Are you about to setup a new business from home? With internet communications developing at such a fast pace, the vast planet we live in has now become a virtual global village thanks to technology, bringing everyone closer together. Because of this, running a home-based business is now just as viable as running a business from a commercial space/office.
There are also many advantages to operating from home; no rent, comfortable, familiar environment, no early-morning rush-hour drives, traffic jams (or commutes) into the office and you can organise your working time to suit you, especially if you have children.
Advantages aplenty, however there are other challenges to think about that come in the shape of home-working, so planning and structuring your home working environment ahead of time can save you the problems that could arise later-on down the line.
Making space for your home-based business
Working from your laptop in the lounge or from your bed is a no-no. Right from the start you must designate some working space and make sure you keep this area strictly for ‘work time’. Doing this is psychologically important because you need to maintain a clear distinction between your working life and personal / home life. Whether it’s the box room, a summer house or simply a corner of a room in your house that you turn into your home office space, try and keep the space just for work.
Interacting with others
Working alone can be hard and in some cases it can be really difficult to get motivated to do any work when confined to the four walls of your home office. The isolation that comes with not interacting with others for extended periods of time can be quite hard for some people to cope with, however look for opportunities to go to local networking events, coffee mornings, meet-ups or workshops in your area.
Its also worth looking for local small business communities / networking communities as they are usually incredibly supportive of one-another, so being a part of this will not only help you to learn valuable insights from other business owners but will reduce the feeling of isolation you may experience from time to time.
Design your office how you like!
The beauty of working from home is that you can design your workspace to be as comfortable and familiar as you like. Working from a regular office can be quite clinical, corporate and sterile, however your home office can feature bright walls, you can pick the desk and chair you want, add pictures of family or memories on the wall, be creative or do just about anything you like!
Running a home-based business is just as serious as a regular office based business and therefore your business plan is just as relevant and important. Use your business plan to measure your own progression by setting up goals to work towards and detail your marketing strategy and business growth plans. Working by your business plan will help you to stay focused on your goals and keep you working towards your vision.
Your working schedule
This is a tough one in many senses because the urge to stick the tele on in the background or to nip downstairs to put a load of washing on can be hard to resist. Thinking to yourself “I’ll just hang the washing out quickly” or “I’ll get that pile of ironing done, it won’t take long” will eat away at your precious working hours.
Be disciplined but flexible; don’t switch on the tele or start doing housework and make sure you are up, showered, dressed and ready to start work at 9am (or whatever time you usually start), taking a break at lunchtime, and working until 5.30pm (or when you usually finish). Allow yourself some overtime only if you are in the middle of something, or have a deadline to meet, but don’t fall into the trap of working extended hours on a regular basis as it will become counter-productive.
It is also important to allow yourself 1 or 2 days a week where you can be a bit more flexible with your working hours to allow you to do other non-work related things on these days; perhaps finishing an hour early or taking a longer lunch break to meet with friends for coffee or lunch. Structuring yourself like this will allow you to be productive with your business without feeling cut off socially or overwhelmed by spending long periods of time in your home office with no interaction.
Take a break
Whilst it’s important to be productive, spending long periods of time at the desk without a break isn’t healthy, so if you have work-related errands to run such as posting or collecting mail, purchasing supplies or maybe some client meetings, try to spread these throughout the week so you keep efficient and productive and have small breaks away from the desk to rejuvenate your energy and concentration. Equally as important is stopping for your lunch break rather than working through it. Eat your lunch in another room such as your lounge or kitchen to give yourself a break from the work environment, or if the weather is nice then sit outside.
A simple one but something people could overlook … remember to add your company name to your letterbox and doorbell, especially if you have clients visiting your home so everyone knows they have the right house and for the benefit of the postman / courier too.
Build a website and market yourself
When working from home it can be difficult to get yourself seen by your target audience, and as such you are reliant on your website and online marketing. Make sure you have a great website built and you use social media to its full potential.
Engage with other local businesses and become a part of a local online social media community through hashtagging, and consider search engine optimisation to build the online visibility of your website so your customers can find you when searching for your products or services on Google.
Your legal obligations
Just because you are running a business from home doesn’t mean that you are exempt from paying business rates or other costs/overheads like insurance or taxes. Make sure you are fully aware of your obligations by checking with gov.uk – running a business from home.