April 2nd, 2012

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By Lesley Spencer Pyle, MSc.

woman computer
Some people may think hiring a home-based professional to help your business is a gamble.  They aren’t productive or professional enough. Right? They get distracted easily.  There is always a kid needing something – so the work you need done may or may not get done on time.  True?

Of course, those statements aren’t true, but those are the types of concerns some clients have when considering whether or not to hire a home-based professional. “There is a stigma attached to being a work-at-home, an unwritten belief that if you’ve made nurturing your children a priority, you are somehow less of a business person,” explains Pat Williams, a home-based virtual assistant.

Your job is to convince them otherwise.

Play the Part

The best way to show potential clients how professional you are is to establish it from the very beginning.

“The work at home stigma can be tough to overcome,” explains Karin King of The Telecommute Resource (www.telecommuteresource.com). Some people may believe they can take advantage of your time because you are at home but nothing can be further from the truth. There were times when my ex would just leave the kids with me while I was trying to program and others would call all day long. Now I just have my emergency phone and business phones on during the day.”

It is important to set up firm boundaries with friends, family and neighbors up front. Don’t be afraid to say no to neighborly favors during work time. Politely let them know that you’d be happy to help when you are off of work at 4 p.m.

Tools of the Trade

The kind of software and hardware you are going to need varies considerably, depending on what type of work you do from home.  Generally, a computer, fax, phone line and internet connection are the minimum requirements.  You may also need to be able to communicate through IM, or instant messaging.  Similar to a chat room, IM is a fast means of communicating with one or more people in real time over the Internet.  Yahoo and AOL both offer programs, as does Skype.

A dedicated space is absolutely mandatory, but its helpfulness cannot be overstated.  If you are taking calls from your client and you can’t find what you need, or he or she can hear the washing machine in the background, you may be presenting a less than professional image.

Watch Your Marketing

“If I am going to hire a virtual assistant, I want to know how efficient you are, how good a job you will do for me.  When I hire you, it is about my needs.  When you trumpet the fact you are a work-at-home mom, you are sending me the message that your kids will take priority.  Your current family situation is irrelevant to me as a potential client.  I need to know about your professional experience.  I don’t want to know whether or not you have distractions,” says Scott Stratten, the mind behind Un-Marketing Viral Marketing consulting.

That’s why Jessica Smith, chief mom advisor at MomForce.com, doesn’t mention motherhood when she markets herself. Instead, she describes herself as “a consultant who happens to work virtually.”

Gather Support

Growing numbers of moms are finding that working from home is extremely rewarding, both personally and professionally.  While some may fear becoming isolated by working at home, there is more support than ever for mother business owners with groups like LadiesWhoLaunch.com, HireMyMom.com, NAWBO.org (National Association of Women Business Owners) and HBWM.com (Home Based Working Moms), an online community and professional association of moms who work at home or want to.

Lesley Spencer Pyle is the founder and president of HomeBasedWorkingMoms.com and HireMyMom.com, and she is the author of The Work-at-Home Workbook: Your Step-by-Step Guide on Selecting and Starting the Perfect Home Business for You . Pyle has been working from home for more than 13 years.

One Response to “Overcoming the Work from Home Stigma”

  1. SuzAtHome says:

    I am a mom working from home but I think that a lot of people assume that it is mostly mothers of young children that would choose to work from home, and for me that is not the case. My children are all grown, but I still prefer the flexibility and freedom that working from home provides to me. I also have arthritis in my knees and it is a lot more appealing to get up and go to work 3 feet from my bed than to walk all over to get to a job or on the job. There are a lot of us doing this with lots of years of varied job experiences outside the home that can now use those skills for companies from home.
    I think the client companies out there will find that people working from home can bring a wide variety of skills to them and provide some very dedicated workers as well.

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