It’s easy to list the advantages of running a home-based business: low overhead, no commute, and creating a more flexible lifestyle.
But when you live and work under the same roof, there are also are a number of disadvantages with which to contend: your children storming into the office, having to answer the door, and resisting the lure of that midafternoon nap.
Here are 10 tips for minimizing the disadvantages and stressors of working at home:
- Conserve money wherever possible. One common pitfall for new home-based entrepreneurs is running out of money early. Get expert advice on subjects like minimizing taxes, forecasting your startup costs, and having enough cash in the bank.
- Let your friends know you mean business. You need to demonstrate that just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re not at work. Otherwise people may mistake your casual attire and a car in the driveway as an invitation to stop by and chat or may call your business phone to discuss personal matters. It is your job to set the limits, so do it early, and as often as is necessary.
- Invest in the home office equipment you need. Now that you’re your own boss, you’ll no longer be able to request a bigger file cabinet or a new copy machine from the facilities departments; now you’ll have to source (and pay for!) your equipment yourself. But if you need a piece of equipment to do business effectively, buy it. Not buying what you need to compete is false economy, and could sink your business in a hurry.
- Manage the expectations of the people you live with. Your teen daughter may resent having to keep her CD player on low because you’re on a conference call, and your spouse may not appreciate you keeping late hours to catch up on business correspondence. Let your family members know that you appreciate them and that you need their support and consideration in order to succeed.
- Maintain a professional image. Projecting a professional image is especially important if you work from home. It can give your home-based business legitimacy in the eyes of people who might otherwise not take you seriously. Print business cards, set up a basic Web site, install a separate phone line, and never let the kids answer your work phone.
- Hold meetings off-site if necessary. Unless you have a self-contained section of your house that is completely devoted to your business, it’s not appropriate to hold meetings at home. Look into off-site alternatives or meet with clients at their offices.
- Forecast your expenses. Assess your overhead expenses, including rent, gas, electricity, business telephone calls, packing and shipping supplies, the time and cost of transporting packages to a shipper, cleaning and cleaning insurance, office supplies, payroll taxes, repairs, and maintenance. The accuracy of your estimates will play a major role in controlling your costs.
- Research the laws that may pertain to your home-based business. Make sure to see what zoning laws, licensing, permits and other legal restrictions affect your operation. The last thing you want to do is set up shop, announce that you’re open for business, and find out regulations make it illegal to operate out of your home.
- Anticipate isolation. The life of a home-based business owner can be a lonely one. But the reality is you’re not alone. It’s up to you to try to forge connections by joining local associations, or starting a networking group for home-based business owners in your town.
- Fight stress. Take care of your most valuable asset: you. Being the boss can be exciting, fulfilling, and rewarding. It can also be lonely, stressful, and demanding. Learn to balance your professional and personal life. Build an hour of exercise into your day, get massages, or plan a vacation. Your business depends on you being at your best.