Before you dive head first into a home-based business, it’s essential that you know why you are doing it and how you will do it. To succeed, your business must be based on something greater than a desire to be your own boss: an honest assessment of your own personality, an understanding of what’s involved, and a lot of hard work.
You have to be willing to plan ahead, then make improvements and adjustments along the way. While there are no “best” or “right” reasons for starting a home-based business, it is vital to have a very clear idea of what you are getting into and why.
Working under the same roof that your family lives under may not prove to be as easy as it seems. It is important that you work in a professional environment; if at all possible, you should set up a separate office in your home.
After taking a good look at yourself, it’s time to consider the business side of the venture, i.e., the realities of running a business from your home. As with anything else, it has good points and bad. The advantages are obvious. Desire for independence, convenience, financial gain, low overhead and low risk, decreased commute time, getting out of the rat race, more control over work hours, low business expenses (for example, money saved on commuting, lunches out and a professional wardrobe), and more time with family are positive factors most often cited. You save money on taxes because deductions for automobile expenses, telephone, home improvements, business cards and major purchases, such as a computer, may be available. The issue of quality of life also comes into play as both men and women look for a way to balance the demands of a career with those of a family. A home-based business allows you to do just that.
On the con side, if you were working in an office downtown you wouldn’t have to worry about a neighbor stopping by for a chat or your kids bursting in the door after a day at school. You must be very self-disciplined and goal oriented to create a good working atmosphere despite kids, spouses, neighbors and the telephone.
Without the deadlines imposed by supervisors or peers, it can be hard to do the least appealing jobs on your list. Now it’s your responsibility to set limits and plan your time.
No longer will you have the luxury of submitting requisitions to the supply department when you need a bigger file cabinet, a new copy machine or basic office supplies. It’s up to you to evaluate features and compare prices when you’re considering a major purchase. You’re also the one who must run out to the store when you’re out of ribbons for your computer printer.
There’s also your family to consider. Their lifestyle and privacy may be disturbed, and you may find it difficult to work out a compromise that’s acceptable to everyone. Your teenager may resent having to turn down the stereo because you’re meeting with a client in the next room. Your spouse may complain about having to move his or her hobby to another room so you can use the space for an office.
Another con for some people is that the buck stops with you. One former home-based business owner has returned to corporate life because “being the boss means taking ultimate responsibility for all decisions. You get the credit when things go right but you get the blame when things go wrong.”
Keeping your business environment professional at home also takes persistence and control. Don’t let the relaxed environment of working at home make you any less disciplined. A professional image is an important part of building credibility with customers and also contributes to your self-esteem.
Create a specific and proper professional mood. Have a business-like office or showroom if you meet customers face to face. A clean and organized environment enhances both your image and customer perception of your product or service. The decor of your home office should be carefully considered. Determine what image and theme you want to create before spending any money remodeling.
Pay attention to what you wear. You are your company. The psychological power of your work clothes will convince customers and clients that you are serious about your business and tell your subconscious that it’s time to get down to business. No matter what you have scheduled for your day, always dress for work.
The identity your business presents to the professional world is also important. Design a logo or have one created, and print business cards and stationery. Set regular business hours and use an answering machine or service. Consider referring to your apartment number as your suite number or rent a post office box rather than using your street address.
When you work at home, it’s often difficult to prevent your personal life from encroaching on your business. Here are a few tips for keeping both under control.
1. Start your day as if heading for the office. Dress appropriately, but comfortably.
2. Commit to routine work hours. Establish a schedule that works for you.
3. Make personal phone calls on your own time. Get an answering machine so you can screen any after-hours business calls.
4. Keep a log of all the hours you devote to work. It will help you manage your day more efficiently.
5. Try to plan your work schedule at least a week in advance. You’ll be better able to gauge your progress and maximize your productivity.
6. Never combine household and business errands, even when the drug store is “on the way.” Always leave and return to your business at designated times.
7. Avoid doing household tasks during work hours. Learn to discipline yourself to stay within your time schedule.