1099 is no longer being updated, but please enjoy our archives.

Doing Work by Azriela Jaffe



Columns by Azriela Jaffe:

Uninvited to the Pigsty

Working Solo vs. Working for The Man

Is My Client Coming On to Me?

Every Client a King

The Case of the Client Who Wouldn't Shut Up



Visit our regular Doing Work columnist, Peter Economy


Add Feedback





Now that you are working from home, you have a professional image to maintain.

Uninvited to the Pigsty

Q: Azriela, I'm mortified. Today, a client decided to drop by unexpectedly on his way to a meeting, to give me some work he wants done. I answered the door in sweats, and just about died when I saw it was him. I work from home and normally clients don't come by the house so, frankly, it's a bit of a pigsty. I've got three kids, and a husband who works long hours out of the house, and housekeeping isn't one of my strong points. We've all learned to live this way, but I have a professional image to uphold. I have my home address on my business stationery, but I have never invited a client to my home.

Of course, I immediately started apologizing for the deplorable condition of my home, and he kept saying, "Don't worry about it," but still, I'm sure that his perception of me has been forever altered. I thought that working from home gives me the privilege of not worrying about what I look like, or how clean the house is. Was I wrong?

-- A sloppy (but very competent) independent professional

A: Well, it's a nice idea, but the housekeeping-doesn't-count-for-home-offices philosophy only works if your clients don't know where you live. Mistake number one was putting your home address on your stationery. If you want complete privacy, then you need to rent a post office box and keep your business contact info separate from your personal address. Also, put in a peephole and if this should ever happen again, don't answer the door! Unless you arrange ahead of time for a client to come by your home to deliver or pick up something, or for a meeting, you are under no obligation to open the door and engage with them.

Let's say that it's too difficult, or too late, for you to erect a solid wall between your home and your clients, and it's going to happen from time to time -- a client will enter your property. Make a very small investment in reducing your mortification rate. Hire a housekeeping/cleaning service to come every week, and tell your clients that you are only available to meet in person on (Fridays), or whatever day follows the day your cleaning person transforms your home into one of radiant beauty.

Don't tell me that you "can't afford it." Yes, you can. I know it feels like a luxury, and perhaps you thought that only rich people spend money on cleaning services. So do busy work-at-home professionals, or the cleaning-incompetents or lazies of the world. Let's say it costs you $200 per month for this privilege. Isn't the peace of mind worth it? Think of it as an investment in your business.

You also need to enroll other family members to help you. I don't know who is in your family, but if there's a husband or kids, help them to understand that now that you are working from home, you have a professional image to maintain, and you need their cooperation in keeping the house presentable. Pay children old enough an allowance to help you. Remind your husband of the income that your business is bringing to the household, and how this is a way that he could contribute to your business success.

Last, relax. Remember that client whom you are so sure was disgusted by your home? Now, imagine that his home looks even worse than yours. Feel better?

Get your work done and do a top notch job for him. That's what will count the most in the end. Maybe he won't be interested in dining in your kitchen, but he'll still hire you again if you keep delivering for him.

We'd love to hear your feedback about this column, or put you in touch with Azriela Jaffe if you like. You may also like to see her biography.

Go to top of this page

Entire contents Copyright © 1999 1099 Magazine. All rights reserved.
The 1099 name and logo are trademarks of 1099 Magazine.