CPAs. Ditch the Office, Work at Home

Are you ready to make the break? Get the facts. Join the study.

December 6, 2007
by Rick Telberg/For the Finance Executive

Running a business from home may make your life easier, but don’t expect it to make your work any easier.

Practitioners with at-home businesses say it requires a greater commitment and a more serious approach to your job than working elsewhere. Making it all the more difficult are all those personal life distractions that can only pop up at home.

“You must be disciplined, able to focus without being distracted and willing to be available at all hours and to be flexible for client needs,” says Carol Tremble, who runs a full-time public practice at her home in South Hero, Vt.

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And as an at-homer, she notes that it’s all the more important to take professional steps such as maintaining communications with clients “so they realize that you are really in business and not just a fly-by-nighter.”

It’s also important to set the right tone for employees of home-based businesses. “The biggest thing is that employees of at-home business don’t take it as seriously, says Diane Booth, a work-at-home public practitioner in Abington, Mass., who sometimes wonders how hard her staff is working when she’s on the road.

“Always operate in a professional manner,” advises Elaine Robinson, who runs an at-home practice full-time in Cordova, Tenn. “Make sure all your work goes out looking professional with appropriate business folders and envelopes.”

And no pajamas: “Dress in an appropriate manner and work regular office hours,” she adds.

Patrice Claiborn, who runs a public practice and provides QuickBooks consulting from her home, says that at-homers must be sure to: “Schedule, schedule, schedule all of your work, including the non-billable stuff, such as meetings with colleagues and CPE and then leave a margin."

“Since you will now be wearing three or four different hats, it’s important to manage your time wisely so it doesn’t feel like a juggling act,” says Patricia Beckwith, who runs a public practice at home in Aptos, Calif. “Set aside designated times to check e-mail, return phone calls, perform administrative tasks.”

CPAs speak out on keys to work-at-home success

  • 86% cited right attitude and self-discipline as the essential element of success
  • 78% believed it was having the right technology set-up
  • 72% cited having a dedicated workplace

“Make sure your home office is ‘away’ from your home,” says Anita Graziano, who works full-time at home in Santa Rosa, Calif. “Do not use a spare bedroom or a corner of your family room; it needs to have a total office environment.”

Charles Conway, a full-time, at-home CPA in suburban Philadelphia says the at-home office design should include client access that is not the front or back door to the house.

On the flip side, Teresa Wagner of Walla Walla, Wash., says, “Clients don’t care if you work from home or from a downtown office. They want good service and strategic advice.”

But being professional in the comfort of home creates the risk of overworking. “It’s really easy to just keep on working,” according to Virginia Thompson, who runs a full-time, at-home practice with two employees in Huntsville, Ala. “You have to learn to quit work and ‘go home,’” … even if that’s just down the hall.

SUCCESS STRATEGIES FOR THE HOME OFFICE: Telecommuting, Flex Schedules, Moonlighting and More. How CPAs do it. Join the survey. Get the answers.

COMMENTS: Questions, rants or raves? Write Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2007 Bay Street Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.