If you work from home, protecting your online reputation is an essential part of your livelihood. Since many people who work from their home find jobs online, what is said about them on the internet can carry a lot of weight with potential clients.
Judy Heminsley is the founder of Work From Home Wisdom, a website dedicated to helping people transition to working from home and providing much-needed guidance. She discussed the challenges and opportunities of working from home, as well as the importance of knowing what is said about you online in order to protect your reputation.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone thinking of transitioning to working from home?
I always tell new home workers not to pay too much attention to the advice of others, but to try out different places to work within their home (and outside) and different working times. It's very common to read that you need a separate home office in order to work from home successfully, but I know that's not the case for everyone. I've spoken to home workers who have set up a very nice office in a spare room, only to go back to the kitchen table because they felt too cut-off to concentrate. Your needs depend on many factors such as personality, where you live, whether you live with other people, what you do etc. etc.
What are the biggest challenges for someone who works from home?
I think for most people the biggest challenge is the danger of becoming lonely and isolated. Naturally we are very focused on getting our work done, but we also need to interact with other people if we're not to run out of motivation. So many times I've felt I didn't have time to go to a business event, but forced myself anyway, and then came back feeling inspired by talking to people and often with ideas how to tackle obstacles that previously appeared insurmountable.
The danger when we spend too long alone is that we end up feeling very insignificant. (A downside of social media is that everyone else can appear far more organized, efficient and successful than you). We can then unconsciously start to limit our potential by going for work well within our comfort zones and end up even more unfulfilled.
What types of jobs are growing the fastest for those who want to work from home?
You can now do just about any job from home that doesn't require you to be physically present in a separate building — or vehicle, for that matter! Many members of my online community are based at home and also go off to meet clients or do jobs as required; for example, first aid trainer, interior designer, PR consultant. I've also featured a sports commentator and lawyer.
How important is establishing an online reputation for someone beginning a work at home career?
It depends entirely on what you do. If you are in a very specialized role with a limited number of clients you have acquired through word of mouth or industry knowledge, then there's probably little need as long as you are active within that industry. But for most people, it's essential to be visible online or people simply might not have any faith in you as a professional. And nowadays, people do like to get to know more about you as a person, which they can from social media etc.
What role does social media play in starting a work at home career and how should it be used?
For me, it was important to find the social media platform I felt most comfortable with — Twitter — and then use it for my own clear objectives. In my case, that meant following thought leaders, building relationships with other home workers and sharing the latest information on home and flexible working and Jelly. If you enjoy using it, you're more likely to do it consistently enough to have an impact and learn how to get the best from it.
Think about your natural preferences — as a minimalist, I love the brevity and simplicity of Twitter. If you're visual you'll enjoy Pinterest and Instagram. Although ideally we might like to have a significant presence on all channels, realistically we all have time and energy constraints.