dinner or start one of the other tasks around the house that needs to be done while you work on your business. But if you are to be successful in your business while working from home, there are some ground rules you need to follow.

1. Your friends may consider “working from home” an invitation to chat or drop their kids off for an hour or two. Or, they may ask you to go shopping or for coffee in the afternoon. You will need to make it clear that these are your business hours and they are for business. After asking a time or two they will gradually understand that this is your work schedule and it is really no different than if you had an outside employer. If you agree to meet a friend for lunch, stick to your allotted time and get back to work on schedule.

2. Once you have created a work schedule, stick to it!  While it is tempting to take personal calls during the day, if you do people will expect you will “always be there for them” when they call. By the same token, try to return your business calls during business hours.  Real estate investors that are landlords have a saying that you need to “train your tenants”. If they figure out that they can call you for a minor problem at times other than regular business hours, guess what!  They will call you when it is convenient for them such as in the evening or on the weekend. Unless they have an urgent matter such as a furnace going out in the middle of the winter, their calls fall into two categories: “It can wait for tomorrow” or “call 911”. It really is that simple.

3. Just because you have set up a work schedule, it doesn’t mean you need to work 9-5. This is one of the best parts of being your own boss. You can work those 8-10 hours whenever you want each day. 

Some early birds get up at the crack of dawn. Night owls may begin later in the day and stay up half the night. Maybe you want to work in the morning; take a break when the kids get home from school, then work some more in the evening.  That’s ok. It is your schedule and you get to choose the times when you are most productive to work.

4. Have a separate business phone. It’s OK to use your cell phone so long as your voicemail has a professional message such as, “This is Mary Smith with ABC company and I’m not available to take your call at this time”.  It is also essential that you answer the phone with your name.  Even though you are working from home, no one needs to know.  

5. Have a separate home office if possible. When you are talking to clients the last thing you want your customer to hear is the kids, the TV or the dog barking. Having your own dedicated space will also help you to be more productive. If you don’t have the luxury of having a whole room to yourself, using a screen will give a visual separation from the other part of the room.

6. Dress and act professionally while working. Just because you work from home, this doesn’t make you less of a professional.  Real estate investors tend to be a little more “casual” in their attire and that’s OK as it fits what they do.

One last bit of advice.  Invest in the technology you need to get the job done. At the very least you need a cell phone, computer and a fax machine. You may be working out of a tiny room in your home, but you can project the image to the world that you are a first class company. How the internet has changed the face of business!

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