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THE BUSINESS OF WORKING FROM HOME
By Heather Douglas of HomBizBuzz.co.nz

This article has been kindly contributed by Heather Douglas of Home Business New Zealand Ltd. It provides advice on running the business side of your writing, and will be particularly useful for freelancers who work from home. 

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Many writers are doing what they are doing because they enjoy the craft. Whether they write fiction, technical documents, web copy or corporate reports, they are often experts in their field of  writing and gain satisfaction from knowing they do what they do well. For those that work from home—and the majority of freelancers do—it can be hard to think of their writing as a business. No wonder, then, that the image of freelance writers often conjured up in the minds of clients and friends is often less than flattering.

Irrespective of their trade, home-based writers face a variety of challenges with which those working from flashy corporate offices are not so familiar. These include:

*overcoming professional and social isolation 
*the need for self-discipline
* presenting a professional image, often on a shoestring 
* lack of financial security—times of famine and (hopefully) times of feast
* having to devote precious hours to administration, hours which cannot be billed as writing time
* managing the marketing, legal and financial side of the business (with or without advisors), often without specific skills in these fields.

On the other hand, working from home often brings with it tremendous lifestyle benefits. It's great not to have to battle the traffic twice a day, to choose your own working hours and conditions, to be your own boss, not to have to dress up except for meetings and to be there when your kids need you. Home Business New Zealand launched the HomebizBuzz web site (www.homebizbuzz.co.nz) in 2000 to help you get the best out of working from home, with more enjoyment and less stress. There, you'll find lots of information and resources (including a regular newsletter) to help you make your home business flourish, and a community of home business operators spanning the length and breadth of New Zealand with which to network. 

To get your started, here are ten things you can do today to improve your bottom line:

1. Hire someone to do your administration, invoicing, bookkeeping, etc. The time you free 
up can be used to market yourself or on billable activities.
2. Bill your time at a decent rate. You might lose a contract here or there, but you'll make it up in the long run and be less stressed for it.
3. If you are the only person in your business with the skills to do what you are doing, make sure you have appropriate insurance (income protection, key person) in place to provide financial security.
4. Become a specialist in a niche—you can charge higher rates and there should be more demand.
5. Manage your workflow. Avoid too much down time by marketing ahead. Try to have something lined up to move onto at the end of each contract. The reverse is also true—say no if you have to, or negotiate a deadline that won't kill you.
6. Make sure clients sign a contract up front. It needn't be elaborate, but it gives you something to fall back on if there's disagreement about the work, terms or payment
7. Work with others in complementary fields; for instance, a layout artist, illustrator, or printer may be grateful for your referrals and put work your way in return.
8. Use your PC and the Internet for maximum productivity. Get to know their capabilities backwards and keep up to date.
9. In the final analysis, you probably only have two ways to increase your income—charge more per hour, or work more hours. Sub-contracting or adding royalties to the equation can be smart business moves.
10. Book some non-working time in your diary and plan your finances to cover the temporary drop in income. You won't burn out and your writing will be zestier for it.


ABOUT US:
http://www.homebizbuzz.co.nz is a virtual home for home business in New Zealand. Run by home business people for home business people, our mission is to provide information, resources and networking opportunities to home businesses in New Zealand. We know how hard it is to share your home with your work, and how good it can be if you play it right. HomebizBuzz offers those who work from home information, resources and access to an active, online community to help ensure their businesses are both successful, and fun.

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pdated 18 Oct 2004 NZST