How to project a professional image when working from home

Setting up office at home is a good way to begin to experience what it is like starting a business. It will give you an idea of the costs and equipment required.

Working from home also removes the need to travel, work can be combined with domestic tasks, and you will not be paying for office space.

But using your home as work premises can mean your professionalism slips somewhat. Not only will this create an adverse working environment, it can project a poor impression to customers if they need to visit you.

First impressions count

Communication is vitally important when you are working from home. Assess all the points of contact that you are likely to have with your customers, such as the telephone, internet or fax.

Think about how you will answer the phone. A professional manner, such as answering with your company name or full name, will make customers take you far more seriously than if you answer “hello”. Remember that first impressions count.

If you expect to receive a lot of calls, it is worth investing in a separate line and number dedicated to your business. That way you will always know if it is a business or personal call, and will be prepared. A good answering machine may also prove a worthwhile investment, as you are unlikely to be sitting in your home office all day.

Virtual assistance

Using the services of a virtual office can boost your image. For a start, you can give the appearance of having more than one member of staff. You can also use services such as call-handling where your calls are answered in the company name by your own personal secretary.

If your business entails a large amount of correspondence, you can make use of dictation and other secretarial services.

This can be a very cost-effective way of running a business professionally. Many virtual offices, such as , and , charge for services depending on the amount of time you use them, such as a one-off, hourly, daily or monthly.

Discipline is crucial

The key to working successfully from home is good discipline. Remember to be strict about the time set aside for work, and try to start at a definite time each day.

The space you allocate for your office is also crucial. It is all-too-easy to fill a space quickly. Stephen Homer, sales and marketing director at storage company Big Yellow offers the following advice: “Clear your room to leave the bare essentials. Pack non-office items into clearly-marked plastic stacking crates or trunks-on-wheels for storage elsewhere in the house.”

And what if you need to set up appointments with customers?

“Take advantage of our ready-to-use meeting rooms, which can be hired by the hour,” suggests Homer.

Keep accessories, however decorative, to a minimum. Avoid having cables and wires running across the floor. Not only is this dangerous, it can point to an unorganised office environment.

Working from home may also mean experiencing loneliness or a lack of motivation. Try to build a network of people working from home who you can cooperate with on facilities and business advice.

See also: Working from home – How to manage your time and increase productivity

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