Setting up a business at home can be a great way to get started, but can be risky. Here’s how to get going…
Running a home-based business is one of the best ways to get started in your chosen career because you can keep your overheads and start-up costs low.
Indeed, over 60% of new businesses, in everything from food to fashion, are now started from home, according to recent research by Enterprise Nation (www.enterprisenation.com) – an online resource for entrepreneurs.
This can be explained, in part, by the availability of technology that enables people to communicate at the click of a mouse. The internet means that you can now work from almost anywhere.
If you are one of the many British entrepreneurs currently working from home or if you are thinking about setting up your own home-based business, the following guidelines will help steer you in the right direction.
Develop a business plan
Home-based businesses sometimes run into problems because they failed to follow a transition plan. It takes extensive planning and a lot of hard work to grow a business to a level that will allow you to pack in your day job.
Producing a business plan will help to minimise the risk of failure and increase your chances of success. So create a plan with goals to help you chart your progress before you hand in your resignation. Your plan should not only include projections for the business itself, but also specifics on how you’ll manage working from home. But be realistic, you don’t want to build a business plan where you’re planning for more work hours than you can handle or ignore obvious interruptions that are going to detract from work.
For example, if you have young kids, assume that you will be less productive when they are up and about and plan to get the bulk of your work done during nap times or when then are being watched by someone else.
Separate home from work as much as possible
Set aside a dedicated workspace within your home. Depending on the type of business you own, this can be as small as a spare room or as big as your double garage. The crucial thing is that you have a specified area that’s interruption-free and dedicated entirely to your work.
Establish a work schedule
When you were an employee, someone else dictated your working day. Now it is up to you to establish your own. To help you do this, it’s useful to create a schedule of what you want to achieve each day. This will act as a constant reminder that you are supposed to be working, even though you’re at home.
It’s also about making you leave the office at a scheduled time each day, since it can be tempting to keep ducking in and out of work, even late into the night. That said, sticking to your work schedule may be easier said than done, so many people find that keeping separate to-do lists for work and home helps them to effectively manage their time.
A good phone system and high-speed internet access is a necessity for every home-based business. Research shows that most businesses do more than 90% of their business by phone. And internet access will give you a limitless source of information, as well as providing a virtual office for you and your clients.
Working from home is not an excuse to behave unprofessionally. For some people, it means they can flop from their bed to the office without changing out of their pyjamas. But, too often, working in your PJs is an excuse to stay in bed. Getting up and changing into your work clothes helps to maintain a professional standard and set the bar a little higher for yourself and your business.
Find a meeting place
Some home-businesses simply are not set up for visitors. So consider using local coffee shops for any face-to-face meetings you need to conduct – most of them now have fast internet connections.
Taking on employees
This can be tricky. If you’re going to have workers in your home, make sure you have the necessary insurance. And it’s a good idea to screen prospective employees carefully – after all, you will be letting them into your home.
Also, do make sure that anyone you hire feels comfortable working in a home-based office – some people will do better in a home environment than others.
Get out of the house
Every now and then it’s really important to get out of the house, to avoid going stir crazy. Once in while, give yourself a morning or afternoon off to see a movie, do a spot of shopping or meet a friend for lunch – anything for a change of scenery.
One of the biggest pitfalls of a home-based business is the temptation to give into the distractions of home life – whether it’s a neighbour popping round for a chat, or the sudden urge to mop the kitchen floor. If you find the distractions are starting to become a problem, it’s a good idea to keep a record of how you’re spending your time and make adjustments as needed.
One way to stifle the urge to carry out non-business tasks is to hire someone else to do them. If you have young kids for instance, consider getting in-home childcare, such as an au pair, or hiring someone to take them to nursery for at least part of the week.
Also, getting a cleaner or housekeeper in, even if it’s only once a week, is a great way to free up work time you might be tempted to spend cleaning the house yourself. Set this rule for success: when you are at work, you are at work – you don’t do anything but focus on business. No wandering into the kitchen every five minutes for a cup of tea. No TV on in the background. No chatting to the family. Just focus on the work in hand.
A word from James
The benefit of working from home is that you have low running costs. However, to really make it work for you it’s important not to become complacent. Set up an area in the house that can act as an office and set boundaries between home and work life. Always keep business professional, and even if it’s a home business, this needs to be maintained.
Our top five home-based business ideas
- Childcare Look after your own little one and take on other people’s children, too, and you can make good money in the process.
- Website design The world of web design is an exciting and lucrative field to be in right now, so if you have
the right skills, make the most of them by freelancing from home.
- Hairdressing or beauty therapy Trained beauticians or hairdressers can make serious money by operating from their own home. Word of mouth can spread very quickly once you’ve established a few clients.
- Personal training If you’re a fitness freak why not think about qualifying as a personal trainer? Many clients prefer training away from busy gyms.
- Bookkeeping If numbers are your thing, balancing the books could be an ideal business opportunity.
‘I can fit work around looking after my children’
Abi Roman, is one half of the team behind children’s gift company, Roomers Gifts, which she runs from home
‘My mother-in-law originally set up Roomers Gifts – which specialises in personalised presents and accessories for children, including door plaques and keepsake boxes.
‘When the shop’s manager, a family friend, took over the business, I came on board as her partner to run the website (www.roomersgifts.co.uk). That was back in 2006 when I was pregnant with my second child, Ruby, and since then the business has gone from strength to strength.
‘I deal with product development, buying, marketing and customer relations – all of which I can do from my own home. The big benefit of this for me is that it allows me to fit work in around my children’s needs. Because of the difference in their ages – Mia is eight, Ruby, three and Jake, one – they are all in different places at different times, so my work needs to be flexible enough to accommodate this.
‘The last few years have been incredibly chaotic – but we’ve now reached a point where we’re starting to come back down to earth. I’ve realised how much potential the business has and after Christmas, our busiest time, we intend to start growing the company, focusing more on marketing and selling to wider markets – hopefully internationally.
‘While this will mean more work, it doesn’t mean I’ll have to spend time away from my kids, as I can fit it in when they’re at school and nursery or in bed.’