So you are thinking of starting your own home based business, but aren’t sure where to start? Working from home has many benefits, but it also requires a bit of organisation and has its own special challenges. On the other hand, if you can start your small business by working from home you’ll save yourself a lot of money by not having to rent office space, and you could even claim a part of your rent or mortgage interest payments as business expenses.
There are many things that you should know before starting up your new business, so it’s worth doing all your research in advance. You don’t want to discover that your lease agreement prevents you from running a home business after you have given your notice and are ready to start, or even worse, have your landlord threaten you with eviction because the neighbours have complained about noisy activities from your home based babysitting service, forcing you to close and disappoint customers.
Other things you should research if you don’t have the skills already are web design and development (or at least where to get a good looking business website), SEO and online marketing. This way you can prepare your business’ online marketing strategy before you start up, along with a business plan in case you are looking for finance. The reason for doing all this work before actually starting your home business is that this way you’ll have more free time later on, when you need to run your business and make money off it. It’s also easier and less stressing to plan in advance, instead of right when you need it urgently to get off the ground.
Create your home office
If you expect to make money off your home based business you need to treat it exactly as any other business, and not as a hobby. This means you should reserve some space on your home for your business, so you can keep all your business documents and materials organized and establish the right working mindset. Having a home office, no matter how small, will also help you focus on running your business and generally helps your concentration. It’s considerably difficult to spend 8 hours working with the computer in the living room, with people going around trying to talk with you and the TV on.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on your home business, often the fact of knowing that it is an area dedicated to work may be enough even if it doesn’t have the most expensive office equipment and a coffee machine. However, if you are going to spend a lot of hours sitting or working at a computer you should invest on ergonomic office equipment to protect your health. You probably don’t need the most expensive computer, but choose one with a comfortable keyboard and mouse, and a good quality screen to protect your eyes. For example, if you plan on writing for money you won’t need a computer with a great graphic card and the fastest processor but you’ll need an ergonomic keyboard and a good screen or you’ll be out of business and recovering from repetitive strain injury sooner than you think.
Set a routine and some ground rules
Working from home doesn’t mean you get to work less than if you were working from an office, at most it just means that you can do your business accounts in your pijamas if you feel like it. This is something that you need to know, and that everybody else also needs to know. While it’s great to set up your own hours, you’ll still need to be awake when your potential clients need to talk with you, so keeping some sort of business hours will help you. At the same time, establishing a routine is key to separating work and pleasure and enjoying a better work-life balance as a freelancer. If you start just working when you feel like it, you may discover that you spend more hours than you should in front of the computer or you end up missing deadlines. Routines help put your mind on the right mindset, and while working from home allows you to go for a run at lunch time and walk the dog, it doesn’t mean you should be working only when you feel like it, because unless you are a workaholic that won’t be often enough.
At the same time, it’s important to convince everybody else that the fact that you are at home doesn’t mean you are on holidays. If you let people call you for a chat during business hours, drop their kids for babysitting while you should be writing or ask you to do their errands, you’ll find yourself very stressed out when your client asks you why the work isn’t done. If anybody ever suggests that you aren’t working explain to them that the fact that you choose to work from home instead of from an office is just a different way of working. If they wouldn’t like you to ask them to bring your cat to the vet when they are at the office, they shouldn’t ask you to do it just because you don’t have a boss. You are your own boss, and the ultimate responsibility of your company’s success rests squarely on your shoulders.
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