In the last few years there has been a massive increase in the number of people who are becoming self-employed or starting their own small business. From freelance accountants and bookkeepers to odd job people and even fashion designers, more and more people are setting up on their own and for a great number of these people, this means setting up business from your home. But how can you ensure that your business remains professional and will be successful when you share your workplace with your living place?
Lets take a look at some top tips and sound advice about running your own business from home and not letting it take over your whole home life.
Starting the business
The first step to having a home business is to know what you want to do. Planning is crucial to avoid vagueness and a sense of panic when work doesn’t start to arrive when you expect it to. Therefore, creating a business plan is something you should do before you give up your current job or register yourself as self-employed. Questions you should ask yourself include:
- What can I do?
What do I enjoy doing?
Is there a market for this service or product?
Can I make a living from it?
How will I make and store this item pending sale?
People looking at a service based business have a few less considerations than those creating a product. For example, the self-employed accountant simply needs space for computer equipment, maybe some filing room but someone making handmade crafts needs room to store both the equipment and supplies to make the products and for the finished items themselves. So you need to assess what space you need and if you can take over enough of the house to do this when planning your business.
A lot of people make good use of a spare room in their home, extend into their loft space or convert a cellar or garage into a storage area. You have to make sure that these environments are safe for storage or to work from.
Creating the business
Once you have an idea, know it is viable and there is an active demand or market for it then you can move onto the next step. Whether you simply register with HMRC as self-employed as a sole trader or form a company will depend on your plans. For example, a self-employed accountant might not plan to ever take on staff and only do the work that he or she can manage on their own. But the handmade crafts business may plan to eventually have employees making the products or have staff to handle packaging and distribution. So while being a sole trader might work for the former who never plans to expand, forming a limited company might be better for the second.
When you work from home, this could mean giving out your private home address to everyone you do business with and this might not be a good idea. Therefore as part of forming your company, it might be worth investing in a registered office address service. This allows you to use an address, say in London, where all of your statutory business mail is sent. This address will go on all of your official documents and will be on the public register at Companies House for anyone researching your company.
Once the company is formed you need to create an online presence for it. This means a combination of a website and social media accounts, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, that are for the business and will help start to make its existence known to the world. You can hire a web designer to build your website for you if you don’t feel confident doing the job yourself. You might also want to consider having a blog for your company as this increases your online exposure, helps your search engine rankings, and can drive new customers to your business.
Growing the business
As the business grows and takes up more of your time, you may start to outsource some of the tasks to other professionals or companies that specialise in certain aspects of running a business. One good example is a call handling or mail handling service, or a complete virtual office that can answer your calls and sort through your mail. This frees up your time to deal with other matters and means you only get the calls and mail that is important to you. Mail handling services can even scan mail and send the content to you via email, reducing the time between receiving it and you handling the contents.
Other tasks you may want to outsource include your accounting and the writing of the blog. Freelance accountant paired with online bookkeeping software can make the process of submitting tax returns and other official documents much easier. And if you want to continue to grow your online presence, hiring a freelance writer to create blogs posts is ideal. Some offer virtual assistant services too where they can handle your social media awareness and marketing campaigns.
Take a break from it all
One of the most important things when working from home is that you take a break from it all on a regular basis and that you try to have an established working pattern. There’s always the temptation to do another 30 minutes after dinner because you work in one of your bedrooms and it is convenient to check emails or follow up on messages – but beware, this can lead to burnout! And because your home is also your place of work, it is important to take a break and get away from it all for a while.
Remember, if you set up your outsourcing correctly, the business can continue to run without you for a week or two!