March 2020 - Small business consultant

Monthly Archives: March 2020

What I have learnt in 9 years of working from home

What I have learned from 9 years of working from home

In February 2011, I started working from home in a side business. In April 2012, I quit my day job and made working from home, for myself, a fulltime gig. Over that time I’ve learnt some hard lessons, made mistakes, and I’ve grown a lot. So I thought it was time I shared with you some of the key lessons I’ve learnt from my time as a sole trader who works from home.

Get the right support

In the beginning there were a lot of long hours working from home. My husband tried very hard to be supportive but having only briefly run his own business about 15 years earlier, he really didn’t understand the current environment. In the end, we both got very frustrated. It was then I felt incredibly alone and started to look for support.

You need the right support.

I honestly don’t mean business coaching, though this is what I did eventually need. What I really needed was someone who truly understood what it was like to work from home. Hubby has a regular office job. With regular office job distractions.

When you work from home, suddenly people think that you are available for a chat. Suddenly the housework seems more appealing than the “work” work. You can get sick of seeing the same four walls. The silence becomes deafening. And while I will go through some of the strategies I use to stay on track and get stuff done, nothing is quite like having someone who just ‘gets it’.

If you’re part of a remote team, there are a number of different tools you can use to stay in touch. Slack, Whats App, Facebook Messenger, and Zoom are all great ways to keep in touch.

Join a networking group, be it virtual or live, to make sure you get out and socialize. We humans are social beings. There are some great groups out there that are industry specific.

Having someone to call upon when things get too much, when you need to talk to someone, when you’re feeling alone. Reach out to someone you know and trust. Who gets what it’s like to work remotely, I did that for a while in my office job. Someone who will be there to just listen to you when it’s all a bit too much.

Time management when working from home

Remember that housework I mentioned earlier? Yeah, I’m a sucker for doing a load of laundry, the grocery shopping, or unpacking the dishwasher. Not! I am when there are other things I’m meant to be doing but don’t particularly want to do. Especially when the list is long, and getting longer. There’s nothing more disheartening when that list you’ve been working so hard on is getting longer.

I have to be honest, I did procrastinate a lot when I felt overwhelmed by a growing task list. It seemed like a useless folly to try and work my way through. Then I realized that something had to change. Two things did.

How you think about time

The first thing I changed was how I thought about time. When it comes to tackling a never ending to-do list and there never seems to be enough time, I had to work out how to get more time out of my day. First, I worked later and later. I just ended up burnt out with migraines and missing out on time with my family. Something had to change.

I remembered that there are instances where time seems to stand still and others it races by. I had to make it stand still more often. When I thought about it, when I believed that there wasn’t enough time – there wasn’t. When I believed I had all the time in the world – there was. And now, if I feel rushed or like I am going to be late, I remind myself that I have all the time in the world and I’m always on time and have enough time. You can read more here.

Organise your time

Lessons I have learned from working from homeHaving one long to do list and looking at it through the day made me anxious. It was overwhelming looking at this long laundry list of things I had to make happen. So I changed.

I tried having a number of notebooks for different tasks. I felt like I was juggling things and then tasks fell through the cracks and were missed. Not on!

I ended up setting up a bullet journal with my core business mission, strategies, client avatar and all the other items I need to steer my work. Then I have a set of calendar views; 12-month, monthly, and weekly. These allow me to have various levels of oversight into what I’m doing and when.

For those of you who have to produce social media content, I set up a 12-month content plan which ties monthly activities and promotions to content.

Then, I have my Google Calendar & my phone. These are the ones that are time-sensitive, like appointments. Sadly a hardbacked diary will only ensure that I’m on time if someone throws it at me at intervals and tells me when it’s due.

Getting structured with my time has meant that I can be flexible with how I spend it but also allows me to account for it. Just like my money!

Get moving

When I’m working from home, I fall into the trap of getting in the zone and working continuously without taking a break. Don’t get me wrong, I just love it when it all flows but to be honest, it’s not always healthy.

I try to make sure that I at least eat my lunch outside, preferably in the sun. Stepping away from the desk is healthy for our minds and body and sunshine helps us stay healthy.

I also have a drink bottle which is under 1L. This is a cunning move to make sure I get up and walk to refill it. It’s all too easy to sit still for ages and drink, but I can find the motivation to get up and move harder. A smaller drink bottle helps.

Rewards when working from home

Congratulations, you met a milestone. How are you planning on celebrating it? Or did you not even consider that? Employees still need rewards and recognition for hard work, regardless if they are inhouse or remote. Targets are targets regardless of where staff are.

Self-employed? Well, I hope you set milestones and rewards already. You should! You’re just as deserving.

Have a think and a chat with your team to see how you can work it into the corporate structure.

I want to remind you that rewards don’t have to be big or costly. It can be grabbing a coffee for getting that difficult email written. It can be putting aside some of your pay for a massage.

It took me a long time to do this. I didn’t think that I could. Then I realized that the biggest thing I valued was time alone, ironic huh! My favourite reward isn’t a massage or pedicure, even though they are 2 of my rewards, it’s actually a day off. I value time alone where I don’t have to work. I enjoy the solitude. It needs to be a priority though. Don’t let your rewards slip.

Set reasonable expectations

What have I learned from working from homeThere’s a saying that goes, “we overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in a decade”. Part of what had me working until all hours was unrealistic expectations. I had set them on myself and then allowed my clients to control them with the deadlines I said were reasonable. Sure there is no travel time and often fewer distractions, meaning that we can be more productive. But that doesn’t make the expectations realistic just because you’re at home. You still have conflicting priorities and urgent deadlines.

Go easy on yourself. Some people will think that being at home is easy and if you’re like me you won’t want to let them down and will work harder. Go easy on yourself. You don’t always have to prove that you can work better than someone inhouse just because you’re at home. If you, for some reasons, don’t meet the expectations. Realise that you too are allowed to get the amount of time it would have taken wrong as much as someone inhouse.

Also realise that those people who drop in, call, or chat are taking up your time and you also have to set boundaries and expectations for them around your time when you are working from home. Just because you’re home, doesn’t mean you are available.


Working from home has given me incredible flexibility. I first did it when I was studying my Masters, working fulltime, and set up my first business. Yes, I could do that load of washing. Yes, I could pick the kids up from school or attend their functions. Yes, I had to be more mindful of my time. Yes, I got more work done than I would have if I were in the office. I suppose what I want to let you know is that the ability to work from home is a privilege which comes with responsibilities but the rewards are amazing.

If you’d like a chat, then head over here and let’s grab a coffee.


what I have learnt form 9 years of working from home
How people are important to your business success

Why people are important to business success

I realized that I may not have explained to you why I believe people are important to business & business success. It seems so logical to me, but luckily for you, you’re not inside my head and I realise I need to tell you why the people in your business are my focus.

Where I first learnt how people are important to business success

I first became interested in Psychology when I did a high school project on Vincent van Gogh in Art. It was before Psychology was even a high school subject here in South Australia and I was intrigued by how people with Mental Illness were treated (medically & socially).

I did my degree in Psychology at the Flinders University of South Australia and then went on to do a Graduate Diploma of Management in Human Resources from Central Queensland University. My passions in psychology were social and organizational psychology – why we acted certain ways in groups and the psychology of work and the workplace.

I even started a Masters in Public Sector Management. One paper I wrote was about Public Sector Principles & in my readings I found evidence to show that happy staff meant happy clients.

My studies really showed me how people are important to business.

How I applied what I learnt

After my studies, I started as a graduate for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (you can see the full list of what I got up to on my LinkedIn profile). My first job was to redesign & rebuild their website, typical “You’re young and know how this stuff works” and so with the Webmaster we rebuilt the site. The thing about Veterans’ Affairs is its focus on the veteran and veteran community, they are at the centre of their activities. So my work started putting people at the centre of online business.

I went on to work on helping to build a secure communications portal for the veteran community, it was 2002 after all. I was tasked, amongst other things, with writing the Instruction Manual. Can you imagine writing a manual for your grandparents or older parents on how to use the Internet? Yep, that was my job. I had to put the person at the centre of the work so that project would succeed.

All through my 12 years in the Department, I was responsible for various parts on the Intranet. I worked on the consultancy team that business units could call on for advice. I also built and maintained parts of the Intranet for various business units. The Intranet was used by staff for information, it was built to meet their needs and so the staff (people) had to be at the centre of the business when it came to the Intranet.

What about staff?

how staff are important to the happiness of people and your business successI trained many staff, I consulted with many staff, and I managed staff. The most important lesson I had was when I managed 10 staff. They were beaten and needed support and motivation. So I turned to them. I showed them how they fit within the aims of the Department and asked them what they were passionate about when it came to their work & how the Department helped Veterans. I showed them how as people, they were the most important thing to our business success – because they were.

My staff went from being unmotivated to incredibly productive, happy, having less time off, being consulted more by the business areas we serviced, and they got rid of 2 years’ backlog of work in 3 months. There was no overtime, bonuses, or extra pay. Instead, I made people the most important part of the business. My staff could see where they fit in the direction & success of the Department, they had meaningful work, we had happy ‘clients’ & we were a success.

This proved what I had read in my Masters program on happy staff being the key to having happy clients.

What about on social media?

When I started my first Facebook-based business in 2011, I was creating school hair accessories to meet a personal need. I had clients asking for specific colours, then I had parents asking for specific styles, then I had parents asking to meet specific developmental needs. Meeting the needs of the people using my services kept my business running.

I took this approach to the content I was putting out. What other problems did they have when it came to school, particularly with hair accessories? Hairstyles, head lice, wear & tear. This is what I gave them. I gave them information around their needs and they loved it. My business Facebook page exploded, reach extended, posts went viral. This was all before Facebook Ads! I learnt that people, even on social media, were important to my business success online. I also learnt that it was the key to having engaging social media.

What I’ve realized as a business coach and consultant

people are important to business success Richard Branson QuoteSadly, technology seems to have become more important than people. We’ve forgotten that people drive social media. It’s a person who clicks on a link, likes a post, shares an image, or comments; not an algorithm. People are the ones who make the decision to buy things and to actually purchase them.

We are more interested in a quick win and an easy trick than building long-lasting and profitable business relationships with our customers. A quick win and quick sale runs the risk of reducing customers from the people they are to widgets. The thing is that people need relationships to build trust and we buy from people that we “know like and trust”.

In the end, people are the most important in our business success, without our staff or our clients we’re all alone.

Why you should believe your business will succeed

Why you should believe your business will succeed

So this isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve either been in business for a while, it’s not your first crack at running your own business, or you’ve spent time working/running a business for someone else and it’s time to make the break and go it alone. To be honest, I feel like I fit across all three. But there’s one thing that keeps you going and that’s the belief that your business will succeed.

If you’d read my article on having a clear direction in your business, you might have sensed that the thing which kept me going was a belief that this would work. Because I honestly do and I know that what I do has a profound impact on my clients. I’m sure you feel the same way about your business.

Business goals vs wanting to believe your business will succeed

If you’ve heard me talk about drivers or read my article on beliefs, you’d know that beliefs are incredibly powerful.

Believe you will succeed quote Theodore RooseveltWork outside of your belief structure and you feel like a fraud, fake, or phony. You’ll be gripped by dissonance, which has you feeling uncomfortable in your actions and doubting your moves.

On the flip side, if you behave in alignment with your beliefs you will be happy, calm, and you will achieve some incredible things. I often achieve more than I expect purely because I’m behaving in alignment with my belief structure.

So rather than the goal of having a successful business, your ability to believe your business will succeed is actually more important. Goals are great, but psychologists know that they are all poor drivers of behaviour (just look at how often New Year’s resolutions fail). However, our belief structure is at the core of driving our behaviour. So believe it can be done and it will.


Believing that your business will succeed when business is failing

When times are tough we often turn the spotlight in on ourselves. We chastise ourselves on the things we could have done differently. We rehash the mistakes we made. We generally get down on ourselves.

I have to be honest, when things go pear-shaped in my business, goals don’t help.

In fact, when I feel like a business failure, my goals are the first to go. They certainly don’t motivate me because it was my goals that I failed to achieve.

In the darkest of times, I’ve had to look very strategically at my business, and I don’t mean income and expenses or most profitable product. I mean where and how my business operates strategically. What is the why (some might call it a mission statement) of my business?

How believing your business will succeed works

Believe you will succeed quote Wayne DyerWhen my business has been failing, reconnecting to the core belief of my business (putting the person we need to take action at the hub of our actions) has been key and triggers these steps:
– This reconnection and reaffirming of my why then leads me to look at why my clients come to me.
– From here I can look at my offerings and how I am meeting my client needs
– Then I can add or pivot to meet their needs
– Finally, I again believe that my business will succeed

I’ve been through this process a number of times. Each time I’ve uncovered more about the audience I want to serve, but most importantly I’ve uncovered more about myself & particularly the story I tell myself about success (or failure).

It’s incredibly motivating, knowing more about my audience. It’s also empowering & healing by rewriting the story I tell myself about success/failure. Both of these changes prop me up a little more and prevent me from slipping backwards. It means that I grow in more ways than just achieving a goal would.

A little secret

I always knew that what I had to offer had merit. I always believed that people needed what I have to offer. I always believed that I had a uniqueness. I didn’t always want the success. In fact, I feared it. I feared what it would do to me & my family life.

It wasn’t until I got ok with being me, that the fear of success disappeared. It wasn’t until I addressed the crappy stories I told myself about success in general and my success in particular that I was able to stand and act firmly from my beliefs.

Fear has a nasty way of stopping us from achieving our goals. Acting in alignment with beliefs gets us through it when it strikes. Unpacking and healing the fear story gets rid of fear for good. That just leaves us to act from our beliefs and move forward, and not reacting to our fears.

So you need clear direction in your business

Need clear direction in business

Let me tell you a little story about needing a clear direction in my business. I swear mine are moveable goals more than anything. That with a bit of a laundry list of things I want to do, achieve and when I’m thinking might be a good idea to slot them in. All whilst I juggle family life, wife life, Mum life, building a house life, trying to be a good friend life. I’m sure you get the picture.

It’s no secret that through the years the clear direction in my business has gotten a little muddy, no a lot murky. Sadly, that has meant that my clients have little to no idea of what I do. Which is great for me because I’m not alone but not so great for my bank balance.

What starts a shift to a clear direction?

Needing a clear direction in business quote by B=Debbie FordMost of the time, my changes in direction have come as a result of meeting my clients’ needs. First, it was proofreading & copy editing. I can tell you that was not a popular option. Then it was website audits. Slightly more demand but still not a cash cow I hoped it would be. Then there was Facebook coach. Now that has proven popular with the clients but has personally put me in a pickle. (I’m one of what seems to be a bajillion of these) Then there’s business coach. Again a dime a dozen, plus fighting an industry rife with dodgy experiences. Finally, there’s fear & Imposter Syndrome coach. Good need, only for those who are deep in it and don’t suddenly get a quick flash of things being better before it all crashes down again.

So you can see that my “clear direction” for my business has been more like a meandering stream over rocky rapids than a straight trajectory to financial wealth.

And then there’s my biggest body of work to date, me! Some of you may know, as my fear coaching clients do, that any self-work is fraught with danger (and some intrigue). Which to be honest feels like a merry-go-round or ferris wheel. Something that seems like a good idea at the start, is a little scary at times when things start moving a bit too much, that you wonder when it will stop, that when it does stop you wonder if that’s all it was meant to be, but realistically just goes round and round in circles.

Can I be honest? It’s like anything. It’s generally not a problem until it’s a problem and then we wish we did something earlier! Working on me has been a constant. I may not be always right down in the deep of it all, sometimes it’s a constant chipping away and reminder of where I don’t want to be or want to have.

What continues a shift to a clear direction?

Quote about having clear direction in businessI think that’s the thing that many business coaches forget to tell us. What doctors forget when we make life changes. That this is a constant.

It takes work to change and shift direction, but like flying a plane or captaining a ship – it takes constant vigilance and incremental changes to remain on course.

Can I let you in on a secret?

That’s the hard work.
That’s the tiring work.

It’s the constant and consistent. It’s the assessment and reassessment. It’s the adjustment. It’s staying true to the vision but more so yourself when you’re not always certain of what that is or where it will take you. It’s ignoring distraction and temptation. It’s burying bad habits and thoughts and not unearthing them because they are comfortable and familiar.

This is the hard work my friends.

This is me.

This is worthwhile.

This will be better.

This will work.

Stay the course but moreover stay true to you and your clear direction.

And finally, I’m here & I’ve got you. x

Fear of wasting time and money

Fear of wasting time and money

When I talk to my coaching clients about what they fear in business, most of them say that they fear wasting time and/or money. I get it, we work hard for them and when we realise that we’ve wasted time or money it hurts. Imagine all the other things you could have done instead!

I’m not immune to this either. I think something is a great idea, I put resources into it and *poof* it’s not what I expected. I’ve done this with events. I’ve definitely done it with courses. I’ve done it with people. Heck, I’ve even done it looking back over my career!

So why is the fear of wasting time or money such a common thing? Is it that we are so cash or time poor? Is it that we hate missing out and do “all the things”? Is it that we fear regret or making the wrong decision?

Time & money as finite resources

People will say to me, “But there’s only 24 hours in a day” or “money doesn’t grow on trees”. Sure! I only have 5.5 hours in a day to do my work and I know what’s in my bank account and what’s coming in. (Hint: it could always be more) But at the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, that’s an incredibly closed mindset.

Fear of wasting time quoteBefore you yell that there is only 24 hours in a day, head over and read my article on time management and come back or watch these videos I’ve collated on time management. Sure, we have a set amount of time but the issue isn’t the amount of time most of us have – it’s how we waste it.

There’s two main ways I see people, including myself, wasting time. Firstly, procrastination. We just don’t do things because well, um, choose any excuse! Essentially, because we are busy getting in our own way. We procrastinate with money the same way, we get in our own way.

Secondly, we waste time with how we think about it. We waste money with how we think of it. What do I mean? We don’t value our time, we don’t prioritise our time. I don’t mean that we don’t schedule it, but if something really mattered – we MAKE time for it. We still have 24 hours. You might think that we then don’t do something else, but the thing is that if that too is a priority, we MAKE time for that too. Humans have an uncanny ability to fill time and make jobs take longer – just because we have time.

We waste money because we don’t value it. This doesn’t mean we don’t save it, but we don’t make it a priority. We don’t take care of it. I see so many people be so flippant with their money management. The same ones say to me, “Kara, you work so hard and deserve the things you have” as though they were somehow less deserving and less hard working. No, I just choose different priorities for my money.

This way of thinking around time and money is a closed mindset, it’s finite. As a parent, I want my children to have an open mindset. One of options and possibilities. We do not live the exact same day over and over, we do control our time and we do control our money. So why do we live as though we are passengers and they are in control? Neither time nor money are actually finite – they continue after we go.

Time and money as symptoms

Here’s another way of looking at it… what if the fear of wasting time or money is actually really a lack of trust in oneself? What if we use time & money like a drug to make ourselves feel better and in the end we just don’t trust ourselves to do better? What if it’s another version of “drowning our sorrows”?

Here’s the thing, if it is – and that’s a story you tell yourself. And you don’t want to do that any more. You can change. I promise it will take work. You will need to look deep to what story you tell yourself about money or your use of time. For me, it was that I had to work hard for money, that time is money, and that I didn’t deserve things unless I worked for them. How’s that for turning money away?!

Time well spent

Fear of wasting time and prioritizing quote Stephen CoveyI recently realized that while sometimes I don’t think I’ve made the best use of my time, that I haven’t prioritised things as I should but there’s a catch. Sometimes the best ideas come when I’m silent and still. Sometimes I need to step back from things to move forward. And all the time I can look back and learn.

You see, we often can’t see the lesson when we’re neck deep in it. It’s only when we step back that we can realise just how far we’ve come, what we’ve learnt and how what we did in the past wasn’t wasted but is applicable to the now.

So maybe some of us are too quick to judge or too harsh on ourselves when it comes to how we spend time or money. Perhaps it’s not that we are wasting time or money, perhaps we just haven’t realized the lesson we need to learn just yet.