We talk to Robert Gerrish, Director of Flying Solo – an online community boasting over 75,000 Australians with their own home business today.
Robert shares some of the wisdom gained through his progress from a humble home business coach to the director of a vast network of fellow self-starters, talking tips on starting solo, the importance of work/life balance, and how to increase your productivity from home.
How does a home business help with achieving work/life balance?
Flying Solo believes in moving away from the idea that balance is something you achieve on weekends – it’s about gaining balance within life and work, not between them. In order to have wellbeing in your work, it’s important you honour who you really are, knowing exactly how you want to live and work.
The beautiful thing about running your own business is you design your working day, your own working week, and you choose who you work with. Of course, it might sound a bit idyllic and lovely, but within all that sometimes there are also a lot of traps. Everyone responds differently to a change in structure, and some people will recognise that they need it in order to operate; but they should design it around them and how they work in order to be more productive.
Some people respond differently to a change in work structure, which should be designed around being more productive.
What advice would you give to people looking to start out on their own?
The reality is it can take a lot longer than you might think to get your business up and running. You need to consider growing your profile and client base first.
It’s essential that you have good reserves when you break away, since it will probably take you twice as long to make any revenue.
Be realistic and try to make it a gradual transition. For example, negotiating to have one day off a week in order to help you to check the viability of breaking away – to make sure you can do it, find out if you enjoy it and if you can financially afford it.
As a priority, outline your skillset and be clear on areas where you need to up-skill.
How did you decide working from home was right for you? Tell us about some of the positive effects you’ve experienced.
It was a no-brainer for me. I was sick of sitting in traffic and was in a company environment where I wasn’t happy. I knew I wanted to create my own environment, to be able to work from home; it was something I felt I had to do. I’d worked from home before while overseas so I’d experienced different ways of working, and so many people were doing it. It was a time when the internet was really getting things moving, so there was never a doubt about the ability to work from home. It was also an economic decision – to keep overheads down. Plus we just had a baby, so I wanted to spend time with my family.
ABS stats show that 2 out of 5 houses in Australia have a home business based in it.
We now know from research carried out by Flying Solo that over 70% of Australian small businesses are solo businesses – that’s nearly 2 million people working on their own, and the majority are working from home. If you go down any suburban street someone is doing just that. ABS stats show that 2 out of 5 houses in Australia have a home business based in it, and Australian government is now starting to realise that working from home is a lifestyle choice; people prefer it.
One positive effect for me since deciding to work from home is that I find the person who walks into the office is the same person walking out of it. I find it very easy to just move from life to work, and winding-down is so much easier. By having a home office I no longer have to struggle between work and play. I don’t work nights or weekends anymore but if I need to it’s never a problem.
I also have the time to walk up to 10km every day, and that breakaway helps me think about my work and strategise. I used to do presentations to small businesses, and when asked when their best ideas are formed, the response would always be when they’re walking, when they’re with their friends or when they’re out and about cycling or walking the dog. The point is, no one ever said they have their best ideas staring at a monitor.
A Flying Solo community member once shared her tip with me. She chooses to get on a 3-hour return train once a month, she doesn’t get off, she just uses those 3 hours to look out the window and sit with a blank pen and paper and write down whatever ideas and strategies come to her. This is just one example of how the freedom of working from home can really benefit your work.
What influenced your decision to develop the Flying Solo network?
Before Flying Solo I was a small business coach, supporting people starting out. But I found there wasn’t much spoken about [working from home] or much advice on it.
“A place where they could meet and connect and share work with one another without sacrificing the time they needed to themselves, or their own work.”
Clients often wanted to meet over a coffee to have a chat, and I found myself always saying yes and spending half my time driving around the city, and I realised it was just unrealistic for me to work this way. As a marketer, I recognised there was a niche and so started Flying Solo to provide a network of support for likeminded small business owners. A place where they could meet and connect and share work with one another without sacrificing the time they needed to themselves, or their own work. This is crucial as a home-based business owner because you’re not necessarily based in the CBD; you have to learn to manage your time properly.
How do you think Harwyn can help maintain a decent work/life balance from home?
One crucial thing to consider when deciding to work from home is the importance of space. A lot of people don’t give enough thought to the office set-up they have at home. I no longer coach but when I did, I would come across someone who was overwhelmed or struggling with their business and the first thing I would ask them is to describe their workplace for me. They would often tell me they had kids’ toys or boxes around and piles of paperwork surrounding them. How I see it is it’s like turning on your computer and opening every piece of software you have and expecting it to work properly – if you’ve got junk and clutter and distractions around you, in the end it has the same impact on your ability to think clearly. It’s so important that when you do work from home you have a space that actually says ‘work’ to you when you walk in, a dedicated workspace set up exactly the way you want it, so that you can go in there and be prompted to do your work.
“… it’s like turning on your computer and opening every piece of software you have and expecting it to work properly – if you’ve got junk and clutter and distractions around you, in the end it has the same impact on your ability to think clearly.”
These reasons alone are why the Harwyn pods fit so nicely as it’s what a lot of people absolutely need. It’s a dedicated prefabricated space and you can easily install it in your own garden. It offers a professional business environment and can be only 2 or 3 steps away from home – but as you’re taking those steps, there’s a little signal telling you it’s the start or end of your working day.
I use a standup desk in my home office and like a Harwyn pod, it’s decorated differently to the rest of the house. When I look around there are no signs of domestic life to distract me. My office is also soundproof, so when I’m in there I can’t hear my family and they can’t hear me. And that’s where I think Harwyn is a great solution, because they have a range of spaces designed with many features to suit any needs; it’s perfect for a modern lifestyle.
Robert’s quick tips to improve your productivity
Make your home office solely a workspace
Have a set-up that says ‘work’ to differentiate it as a different space from the home. This also works in the reverse – it can help you focus but it also stops you from making it a space where you go to on weekends.
Walk to work
Give yourself a false journey – for example, walking around the block is a quick and easy way to help psych yourself up for the day.
Put on your work attire
Even though no one will see you, putting on a smart work outfit will help put you in the right frame of mind to get down to work.
To learn more or to join the community and access the network of support for small businesses, visit the Flying Solo website.