For many people, working from home on the side or full time can be an attractive option, whether they’re trying to make a few extra bucks or start a new career. However, starting a home based business, like starting any other business, requires a large amount of planning and personal commitment. You’ll have to plan out your strategy, work out all the little details, and then put in the work to make it happen. Luckily, by using your home as your business space, you avoid some of the costs and hassles associated with classic businesses, like renting commercial space and meeting certain permit requirements.
PART 1 – Deciding Your Type of Talents
1. Evaluate your talents. Keep in mind, there is a huge difference between talents and things you enjoy. Just because you enjoy something does not mean you can turn it into a business. Think about your skills, or the hobbies that you do better than anyone else. Your business can also be based off of a professional skill you’ve developed or been educated in. Make sure that this is also something you enjoy doing. You’re going to be spending a lot of time setting up and running this business so you have to be able to tolerate doing it.
2. Assess your financing needs. While starting a business from home can be more affordable than starting a traditional business, you will still need money to get started. As you form your home business idea, think about how much money you will need to buy inventory, buy your production equipment, or cover any other initial costs. If you don’t have a lot in savings, you can also get a business loan to get started, but this would mean qualifying for and then subsequently being responsible for a loan, which can be difficult for a new business. Consider your financing options carefully as you set up your home business.
3. Know your competitors. If you plan on working from home locally, look around town for other businesses offering the same services or products. You’ll have to figure out if there is enough business left for you in your area. If you plan to work online, you’re dealing with a very crowded market in most cases, so you’ll have to find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. In either case, be sure to check around and analyze your competition’s pricing. If you can offer the same product for less, you may be able to draw some of their customers away.
4. Understand the needs of your market. Listen to what people say and what they need in the area. If something they mention is an interest of yours and you are good at it, you should definitely try it. This applies locally just as well as it does online. Every good business idea fulfills a need in the market.
5. Learn about employment laws. If you plan to hire employees or contract workers as part of your home based business, you will need to know how to navigate labor laws. These include, but are not limited to, minimum wage, overtime pay, required benefits, and other fair compensation regulations.
6. Consider some of the more common ideas. If no business ideas are coming to mind, think about some of the tried and trued home business types. Some highly lucrative home business ideas include tutoring, tax preparation, business coaching, counseling, marketing consulting, accounting, web designing, interior designing, dance instructing, newsletter service, proofreading service, and resume writing service. These home based business ideas just require your personal skills rather than large investments.
7. Consider the space required for your business. If you’re planning on doing any sort of manufacturing, product storage, or shipping, you will likely need more than a desk to work on. Think about how much space you have in your home for these activities. Will you be displacing other family members with your business activities? Consider your space requirements and your home’s ability to meet those requirements before moving forward.
PART 2 – Planning Your Home Based Business
1. Figure out if you can make this business profitable. How much will people pay for your services? Can you make a good income off this? Many people see astronomical numbers in their future until they take the time to determine their profits. Be sure to consider how much time you can reasonably commit to your business and how much profit you can get back for your time and investment money. In some cases, a great business idea in theory can in reality be unprofitable.
2. Create a business plan for your home based business. This is the blueprint for your business. It may also help you think of things that had not crossed your mind about your business and help you determine what kind of start up costs you are looking at. At minimum, a business plan should include the following:
- A description of your company’s market, goals, and what differentiate it from the competition.
- A list of your product or service offerings and their prices.
- Market analysis of your competitors and their prices.
- Marketing plans. How do you plan to get the word out about your business?
3. Check into legal barriers for your business. Some areas have certain rules and regulations for home based businesses, and you need to check into those at your town’s city hall before investing much time or money in your business. Some areas just make home based business owners carry a business license and nothing else. Not knowing about these regulations can be devastating to your business. You should also consider home owners’ associations in your neighborhood and consider the potential impact of your business on neighbors, especially if the business will increase traffic or noise in the neighborhood.
4. Figure out if you need additional insurance. Visit with your local insurance agent to determine if you are in need of any special insurance for your home based business. When you start a home based business, you immediately start exposing yourself, your family and your home to variety of risks and you want to make sure you are covered before it is too late.
PART 3 – Opening for Business
1. Invest in your home based business. Before you get started, there are often investments you’ll have to make in your business infrastructure. This varies based on the type of business you’re running. For example, if you’re running a printing business from home, you’ll need to buy a professional printer and paper for it. If you’re running an online business, it may be wise to upgrade your computer and internet speed. The time spent waiting for pages to load can add up and hurt your productivity.
2. Organize your business as a legal entity. When setting up for business you have several options in determining the structure of your business. The easiest is to simply act as a sole proprietorship where you, the business owner, are legally the business. In this case, you would use your SSN for tax identification purposes. However, if you plan to have partners or hire employees, you will need to organize your business as a separate entity like a corporation. Doing so will require you to incorporate your business with you state and obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. Corporations also limit your liability for any losses sustained by the business.
3. Set up your home office. To work effectively, you’ll need to have a dedicated business space within your home. If you work locally, this is also your commercial space. You’ll need to create an area separate from family members, pets, and other distractions. If possible, separate this area as much as possible from the rest of your home. The physical separation will help create mental separation between your home life and work life and also make the tax deduction for a home-based office less subjective. Be sure that this office and your working from home doesn’t disrupt your family life or bring new stress into your home.
4. Set up a dedicated phone line and internet service. Almost all businesses will require contact with customers over the phone. In order to ensure that your line will be free when customers call, you’ll have to get a dedicated phone line for business use. You should also sign up for voicemail rather than using an answering machine. This sounds more professional to customers. You should also add an internet connection that is fast enough for your business purposes while still remaining affordable.
5. Get a post office box for your business. This is especially important if you have business cards or will be regularly corresponding through the mail. The simple fact of the matter is that PO boxes look more professional than using your home address.
6. Launch your business. When you have everything ready, launch your business or website and take your first customers. These can be friends or family to start with. Keep in mind, you will not know everything about your business from the start. Entrepreneurs learn as they go! If your first customers are friends or family, be sure to get their feedback and adjust your products or processes accordingly.
7. Market your business. To bring in more customers, you’ll have to market your business. This includes advertising, establishing a strong social media presence, and other activities designed to draw in customers. Your type of advertising should vary based on the type of customer you are trying to attract. If you’re working locally, advertise on local radio stations or in the newspaper. If you work online, sign up for Google AdWords or advertise your business on relevant websites or use Facebook Ad.
Marketing a business can also include building a brand, setting up a professional website, driving traffic to your site with search engine optimization, and using a promotional strategy, among other tactics.
8. Adjust strategies and products as necessary. Respond to your customers. You should set up a system or survey where your customers can rate their experience with you and your business. Be sure to strive for perfect ratings. Any criticisms you see consistently mean that you should change that aspect of your business.
9. Build a trusting customer base. By adjusting to your customers’ needs and consistently providing good services or products, you get the best form of free advertising: word of mouth recommendations. Your customers will recommend you to their friends if they are truly satisfied with your work, and your business will grow accordingly. You’ll have get some customers coming back for repeat service and build up a consistent.
Over to you, what business are you planning to start from home.