Starting a business from home has become increasingly popular. Most homes now have broadband Internet, many businesses operate solely online and you can hire “virtual employees” without ever meeting them in person. But is starting a business from home right for you?
Here are seven questions to help you decide if starting a business from home is right for you:
1. Do I need to meet with clients and customers? If you are running a B2B business such as consulting, website designing or accounting, for example, you can probably do most of your work from home. When you need to meet with clients and customers, you have a few options. You can meet with them at their place of business or a coffee shop like Starbucks, if appropriate. You can rent a temporary meeting or office space through services such as Regus, ShareDesk or PivotDesk. Or you can meet with them at your home if your home office is suitable (see next question).
2. What type of workspace is available to me at home? The amount of available space and your business needs will dictate whether you can start your business from home. If all you have is a corner of your dining room table, but you need to manufacture, store and package a large quantity of products, for example, you probably can’t work at home. If you want to meet with clients in your home, you’ll need either a separate office (such as a backyard guest house, converted garage or mother-in-law apartment) or a room in your house with a separate entrance so customers don’t have to traipse through your home.
3.Do I need to hire employees? If your business requires employees to be on premises, a home-based location probably isn’t right for you. Having employees in your personal space can get awkward for all involved. For potential employees, a home-based address may convey the image that you’re not serious about your business, or that your company won’t offer the same opportunities for advancement that a “real” business would. On the other hand, if you will operate with remote employees, freelancers or contractors, running your business from home can be the perfect setup. When you do need to meet with them, use online meeting tools like GoToMeeting, JoinMe or Skype.
4. Is the area where I live zoned for business use? Cities and municipalities want to ensure home-based businesses don’t negatively affect quality of life. Common problems include businesses that generate noise or smells, take up a lot of street parking (for example, due to visiting customers or employees) or increase traffic in the neighborhood (due to frequent deliveries). Always check with your city before setting up a home-based office.
5. How will working at home affect my personal life? Some business owners find that working at home offers the best of both worlds when it comes to work-life balance. Others find it hard to stop working when their business is always at hand, and their work-life balance actually suffers. If you have family members at home, discuss how the business will affect them and address their concerns. Without their support, it will be hard to make a home-based business work.
6.Can I focus at home? Lots of people find working at home distracting. Can you be productive despite the call of the refrigerator, sofa and TV? Do you have neighbors who like to “drop in” on you unannounced, or young children who need supervising? If there are too many disruptions at home, consider renting office space instead.
7. How fast do I plan to grow my business? If you expect rapid growth, you may find your new business quickly outgrowing your home office. Better to start off in a commercial space than to invest time and money setting up shop at home, then have to do it all over again.