9 Secrets to Running a Home-Based Business

By the Small Business Experts at BizLaunch.com

Setting up shop in a spare bedroom, basement or garage is how most businesses get their start. Working from home is an appealing idea to entrepreneurs who want to save money, eliminate the commute or be accessible to family, while others choose to work from home to achieve their ideal work-life balance.

Over half of all small businesses in North America operate from home, proving that size really doesn’t matter as many home-based companies generate millions of dollars in revenue. Some employ people to actually work with them in the home office, and others are simply solo entrepreneurs.

Whether you choose to run your business from home for the short or long term, it’s important to get the balance right between personal and professional life. Otherwise, the benefits of working from home could turn into huge negatives that impact your business’s growth. Consider these suggestions to set up and run an effective home- based operation.


  1. Investigate local laws

With more home businesses opening up, some municipal governments have passed bylaws restricting the type of enterprise you can operate. Concerns can include drawing commercial traffic to residential neighbourhoods, manufacturing a product or pitching a business sign on your lawn. Check with your City Hall to ensure your home office complies with all bylaws.


  1. Physically separate work from home

It’s tough for “homepreneurs” to mentally leave the office when it’s just down the hall. That’s why it may be important to establish some physical distance between your business and living space. Consider building a wall, commandeering a spare bedroom, clearing out the garage, building an addition, hanging a curtain or otherwise distinguishing your work from personal space as best you can.


  1. Create an organized system

Space can be an issue for many home-based businesses. Without room for those bulky filing cabinets, you’ll want to create a storage system that works for your particular setup. Forget the idea of a “paperless” office—business owners generate mounds of the stuff. Without the proper storage provisions, those files quickly stack up on the kitchen table, spare bed or staircase.

Hire the services of a professional organizer to help you design an efficient workspace or look on the Internet for instructions on setting up a home office. There may be ways you can eliminate unnecessary paper build up. Equip your home office with sufficient bookshelves, filing cabinets and boxes to house the documents you choose to keep.


  1. Set specific hours

If you want to work from 10 to 5, make it your policy and stick to it. During those hours, household tasks such as mowing the lawn, doing the laundry or cleaning are strictly forbidden; otherwise you’ll be stealing time away from your business and it won’t develop as quickly as you want it to.


  1. Set rules

Similar to your rule about office hours, you need to set some rules with visitors, children and spouses. Well-meaning friends and family are more likely to think it’s alright to drop by unannounced because you’re working from home. Consider communicating your office hours and rules to loved ones, and ask them to support your policy. Also be sure to limit other distractions such as watching television, surfing the web, lengthy lunch hours or personal phone calls during your work day.


  1. Outsource

Successful business owners don’t try to do it all themselves. Look for non-essential and routine tasks you can assign to suppliers, contractors or part time help working from outside locations. Some of the more common outsourced functions include bookkeeping, filing, lead generation, direct mail campaigns, database management, graphic design and website management. By having systems documented, it will be easier to hand off tasks. You may even elect to outsource personal errands such as walking the dog or cleaning the house.


  1. Get legal counsel

Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to obtain some legal advice if you’re operating from your home. For instance, a lawyer may recommend setting up a corporation and obtaining an outside mailing address to help separate your business and domestic affairs. If you receive customers or deliveries to your home office, you may want to consider purchasing commercial insurance to protect you from “slip and fall” lawsuits. Or, legal agreements may be advisable to distinguish your business assets from marital ones—a blurry line when everything is under one roof.


  1. Find a second space

No matter how much you love running a home-based business, you’ll want to get out of the house from time to time. A second space is somewhere you can go to get away from your business, perhaps to hold meetings or to do some big-picture thinking. Consider joining a fitness club, a business centre (to access boardrooms and conference rooms) or just camp out in your favourite coffee shop.


  1. Go mobile

You likely won’t want to meet customers in your living room, so buy equipment that allows you to work at their location. Smart phones with email, notebook computers with wireless Internet and portable printers will enable you to work at a customer location or conduct meetings in your favourite coffee shop.

Some of the world’s largest corporations started as home-based operations. Other wealthy entrepreneurs plan to keep their ventures home-based, even though they can afford a swanky downtown office. Whether you intend to work from home temporarily or permanently, try to set some ground rules to keep you—and your family—happy under one roof.

By Andrew Patricio

April 22, 2015