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What’s your home office like?

At least 1 in 10 Americans spends at least some time each week working from home. Census data show that half of home-based workers are self-employed.

Some efficiency studies give high marks for the productivity of home-based workers. There’s no time-sapping commute. And many have the self-control to stay on task.

Honestly, though, some people aren’t very good at it.

Kids, laundry, pets, the refrigerator … all compete for attention. It requires discipline and, in some sense, isolation to work productively at home.

That’s why it’s vital to carve out a dedicated home office, not the dining room table. Household intrusions don’t just interrupt you. They affect your image to clients.

Unless you live alone, you should have a door that closes, not only for quiet but to protect your work materials. Ideally, you have a phone line and a computer dedicated to work, not something you share.

Ideally, too, you have a set work routine – you get dressed and “go to the office.” Friends and family should know when you’re at work and respect that time.

I do a lot of my work on the phone, and I can vouch that each conversation provides an audio window into the other person’s work environment. Fair or not, a barking dog or crying child conveys a less-than-professional image.

The latest Census report also said that one-fourth of home-based workers are in management, business or financial occupations. They likely compete with professionals who are backed up by an array of office advantages, including equipment and an IT help squad.

The lure of working in your slippers may be enticing. But it’s hard to stay motivated, equipped and supported to maintain a credible business.

That’s why it’s especially important for work-at-homers to join professional associations and be active participants in educational and networking meetings.

As much as you need to be isolated to be efficient, you also need to break that isolation to grow your business.