Operating a virtual business is now easier, and cheaper, than ever. Especially if you are in a service-related industry, modern technology helps entrepreneurs work with clients all over the world without leaving their home.
For many financial advisors, working virtually with clients is an attractive option for both the advisor and the client.
The advisor can expand their practice by working with a target market that isn’t necessarily attached to a geographic area. Even if clients wanted to work with someone in their area, they might appreciate not having to fight traffic and drive to an office for a meeting.
The cost of launching a virtual business is also much lower as opposed to a brick and mortar office. Even shared workspaces can run several hundred dollars a month, especially if you need a private room to meet clients!
Not only can working from home save on expenses, you might even qualify for a home office tax deduction!
So, if you’ve never worked from home before, how do you stay disciplined? How do you maintain a professional experience for your clients? Let’s take a look at some of these questions one by one.
Working from home in your pajamas seems like a pretty glamorous lifestyle, and it can be, but there are some tips and tricks you should follow in order to stay disciplined.
I have worked from home for the past 4-5 years, and it did take some getting used to, even for an introvert like myself! Some people find they get more work done out of the office than in, but you still have to account for many distractions you find at home.
Once you get used to your home office, it can be a very rewarding experience! My wife and I even used the opportunity to travel the United States as full-time house sitters.
The first tip for staying disciplined is to have a dedicated workspace. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned telecommuter, you want to mimic the idea of going to work as much as possible. Getting into a work mindset will help your productivity and focus throughout the day.
Working from the kitchen table might be where you have to start, but it’s filled with distractions. You’re most likely close by a TV, near the kitchen, and it’s a high traffic area for other family members and pets. The bedroom is also a no-no for your office.
An unused bedroom or guest room is the ideal location for an office. Other people might section off a loft area in their townhouse or basement for an office. Keep in mind, you will be meeting with clients over video and you’ll need a quiet, clean location to present yourself.
Keep on a Schedule
The next tip is to keep yourself on a schedule or routine as much as you can. Waking up, working out, showering, and getting dressed for work also helps get your mind ready for work. You don’t need to put on a suit and tie, but getting out of your sleepwear makes a big difference!
One of the benefits of working from home is that you have more flexibility in your schedule, and while you should take advantage of that from time to time, don’t abuse it.
A general productivity tip that goes along with keeping a schedule is to make sure you always know the top 3 things you plan on accomplishing that day. Even if your schedule varies throughout the day, keeping your “Top 3” in mind ensures you stay focused.
While working from home can have many benefits, one of the biggest drawbacks is that you lose a social network. Having those water cooler conversations can be therapeutic for some people!
It’s important that you make an effort to maintain social connections, and Facebook and LinkedIn don’t count. Humans need to have face-to-face interaction, so try looking for networking events in your area to meet new people. It doesn’t need to be business related either. Spend more time with any friends or family in your area, or meet up with people that have similar hobbies.
Providing a Professional Client Experience
The second part of working from home revolves around providing an outstanding client experience. Even though this is the 21st Century, and working with a professional in another city or state is becoming more “normal,” clients don’t want to meet with someone who looks like they are in a garage or attic.
Invest in Technology
Since you will be meeting with clients virtually over a web conference tool you should make sure you have a good webcam. Most built-in laptop webcams just aren’t going to cut it. I use the Logitech C920 for my meetings, and it works great!
Similarly, you want to have a solid internet connection. Ideally, you’d be hardwired directly into a modem or router for best speeds, but if that’s not possible, at least make sure you are purchasing internet service that will give you the highest quality video streaming. Clients are expecting a high-quality experience without interruptions.
Having good lighting in your office along with a clean background are other ways of maintaining a professional appearance even from home.
Remember, use the money you are saving by not renting an office to invest in excellent technology for your office.
Ease of Use
Since your clients are open to meeting with you virtually, chances are they are at least somewhat tech-savvy. You can use that to your advantage, but still, try to simplify their experience as much as possible.
For example, many web conferencing tools such as Google Hangouts or Zoom require your clients to download plugins or other programs to meet with you. This can be a frustrating experience, and you especially don’t want that to be your client’s first impression.
Join.me is one program that doesn’t require any downloads for participants. The only exception is for video conferences where the client is using a browser other than Google Chrome. Zoom is a good alternative that we use in our business and haven’t had issues with either side.
Having an easy, secure interface to share documents with clients is also a must. Most financial planning software solutions provide a secure vault for this purpose. Using services like Box or Dropbox (business version) can also be a good option to request documents from clients.
Unless hard copies are required, asking clients to mail or fax documents can be cumbersome for the clients and doesn’t exactly give the impression of a financial professional who is with the times.
Host In-Person Events
This may be easier for advisors in bigger towns, but if you have a local group of clients, be sure to host an occasional “Meet up” in your area. If you work 100% virtually, it can be great to meet with your clients face-to-face for a stronger connection.
When we travel, we always reach out to any clients that are in the area to see if they want to meet for lunch or coffee. It helps with the social connections I wrote about earlier!
Enjoy the Lifestyle!
Working from home and operating a virtual business can offer much more freedom and flexibility in your life and career. It’s important to maintain a healthy work/life balance, so make sure you take time to enjoy the benefits of working from home.
Are you working from home and have your own tips for success? Let us know in the comments below!