Today more and more people are either starting businesses from home, or going virtual and moving their up-and-running companies into a home office. Saving on office rent, cutting back on a commute and having more time with the kids are just some of the reasons you might consider working from home. But it’s not as simple as popping a desk into your spare bedroom. Here are some steps you need to take:
Get cleared. Before you set up shop, talk to your local zoning board to be sure your home is zoned for business operation. This is especially important if you’ll have clients visiting, if you’ll be shipping products from your home, or if you’re doing anything else that could cause traffic, noise or otherwise alert the neighbors you’re running a business from home.
Get situated. It’s best to have a dedicated space for your business, whether that’s an extra bedroom, your basement or a guest house in the backyard. It helps to be able to shut your door and get some quiet time to focus. That said, if the only place you can work is on the dining room table, then you’ll have to adapt. (Lots of places offer free WiFi, including coffee shops, fast-food restaurants, and your local library.
Get together. Also consider where you’ll meet with clients. It doesn’t have to be in your home—Starbucks, a restaurant or an office solution like Regus office spaces can work just as well—but you do need a backup plan for what will happen when a client or prospect wants to meet in person.
Get the right tools. Technology has enabled home-based entrepreneurs to be efficient, professional and organized. So when you’re setting up your home-based operation, be willing to spend what you need to. You will need your own computer (not the family laptop), a second phone line with a good headset, and tools like a multifunction scanner/printer/fax machine. Other productivity aids (especially if you’ll be traveling or on the road for sales calls) include a smart phone, laptop or netbook.
Get buy-in. It’s easy to get distracted by family, friends and neighbors when you work at home. Many people won’t take you seriously unless you set some rules in advance. Make sure your family is OK with you working at home and knows your schedule to avoid mixups like kids barging in while you’re on an important call.
Get a sitter. Speaking of kids, if you do have young children at home you may fantasize about running a business while they quietly play on the floor around you. This isn’t likely to work out in reality, so you’ll need to set up some kind of child care arrangements so you have a block of time you can work.
Get help. The great thing about today’s technology is a home-based entrepreneur can get help without hiring someone to come to their home. Virtual assistants can make your life easier by handling the little tasks of your business, leaving you time to concentrate on making it grow.
Of course, the counselors at SCORE can help too. Whether you’re starting your business from home or moving it there, get their advice to make it work.