Many entrepreneurs and would-be small business owners dream about being able to work from home. They imagine themselves in their perfect little home office zipping through tasks while sipping a cup of Tim Hortons or Starbucks, being super efficient and getting the job done. But sometimes that is not the reality.
While there are many types of businesses that can be run from home, success depends on many factors and the business model to make it work. Any small business that relies on in-person contact with clients and customers is probably not the best kind of business to run from home. Also, do you really want to bring people into your home who you really do not know?
Yes, compared to the traditional office, a home office seems like an oasis, and you would think that you would get more work done if you didn’t have to work surrounded by the noise and constant interruptions you might get working in an office environment. Sounds great, right? What happens when you have to meet a client and you are behind on your house cleaning? And don’t forget about those potential distractions at home that can take away your time, simply because you are at home.
Yes, you are working from home, but did you think about your work life versus your family life? When you are working from home, you are not only dealing with potential home distractions such as housework, but you might also be dealing with others in the home that also want your attention (like your spouse or children). What about those family and friends who do not share your home, but assume because you are working at home, then pop by for a visit?
Successful people who work at home set limits for those well-meaning family, friends and neighbours who tend to pop by. Let them know when it is acceptable to visit and when you are working on your small business. Like the old college trick of putting a sock on the door, many work-at-home professionals will place a sign or signal on the front door to tell friends and family dropping by that its not a good time for visitors.
And what about the phone calls? To have a successful home office, you need to run your business from a professional business telephone number. Having a business number that is separate from your home number allows you to separate your work from personal calls. Having a separate business number means you are not inundated by personal calls when you are working.
When considering operating your business at home, you also have to consider the safety of your family and yourself. Having your home address on business cards and brochures is exposing yourself and your family to those who might be persistent in finding you. Instead of using your home address, you should seriously consider using a virtual office provider that not only gives you a professional address, but can also manage your business calls. You can also book meeting rooms at the office business centre that provides you with your virtual office solutions.
When your calls are managed and forwarded to your home office, your customers and potential clients believe that you are working from an office, thus making you look more professional. Choosing how your calls are handled at what time or on any given day is another great advantage. You can have your calls forwarded to your home number, cell phone or a VoIP extension. You just need to indicate when calls are to be forwarded and when calls are to be sent to voicemail. And why not let after-hours calls go straight to voicemail? If it is an important client, chances are he or she will call you on your mobile phone in an emergency anyway.
When you work at home, you have to motivate and organize yourself, but you also have to be worried about household noises that a customer would not expect to hear when you are in your office. Having your infant let out a bloodcurdling shriek or the buzzer for the dryer to go off while you are on the phone is not exactly professional. Do not try to save money by running your business from home when you are also taking care of a pre-school child. Your business will suffer. Consider hiring a caregiver or enrolling the child in daycare while you work on running your business from home.
What kind of office equipment do you need for your home office? First, take inventory of what you would require and how much it will cost you. Even with today’s lower prices for electronic equipment, a high-end laptop or tower and a high-speed multi-function printer/photocopier can be a cost that your business is not able to absorb. If these items are important to your business, you may want to consider doing business in an office business centre that offers pay-as-you-use access to printer, copiers and fax machines in a co-working environment.
Next, where are you going to store your documents? Having large filing cabinets taking up space in your home office is not an option for most home-based small businesses. Many work-from-home small business owners will scan documents and keep them on a cloud server, which also makes them accessible from anywhere they are working. A cloud drive is not only good for storage, but a great solution for frequently accessed files.
Remember, running your small business from a home office may sound great, but it is important to carefully weigh all of the pros and cons for your particular business model. Working from home might work for you, but then it might not. Do your homework and discover what will work best for your small business.