Q: Wearing every hat from bookkeeper to marketing coordinator becomes a pain when those tasks cut into my work time. Often I wish there were someone to pay invoices or order new inventory and supplies. While my business is successful, it could be a while before I can afford another employee. Any suggestions?
--Matthew Baxter, a photographer in Boise, Idaho, who has been a homebased business owner since 1989
A: Set your rates so you can factor in nonbillable time. That way, you can take time off to handle routine matters no client will pay for. Another idea is to employ occasional help. While at networking events, I look for people who perform office services. I recently met a woman who files for $15 an hour. When things get out of hand, I hire her for a day to get things back in shape.
For help with errands, search classified ads and the Yellow Pages under such categories as Delivery or Errand Services. I also suggest you invest in software that can help you save time by tracking billable time, creating invoices and tracking aging receivables.
--June Langhoff, owner of Softwords, a Pacifica, California-based business writing and communications firm
Bunny Slippers, My Foot!
Q: I struggle for professional credibility that seems elusive when clients find out I work from my home. I resent having my abilities undervalued just because I work and sleep under the same roof. I even had a former client who was fond of starting our phone conversations by asking if I was wearing my bunny slippers. What are some ways to place client focus where it belongs--on my expertise?
--Lisa Rennie, a Torrance, California, graphic designer who has worked from her home for the past six years
A: Having your own business and making it a success takes dedication, no matter where your office is. Working from home has allowed me to put in more hours and work around a hectic schedule with a newborn baby. Be proud of what you do. If you must, tell your clients you have a graphics studio in your home. If a client is satisfied with your work, you'll have repeat business. As for those bunny slippers, your former client was probably jealous. He probably arrived at his office by 9 a.m., just beginning his day. Think how much you've accomplished by then!
--Christiana Lapetina-Johnson, a homebased Woodland Hills, California, designer of handbags, clothing and home furnishings
Can We Talk?
Do you have a question that other readers may be able to answer? Or an answer to one of the reader's questions below? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please write or e-mail us at Entrepreneur's Home Office, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614; e-mail: hoffice@ entrepreneurmag.com
Q: Most of the time, I meet with my clients at their place of business, but on occasion they come to my home office. In cases where the client is new, I'm uncomfortable being alone in my home with a stranger of the opposite sex (I'm female). What can I do to feel less threatened?
San Jose, California
Q: Lucky for me, I'm not the only person in my apartment building who works at home, because other than morning visits to a coffeehouse for java, I can go a whole week without seeing anyone during my workday. It's nice to have a work-at-home neighbor I can take a break with from time to time, but are there other solutions to the lack of "water cooler" conversation when you spend your workday alone?