By Sharon Davis
It's very frustrating to receive an email from someone that says, "I really need to work at home. Please help me."
It would be impossible for me to make any kind of recommendation to this person. I receive emails just like this so frequently that I've created a template of the response that I send when I get one. In it, I tell them that I'd be happy to make some suggestions, but need more to go on. Do you want to start a business, or work for a company? What skills do you have? What line of work are you in?
Sadly, the fact that a person would put so little effort into making an inquiry like this tells me that they probably don't have what it takes to work from home.
Whether running a business or telecommuting, working at home takes tremendous discipline, self-motivation and creative problem-solving skills. You don't have co-workers or your supervisor down the hall, and often when problems arise you have to deal with them on your own.
Don't get me wrong, I love to help people-- but I do expect it to be a collaborative process. I also understand that sometimes figuring out what it is you want to do can be a challenge.
So, what are some of the first steps you can take to find your way? Here are some exercises that you can do that can help to clarify your goals:
Consider the qualities below. Write down the ones that you think describe you:
These are all qualities that are pretty much imperative for a would-be business owner. If you wrote down all four, you are probably well-suited to running a home business.
If you wrote down three, telecommuting might be a more viable option for you-- especially if the one you didn't write down was Creative Problem-Solver. Communication skills and self-motivation are especially important for the telecommuter.
If you wrote down only 1 or 2, you should really think about whether your particular skills are going to fit with working from home. Don't give up hope, though. Consider taking a course that would help you in the area you feel you need the most improvement in.
>>Take a Skill Inventory
Get out a pad of paper and a pen and start jotting down the things that you feel you are good at and that you have experience in.
Next, make a list of the things that you really enjoy doing. Don't worry about whether you think you could make money doing them. Just make a list of all of the hobbies, tasks and various things that you have fun doing. This should be really easy!
Think about the skills and how they relate to the things you like to do. At this point, a picture should start emerging. Maybe you are really good at working with kids and you're super-organized and you also enjoy cooking and decorating.... How about starting a Party Planning business?
But what if the previous excercise determinded that a telecommute job was a better fit for you? Maybe joining one of the party planning companies would be a better option for you because of the support they offer.
>>Set Goals and Map Out a Path to Achieve Them
Once you've come up with a goal, be it a home business or a telecommute job in your chosen field, you should map out a plan of how to get there.
If you've chosen to start a home business, a business plan should definitely be your first step. It helps to focus your goals and gives you a plan that you can refer to to stay on track.
Finding a telecommute job takes planning as well. Once you've decided what field you should pursue, you'll want to research companies and compile a list of the top 10 or more that you'd like to work for. Your research might include the financial performance, company culture, benefits and employee satisfaction.
Once identified, you should try to obtain the name of the person who does the hiring and send a resume with a personalized cover letter addressed to them. Also, mention the company name and say what attracted you to their company. For example, "Your Company's solid financial performance over the past 3 years is very impressive" or "Your Company's commitment to community services makes it the type of organization that I would be proud to work with". You don't want to put something like, "I want to work for your company because you allow telecommuting".
Remember that many companies that allow telecommuting only allow it after a certain period of time, or for only a certain portion of your work-week. Don't be so locked into the idea of landing a full telecommute position that you overlook the potential telecommute job in the long run.
Similarly, starting a business requires time, money and tremendous dedication. You may not be in a position to quit your job and start a business. You might have to burn the midnight oil to get something started while continuing to work.
Finding your way to working at home takes planning, creativity and some serious soul-searching. But once you map out your goals, you'll find that the path becomes much clearer and you have a much better chance at success.
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