By October 1, 2010 Read More →

Does home working affect your image?

Professional image and HomeworkingRecently I was lucky enough to be mentioned in the blog written by Barbara Winter, who helps people to ‘make a living without a job’. She wrote about her recent move and her early days of running a home business: ‘At the time, I went to great lengths to conceal the fact that I worked from home. Who would take me seriously if they saw my unimpressive office?’

Barbara goes on to say that there is now much more awareness of self-employment and home working, but her comment made me think again about the important question of professional image when you work from home. Certainly there used to be a stigma and a feeling that you weren’t quite up to it if you didn’t have separate premises, that you were ‘playing at it’.

I don’t believe that is true any more. In fact I think the opposite is true and that the many people who aspire to a home office do so with no need to worry about their professional credibility.

But how do you build and maintain a professional image when you live and work in the same place, with all the potential for mess of various kinds that that entails?

Do you think it’s more difficult to project a professional image when you work from home? What steps do you take to safeguard your reputation?

Posted in: Routine

31 Comments on "Does home working affect your image?"

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  1. Rosie Smart says:

    Probably, like most people, I feel that the house has to be spotless if I am having a meeting at home. No leaving the washing up until later if someone is due round! But I think the main thing that converts my home into somewhere suitable for conducting a meeting and really shifts my mindset is removing the swipe clean tablecloth that is a permanent fixture on the dining room table in our house for my 2 daughters.

    • judy says:

      Sounds like a quick transformation from family to business, Rosie. Interesting that it helps you get into the right frame of mind as well as making the house look more business-like.

  2. Ali Davies says:

    I choose not to have meetings or see clients at home at all. That is one of the boundaries I have set around my personal and professional life to make my home business work for me.
    If it’s a general meeting I will meet folk in a nice hotel lobby. If it is a client session and needs confidentiality, I will get a private room. Easy to find these days at very reasonable rates.
    However, most of my 1-2-1 clients are by telephone anyway and a lot of my other work is groups which I hire a hotel meeting room for.

    • judy says:

      I think you’re the first person I’ve ever heard say that, Ali. I can see the benefits of making such a boundary and I’m wondering if you made it in the light of previous experience?

  3. Fay Easton says:

    Our hub has been created to exactly meet these needs, a professional environment that’s safe and secure, allowing the micro-entrepreneur to project their own professional image against a funky and commercial backdrop. And the cakes are great! Business home from home really. Ours is based alongside the River Severn in Shropshire but hubs are springing up across the UK and there’s soon to be a website with locator –

    • judy says:

      Thanks, Fay! If you live in Shropshire, or are intrigued by the idea of workhubs generally, just place your cursor over Fay’s name above and you’ll get the link to Enterprise HQ and see what she means about funky!
      I’m lucky enough to have a similar workhub right here in Frome, The Old Church School, where I run monthly Jellys. The new Workhubs Network website is almost ready, but in the meantime try googling ‘workhub’ with the name of your town to find out what’s in your area.

  4. Adam Featherston says:

    I work from home often, but customer or even colleague face-to-face meetings at home are a no-no.

    A hotel lobby, a cafe-bar, or restaurant are better options for meetings outside of a formal business premises, in my opinion – and for confidential meetings, there are usually meeting rooms for hire in larger hotels and airports.

    Working remotely (phone, web conferences) from home allows a great work-life balance without any impact on image, but the minute clients and colleagues come into the home, my choice of wallpaper and soft furnishings (not to mention my 1 year-old daughters mess) becomes a non-businesslike distraction!

    • judy says:

      Including people responding on Twitter, I’m getting quite a few replies saying people prefer to keep meetings out of the home. I’m wondering if anyone has no option, either because of a rural location or because lack of start-up cash means a very tight budget?

  5. Penelope Young says:

    I prefer to have meetings away from home but I am aware that when clients come to my home for coaching, I tidy up more regularly. A hidden benefit of hosting meetings/clients at home.
    I like Ali’s idea of hiring a room and adding that to the cost.

    • judy says:

      Yes, I’ve found in the past that appointments trigger a hasty clean-up! Do you think that in the present circumstances you could charge extra to cover room hire or will more people resort to meetings at home to keep costs down?

  6. Nicky Kriel says:

    Like Ali, I don’t tend to meet clients at my home but meet people in hotel foyers and private rooms. Many restaurants have private dining rooms upstairs which they will let you use for the cost of a few cups of coffee. I think the main reason I don’t have clients visit me at home is that housekeeping is not my key strength! I once did a phobia cure for a friend’s daughter who had a phobia about spiders in my living room. I thought I had got rid of all the cobwebs, but during the session, I was conscious that there was a big spider walking along the wall!

    • judy says:

      So what we all want to know is whether it worked! And did she notice the spider? I thought that sometimes it’s part of the cure to encounter the thing you have a phobia of? Or is that a more brutal kind of fix?!

  7. Nicky Kriel says:

    She didn’t notice the spider. I don’t think it is necessary to expose people to thing they have a phobia about. She has gone from screaming hysterically at any encounter within the house to using a spider-catcher to remove them, although she still gets her dad to empty the spider-catcher out.

  8. Caradiaz says:

    My jewellery business is web-based so I don’t usually have a problem with meetings.

    Having said that, we do have trade customers who may request to meet up to view the collections privately. In those circumstances, we do actually go to see them, which they appreciate as it saves them time and effort and, in turn, it helps me keep customers and meetings totally out of the house.

  9. Brad says:

    I have always offered to meet at their business location and that’s not been a problem. Face-to-face meetings are rare so I like expending the effort for universal benefit. I do not have clients to my home, even though I’m proud of it.

    However, when I read this post, the first thing I thought about was the perception of friends, neighbors, and family and how that relates. With two active kids and a soccer field behind our house, it is Grand Central Station around here. I love it, but I always have a keen ear for the perception that my job is “less real” due to the fact that I get to work from home. I work long, an often stressful hours. That’s hard to convey to my asphalt-mixing and long-commuting friends.

    • judy says:

      I like the saying, and it’s quite common now – ‘Work is something you do, not a place you go’, but then I would, wouldn’t I?! I find it crazy that office-bound employees get paid for the amount of time they are physically present, rather than what they actually achieve. I’m sure you’re already living the future, Brad, and your friends will catch up one day!

  10. Sharon says:

    I never meet people at home (eek, I would have to keep everything ultra-tidy lol) plus I want our home to be a home not a workplace and my husband also works from home so it could get crowded!

    I always offer to meet at their work or in a local cafe and find that works very well and that clients tend to be understanding. Mostly though my work is carried out via email once the initial meeting is done.

    • judy says:

      There seems to be something of a pattern emerging here, with home-based business owners keeping work firmly out of the house. All good news for cafe owners!
      So you and your husband are a home working couple too, Sharon. Over the years Andy and I have had all sorts of work patterns, including him being away all week, but currently we are both in situ.

  11. Anita-Clare Field says:

    I certainly don’t have meetings at home, if meeting clients or associates, depending on the formality of the meeting then I will usually pick a venue which is most appropriate. In terms of the ‘stigma’ of working from home, I think that is long gone. The last recession has almost made it ‘cool’ to work from home – it would be pointless to rent office space in my case for one person, so many of us were causalities of the last recession, home working makes perfect sense. is why Just wish we had a #jelly here in south London!

    • judy says:

      I agree that working from home is now considered to be cool, especially in the creative and IT professions.

      As for Jelly, like Graham in his comment below, I highly recommend you start your own, just as he has done (first Walsall Jelly taking place on Thurs 28 October).

      Have a look at my How to start your own Jelly guide and the other Jelly info. There are lots of benefits!

  12. The stigma of working from home is now gone, along with the stigma of having just a mobile number. It would be nice to know how many businesses are actually run from home.

    I have had people visit me at my home office, but when I suggested this to a local council officer I was told that they are not allowed to meet people in their homes. A sign of the times I suppose.

    Most times, I meet at clients premises, local hotel or co-working spaces.

    Message for Anita-Clare, start your own Jelly!

  13. David Wike says:

    Like a good few others I never have meetings at home. There are a couple of reasons that I don’t think have been mentioned: security and insurance.

    When I started I also became a business mentor with the Prince’s Trust. We were actively discouraged from home meetings because of the possibility that a client might have been a criminal in a previous life or indeed, that they might be vulnerable themselves. Meeting in public places was considered wiser.

    My home insurance permits me to work from home but not to carry out business in the sense of meeting clients. If you do see clients at home, perhaps you should check your insurance policies!

    • judy says:

      Thanks, David, excellent points. And while we’re on the subject, you need to check your mortgage company or tenancy agreement allows working from home as well.

  14. Oh, and don’t forget the Performing Rights Society. I received a letter from them stating I may need to pay them a license fee for playing music while employees and/or clients can listen.

    Luckily all I needed to do was assure them I don’t have any employees and never invite clients into my home. This meant I fell under their exemption rule so do not have to pay, although I bet they check up on me at some point 🙂

    • judy says:

      Thanks for that too, Sharon. I can’t imagine why they would have contacted you in the first place. Maybe they sometimes do a sweep of certain areas or occupations, in the hope of picking up some revenue?

  15. Just got back from mtg a client Judy and she said she had been contacted recently too – so guess they are doing a sweep of the area!

  16. David Wike says:

    I know someone who has been contacted as well. He’s a therapist so assumed they might think he used music in his sessions. Better avoid music at The Watercooler!

    • judy says:

      Thanks, you two home working super-sleuths – it’s good to know what’s going on outside the four walls, as per today’s post!