Being that I am a work-at-home mom, I spend a lot of time online — I go to school online, have conducted web, graphic, and virtual assistant business through eDesign-Pro since the beginning of 2005, and have developed friendships and partnerships by connections I’ve made through social media. I have a network full of other business minded mamas (and papas)! Because of the growing blogosphere and the desire of parents to be able to support their family with incomes generated from the comfort of their homes, there is a sort of “underground” economy developing through ecommerce between mom-and-dad-owned online businesses and the clients who contract our services.
Lately, I’ve recognized a complete disregard for standard business practices and it seems necessary to make a few points on both sides of the debates I’ve seen take place. Because I am a designer, many of these will cater directly to my industry but most of the advice here should easily be cross-applicable to other professions as well. If you’re a work-at-home professional, continue to the article below. If you are a client, you’ll want to read the Tips For Clients Who Contract Work-At-Home Professionals!!
- Be professional. I had a friend tell me about an experience she had with a designer who treated her rudely, talked to her like a child because she was unfamiliar with the new platform she was moving to, and conducted business very fleetingly without any defined priorities. When you market yourself as a professional, it doesn’t matter if you are working at home or in a business environment — your practices and your communication should be defined, particular, and straightforward. Respect your clients in your dealings with them. It only takes a few seconds to proofread an email and assign an appropriate subject line. Small details like this reflect well on your business.
- Execution is crucial. We know as work at home parents, things can — and often will — come up. When you are scheduling jobs, don’t overextend yourself. Make sure you are allowing enough wiggle room so that when life happens, it doesn’t affect your ability to deliver on time. In those times when life throws its curve balls and you have no choice in late execution, communicate unexpected delays in a timely fashion to your clients so that they aren’t caught off guard at the last moment. As soon as you know their project won’t be complete when expected, so should they! Also, know what your clients needs are when you start. If a client is meeting an event deadline for a new website launch, that information allows you to reprioritize so that important dates aren’t neglected when deciding how to rearrange projects and discerning between which ones have target dates that can be pushed back and which ones cannot.
- Treat every client like your best ever. Word of mouth travels at the speed of light! If you make it a common practice to treat every client and prospective client as though they’ve been doing business with you for years, chances are eventually that will be the case… and more importantly, they will be more likely to confidently recommend you to others as well.
- Be willing to learn. Occasionally you will come across a client who has a project that will challenge you. When you’re met with completing a task you are not entirely familiar with or knowledgeable about, don’t be afraid of reaching out to others in your field or even consulting your favorite search engine in order to find the answers. There is a plethora of resources available online. Take advantage of them! This will help you in the future and will you to presently — and continuously — provide quality work to your clients.
Recommended reading: check out The Four C’s of Successful Working Relationships!