October 23, 2013

Interview: Mike Allton, The Social Media Hat

Name: Mike Allton  
Company: The Social Media Hat

Please tell us about your business:   I have been building websites for businesses and organizations since the early 1990's, but decided in 2012 that I wanted to create a new business and platform for social media and blogging, which I am passionate about. I strongly believe businesses can and should be writing and sharing stories about their business to engage and communicate with their customers.

I created The Social Media Hat so that I could regularly write about these topics and provide consulting services. I still offer websites to businesses that need one, but these sites are implemented as a platform for content marketing and social media marketing.

How long have you been working from home?   2006

Do you work from home full time or part time?  Full time

How do you stay connected with colleagues in your field?   Google+ has become my primary platform for networking and communicating. As I have become more and more engaged and connected there, my experience has improved dramatically.

I joined several groups related to my industry, and business in general, and have been able to participate in some outstanding conversations and discussions, and have used those interactions to meet some truly outstanding people.

How do you deal with the isolating nature of working from home? While I love my home office and the freedom it brings, I do try to get out of the office at least once a week, whether it's for a client meeting, a networking event, or just spending some time working in a coffee shop.

I also participate in regular Twitter chats and Google+ Hangouts which keep me connected and engaged real-time.

How do you stay motivated without the accountability of a "time clock"?   While I generally do not have issues keeping myself motivated and on task, there are some steps that I take or have taken to ensure that.

For instance, while I enjoy having music or the television on while I'm working, I have found that I cannot play movies or TV shows that I haven't already seen, as they are too distracting. Instead, I use Netflix or DVDs to play reruns of my favorite shows.

Another example would be Facebook and iPhone games. I will no longer accept invitations to play any game at all, as it is too easy for me to get addicted to the game and risk spending time playing when I should be working.

Other than that, I make sure that I have a schedule for my day that I stick to day in and day out. I am in my office by 8am and work until 5pm every day, plus a couple evenings and Saturday mornings. My family understands my hours and respects them.

What are the biggest challenges you face when working from home?  Interruptions from my family used to be the biggest challenge, but that's improved lately. When my daughter was born Aug. 2011, my wife struggled to learn how to handle "baby emergencies" on her own, and I struggled as well to keep myself removed unless absolutely needed. Having an office that's in a third floor loft helps keep me removed.

Do you work in your underwear?   No

What is the best part about working from home?   I really enjoy the flexibility in my schedule, the convenience of my home office, and the relaxed setting. A great deal of my work is creative, and there are also a lot of stressful situations, so it is critical that my environment is comfortable and peaceful.

What is the one item that you find vital to have in your home office?  Having my TV and DVD collection and/or music collection is absolutely critical - perhaps more than coffee!

What is the one piece of advice that you can give to those just starting out working from home?  My best advice is to establish a schedule and routine and communicate that clearly to anyone else in your life who might potentially impact that schedule. Certainly, everyone in your house has to understand that you now have work boundaries that cannot be violated unless it is for something they would call you at an office about. If they wouldn't be willing to call you, than it likely can wait until you're "off" work. By the same token, avoid spending time "working" outside of those hours if you can, so as to give your family the attention they deserve.

Continue the conversation...

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