If you’re running a business from home, you may well want the outside world to assume that you’re suited, booted and slaving over a hot desk with a clutch of hard-working staff at your beck and call.
How can you do that when in truth the children are ill in bed, the washing machine has leaked all over the kitchen floor and the cat’s been sick on your best rug?
Here are my ten points that will (hopefully) help you keep a professional front even in the most stressed of home-working households.
1. If possible, keep a dedicated phone line for your business. This way you will not be sharing it with the family and queuing to use it when you need to ring clients. Alternatively, why not treat yourself to a Virtual Receptionist. Many are quite reasonable in cost, starting from as little as £20 per month. They take calls for you and simply pass a message on to you via text or email. You can then respond to your client when it’s convenient for you to do so. This helps to give a professional image.
2. If you don’t opt for a Virtual Receptionist, use an answer machine for when you are not available to answer the phone and record a message that names your business. Nothing is more off-putting than hearing, ‘The Jones’s family are out having fun please leave a message after the tone.’ A 1571 service on your landline can be set for out of hour’s calls.
3. Try to avoid household noises infiltrating your telephone calls. You may have a very successful business but nothing shouts ‘amateur’ more than children arguing or TV noise in the background. Always switch off the radio or TV before you pick up the telephone. Make sure that children know you must have silence when the phone rings. Praise for good behaviour after your business call or perhaps a small bribe may help! Other off-putting noises are taps running, kettles boiling and the flushing of toilets. If you are in the bath let the answer phone take the call.
4. Business owners who work on business premises do not answer the telephone at 10 pm, so however keen you are for new business and to please your customers, let the answer machine take a message. You can always ring back if it is urgent. Just say your call service passed on the urgent call. The customer will feel very privileged that you have taken time to ring them.
5. Never allow your child to answer your telephone. Come to that try not to let aged parents answer either. The last thing you need is your child telling an important client that you are having a wee, or granny saying how you were expelled from primary school!
6. Create a seperate email address for your business and use a sensible name. Keep StarTrekLady or MumOfaManiac for your private life.
7. Avoid using text talk with your clients and spell check your emails before pushing the send button. Never use ‘LOL’ or ‘ROFL’ and don’t even think of adding a funny smiley face at the end of the message. Only use colours and fancy letters if you have the kind of business that can carry it off.
8. Social networking is a great tool for promoting your business, but try to keep family and friends separate to work life. Some clients may not be amused that your sister has a rampant sex life or that Uncle Joe tells rude jokes.
9. If you go away for a few days, set your email service with an out of office message. At least that way, everyone will be happy to wait for a call back and not think you are slow to answer emails or not interested in new business.
10. Have a list of handy helpers who can step in and collect a child if you have an urgent project to finish and do enlist the help of your family. They need to understand that your work is important.
What tips would you add?