Tips to effectively build your business from a home office

Posted by on November 11, 2009 in entrepreneur

I have to admit my bias upfront. I hate working from a home office. I suppose I was weaned in the old school culture of work-dress up, attend to your office to attend to work- and I enjoy the ceremony of going to work even if I don’t appreciate the armpits in my face in public transit. However, building a business, part-time or full-time, from a home office is an effective means to control costs and enjoy a work-life balance. I started a business from a home office and many of my legal clients enjoyed great success building businesses from home offices,  some having been only forced to move when growth in revenue and employees forced a relocation.

Based on personal and other people’s experiences, what are some effective tips in building a business from a home office?

  1. Separate the office from the home. Your physical environment influences how you can increase your productivity. Working from home does not mean you can be and act like a slacker. Physically separate out your home space (in a small space, a screen or a cabinet with a fold out shelf can help) so you know what’s work and what’s life; anything that falls in the “life” category- tv’s, iPod speakers, books- you attempt to physically separate. Ideally, what you want to do is physically enter the home office  “work space” so that you are prepared to do business and you can get through the day effectively. It goes without saying that you should have separate phone lines and email addresses to keep the two separate to appear professional. This is harder to do in small spaces like condos but some new condos now have business centers for their residents.
  2. It is a business. All businesses keep hours. Yours should too. This one does not need too much explaining. Keep a structure of when you work. Creating a scarcity of time may also focus you on prioritizing and being efficient which is harder in a home office when you think you always have time to do something else.
  3. Make a real effort to get out of the office to sell and market. Successful entrepreneurship is dependent on the ability to sell and market no matter how much you may hate it. Non-internet based businesses based out of a home offices have an additional barrier to selling and marketing. The house may not be close to your clients and there is a natural pull to stay comfortable at home. Ideally, if you are not naturally a sociable person, you should discipline yourself to have a sales and marketing day out of the home (avoid Mondays and Fridays for obvious reasons).
  4. Create a support network. Building a small business can be a lonely experience and, unlike working in a large organization, no one is arranging for lunch and learns, training and social events for you. The combination of loneliness and the potential inability to grow by hearing differing viewpoints can stunt small business growth and be mentally draining.  Just like workers in office towers meet their colleagues for coffee, create a support network for yourself (there are some devoted to other small businesses working out of a home office) and allot time and money for training.
  5. Set your financial goals to support the expense of a traditional office. I may get some flak for this one but people move, there are too many employees for a home office, families grow and need your home office space. Your business should not be dependent on a nil to nominal office rent. Even if you never move, financial projections based on industry market rents as an expense will build contingencies in case you do move and its never a buy thing to aim high and reach it.

Finally, I hope everyone takes a minute to honor those who serve or served. Lest we forget.

3 Comments on Tips to effectively build your business from a home office

By Mike Mella on November 11, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I would take issue with some of these tips.

I’m a professional Web designer working from home. I’ve always had a problem with this notion of separating home from office. It’s good advice to have a physical separation, but this idea of knowing “what’s work and what’s life” doesn’t always apply.

I chose to start freelancing because I enjoy doing what I do. There are always new things to learn, and learning them is as much my hobby as it is my job, so I find that I’m never really *not* working. If I turned it off everyday at 5pm, my business would stagnate pretty fast.

The idea of having a separate email address and phone for business doesn’t work for me either. Using my business email address in non-work-related activities (like posting this comment) helps me to build my brand online, which will make me appear more professional than having two identities will.

And having one phone number doesn’t matter much either as long as I make my hours of availability clear to my clients.

Maybe it’s just me.

By admin on November 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Mike- thanks for your comments. Its definitely different strokes for different folks.

By Friday Links - Canadian Finance Blog on November 13, 2009 at 6:18 am

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