More than half of all businesses are operated primarily from someone’s home, according to the most current data available from the U.S. Census Bureau released this past June. And that figure is increasing with each passing year. In fact, more recent findings by AMI-Partners, a global strategy consulting firm, report an 11% increase in the number of individuals who started a home-based business due to downsizing in 2010. Perhaps even more enlightening is the fact that 80% of those taking the leap into owning their own home-based business venture for this reason intend on sticking with it for the long-term and do not plan to return to the corporate workforce.
With commitment like that, as the old saying goes, “If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right.” Thankfully the conventional wisdom among experts when it comes to these seven home-based business basics is clear. Here it is:
- Nail down the legal stuff early―Remember, your homeowners’ insurance policy won’t cover your business should you incur any losses, so you need to buy business insurance if that is a concern. Secondly, smart home-based business owners verse themselves on the applicable tax laws before it’s time to file so they can avoid surprises and take the necessary steps to capitalize on any potential advantages as well. Additionally, local zoning laws, the need for a business permit or an unanticipated inspection of some kind can all put you out of business before you even get started if you’re not careful.
- Investing too much too soon can be dangerous―Starting your own business is exciting, and you want to make sure that you have adequate work space and the technology you need most to get the job done. However, the goal is to be profitable. That means keeping your overhead to an absolute minimum at first.
- Focus on the big picture―As a home-based business owner, your operation is usually run by an army of one or maybe just a few. That’s why it’s all too easy to get bogged down in product or service delivery such that you forget or don’t make time to tackle the larger and equally critical issues that will ensure you are successful. Accounting and finance, marketing, systems management and team building are just some of the things that will also need your attention.
- Productivity is key―Maximum productivity is the result of a number of factors. Knowing how and where you work best is one of them. If getting out of the office means you’ll get more done, then get out once and a while. If a cluttered desk overwhelms you, then take time out to organize your office each evening so that you start each day with a fresh slate. Have an office away from the family quarters, as well as a separate business phone line. Remind family, neighbors and friends that your being home does not mean you are free to chat or that they can just drop by―you are working! Also, find a way to keep Fido and the kids quiet when you’re conducting business. If you think you can work efficiently with kids running around, think again.
- Smart marketing is crucial―Marketing is perhaps the most important element in ensuring the success of a home-based business so it’s important to do it right for as little money as possible. Take time to explore the more affordable yet effective strategies for marketing your business both on the Internet and via social marketing channels. Develop a yearly plan with measureable goals and objectives. Position yourself as an expert with the local media or at local events and attend or exhibit at trade shows when you can. Engage in active networking, and never underestimate the power of referrals. Collaborate with other business owners who are offering services or products that complement your own.
- Make time management a top priority―One of the biggest pluses about working from home is that no one is telling you what to do and when to do it, but that can also work against you. Home-based business owners will often cite distractions and feeling unmotivated or unproductive as a major source of stress in their lives. Tricks to combat this problem include: getting dressed to go to work in the morning; developing and adhering to a structured schedule and routine; adjusting your schedule to ensure you can work during your most productive hours; and taking mini breaks during the day to get some fresh air and clear your head. And don’t think twice about investing in a time management class if necessary.
- Maintaining balance is the most important thing you’ll ever do―When you own your own business and work from home, it’s all too easy to mix business with pleasure. Maintaining a balance between work and your personal life can seem all but impossible at times. But you’ve got to try. Keep your work space separate from your living quarters. Set boundaries with family, and ask them to respect your work schedule. On the flip side, when it’s time for family or other personal time, it’s critical that you be fully present.