Be More Efficient When Working Virtually

As a producer I don’t often work from home. But when I do I find that I have to be extra disciplined to get stuff done.What I used to find was if I worked in the office and saved files on the comptuer there, when I came home to start on projects, I couldn’t access it. The files were only stored on the company’s server to avoid IT downtime, so when it came to working at home, not much could be done. A friend of mine recommended I look into programs similar to Hosted Virtual Desktop, that allow you to have the same files and programs from the same location. It is hosted ‘in the cloud’ and gives you the accessibility to access files wherever you are.

It’s so easy to get distracted when you’re at home and the comforts of, well…home, are all around you.  But fear not — there are ways to be more productive when working virtually. Shilonda Downing, the owner of Virtual Work Team has a few dos and don’ts for being successful.

Dos and Don’ts for Working Virtually

by Shilonda Downing

As the owner of a successful virtual assistant company, there is one question I’m often asked by not only those looking to start their own virtual business but also by journalists who write for major media and that question is: “What does it take to work successfully, virtually?”

I think it goes without saying that you should have the skill set to pursue your virtual dream business, however, I’ll discuss a couple of “Dos and Don’ts” that people often forget and that can wind up causing problems when trying to start and run a successful virtual business. While I can’t provide as much information as I provide in my consultations, making a list of these few key points, will get you started on the right track.

Do: Have a meeting with your family and/or the important people in your life before you begin this new and exciting endeavor.

So many people leave this important step out and just announce to their loved ones that they are going to start working from home with a virtual online business and expect that everyone will be happy for them. Not so.

This is especially true if you have young ones in the home. Discuss whether the trade off of missed time with your young children is something you will not regret; as you can never get back the formative years of a child’s development, but God willing, you can always start your virtual business.

Perhaps there is a virtual business that allows you to spend quality time with your young ones, like creating scrap books and other crafts that you can sell; so that your children won’t feel neglected. Whether you’re a parent of young ones or single with close friends that you spend lots of time with, have an open and honest meeting with them to let them know of your new business endeavor and the fact that you may not have the time you used to have during the start-up phase of your virtual business. Accept honest and heartfelt feedback and proceed accordingly.

Do: Make sure your office is equipped with the hardware and software you will need every day and is inviting to a potential client or another team member.

While working virtually means you can take a Smartphone, laptop or tablet anywhere and carry on business, there are times when you will need an office that is conducive to working virtually. Take a moment and think of all the things you would have in a brick and mortar office or in your former cubicle and make sure you’re equipped with those things BEFORE you get started with your virtual business. There’s nothing worse than speaking informally about your business to someone who is ready to work with you right away and then finding that you don’t have enough toner, staples, folders, etc. to get the client’s needs met ASAP.

There is also the need to make sure your software programs or cloud computing is serving both you and your clients well. You don’t need to try to keep up with the newest and the latest, as you’ll run yourself crazy if you do. Upgrade when needed and make sure your team, if you have one, is also up to date on new software programs or systems you decide to implement.

Then there’s the little matter of office furniture, make sure you have chairs, mouse pads, etc. that make you feel more comfortable than if you were in a brick and mortar office. Ergonomic is always best, but if you can’t afford that right now, comfort is king. These may seem like small things; however they are key to working virtually in a successful manner.

Lastly, you know you’re a virtual professional when you can invite a client and/or another team member to work alongside you in your home office. Make sure your office is set up to seat more than one person and that it’s an environment you’d be proud to have your ideal client visit. The kitchen or dining room table really doesn’t work here.

I personally invite local clients that I’m interested in doing business with to my home office all the time. It really impresses a potential client when they see how professional your home office looks and when they know that you have the equipment needed to assist them. I also have a team member work with me several days a week in my home office and she loves it and truly enjoys the “vibe” I’ve created in our virtual space.

Don’t: Forget to advertise yourself.
Just because you’re an online business doesn’t mean that you can skip out on advertising your business. You will need to grow your online presence to grow your business. 95% of search traffic is enjoyed by those on page 1 of Google which means you need to fight to get there. This is why you should be marketing your online shop to increase sales.

Don’t: Think that working virtually means that you can always do whatever you want, whenever you want.

Entrepreneurship is about autonomy for the most part, but if you use a bit of empathy, you’ll also find that your ideal client wants to be dealt with professionally and on time. While my company works on deadlines and we pride ourselves on hitting those, I find that many people who work virtually don’t take time constraints seriously. They think because they work from home or virtually that they can allow everything to get in the way of a clients work and the client will understand.

Clients don’t want to hear: “My dinner is burning, my child is yelling or it’s time to walk my dog, so I’ll have to talk to you later.” You wouldn’t say those things if you were in a brick and mortar office and you won’t be very successful if you constantly make those excuses working virtually.

Don’t: Neglect to take a daily break.

If you’re like me, you’re a hard worker and know that having good morals and a strong work ethic will get you one ideal client after another and referrals to boot. However, working virtually means, there’s no clock to punch or no bell ringing to say “STOP WORKING”, so you can burn yourself out, if you’re not careful. You need to take time for yourself daily.

When I consult with business owners who are stressed out, I ask them: “What is one thing you love to do that has nothing to do with your business?” When they give their answer, I encourage them to take 30 minutes to an hour daily to do just that. For me, it’s reading and outdoor activities, so I read the Bible daily and/or I walk to my local library and if my husband is off work, we bike our local forest preserve together. Believe me, when you do this, you give the brain the mental break it needs to be productive and creative. You also give your body a break from sitting and/or the exercise that you need every day to stay in tip top shape. Remember if your mind and body goes, the virtual business also goes “bye-bye”.

Hopefully these tips will help you and if you want more tips, I invite you to sign up for our Newsletter list on the home page of our website.

Shilonda Downing is the Owner of Virtual Work Team LLC . Virtual Work Team is a premier Virtual Assistant company and Mrs. Downing has been quoted by WomenEntrepreneur.com, WSJ.com and CareerBuilder as an expert on working virtually in a successful manner.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
18 replies
  1. Darcie
    Darcie says:

    As a publicist whose been working from a home office for more than 10 years, I can relate to this article. You absolutely have to talk with you family about your “working time” vs. your “home time” — they have to respect your space and you have to make sure you don’t neglect people. It’s a balance that every person has to find on their own.

    In the beginning, my biggest problem was not being able to STOP working – and another publicist gave me a tip. He said to set my alarm on my cellphone several times a day. Because you can work so steadily without much outside interruptions, you need something to make you stop, go for a walk, eat lunch, and end the day. Otherwise you will find yourself at the desk sitting there, thirsty and hungry with stiff legs from never leaving your workspace.

    Reply
    • Shilonda Downing
      Shilonda Downing says:

      Hi Darcie:

      I couldn’t agree with you more and I’m glad you found my tips helpful, especially the one that many neglect: meeting with your family before beginning the wonderful journey of working virtually! Have a fantastic day, keep on using that phone alarm 🙂 and don’t forget to take a break today. All the best!

      Shilonda Downing

      Reply
  2. Shilonda Downing
    Shilonda Downing says:

    Paula it was truly an honor to be featured on “The List Producer” website! It was my pleasure to share with your audience a list of ‘do’s & don’ts’ to working virtually in a successful manner. All the best!

    Shilonda Downing

    Reply
  3. Dori DeCarlo
    Dori DeCarlo says:

    Excellent points. Putting these steps into practice will pay off in the short and long term of building your business. May I add another one? Dress as if you are going to the “office”! Respect your place of work, even if it is the kitchen table when you start. You never know when a client will call and the last thing you want is to not take the impromptu meeting because you haven’t showered yet. Get up and get dressed regardless of your commute only being to another room in your home! Business casual always works and, don’t forget, clients and potential clients shop and run errands too. You always want to look professional and put your best foot forward. Respect your business!

    Reply
  4. Barbara Anderson
    Barbara Anderson says:

    I totally agree with the Do’s and Don’ts of this article. I work at home also and get up every morning and get ‘dressed’ for work. I make sure that my home office is comfortable and efficient. I give myself time limits and definitely take breaks throughout the day. Working at home is a blessing but make sure you follow the tips in this article and it will make working at home successful!

    Reply
    • Shilonda Downing
      Shilonda Downing says:

      It’s always a pleasure to help another “virtual” worker! I’m so happy you found the tips useful. If we’re not already, let’s connect on social networks and stay in touch.

      Shilonda Downing
      Virtual Work Team LLC

      Reply
  5. Delilah Smith
    Delilah Smith says:

    Excellent article, Shilonda! Love the reminders. Especially regarding taking those much needed breaks. I tend to get very involved in intense projects and forget to take at least 15 or 20 minutes to stretch, perhaps sip on a cup of tea outside on the deck, and simply refresh my mind and body.

    I also agree with your thoughts on our office environment. It is important to me–whether it be in a brick and mortar space or my home office–that the comfort and lay out lends to increased concentration and motivation to the task at hand.

    Thanks again for these helpful tidbits!

    ~Delilah Smith with Caliber Virtual Services

    Reply
    • Shilonda Downing
      Shilonda Downing says:

      Delilah! I’m so pleased you stopped by to read my article and thanks my friend for the kind words. It is truly hard to take a break, and I too will miss tea out on my deck as Winter sets in :), but it’s so worth it to make yourself take a break. I thank you again for your kind words.

      Shilonda Downing
      Virtual Work Team LLC

      Reply
  6. Eunice
    Eunice says:

    A superb article Shilonda. I needed that reminder to take a break. I agree with Delilah. It is easy to get so involved in a task that you feel that you just need to see it through.

    May I add another one? Do keep adequate records.

    I need to keep reminding myself of this often.

    Reply
  7. Marc
    Marc says:

    Hello everyone,
    Thanks for this great article – couldn’t agree more with the content and want to add that there are great services out there that can help you out setting up your virtual office – don’t struggle alone! We used worldwide101 (http://worldwide101.com/) and still rely on their support.

    Reply
    • List Producer
      List Producer says:

      Hi Marc —

      Thanks so much for your comment and the great suggestion abut worldwide101! Looks like a great service –I’ll have to check it out further. I’m always looking to share ways to make everyone’s lives easier! Thanks for reading!
      Best,
      Paula

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *