Home-based business owners have unique issues that other small business owners don’t face. Lacking a physical office or retail space, home based businesses have challenges in marketing, productivity and even personal and family issues. Are you thinking about starting a home based business, or hoping to grow an existing one?
Why Run Your Business From Home?
Many home-based businesses don’t need to be run from home—you could easily rent office or retail space and set up shop elsewhere. So why would you want to work from home? Some common reasons:
- To care for small children
- To spend more time with family
- To save money on overhead expenses
- To eliminate a daily commute
- To benefit from tax write-offs
These reasons have both benefits and drawbacks, and it’s a good idea to think through the potential pitfalls before you get started.
Why NOT Run Your Business From Home?
Caring for small children: Lots of moms successfully run small businesses from home while raising their kids. Others… struggle. Depending on the type of business you’re planning to start, it can be difficult to work around the schedules and needs of toddlers and infants. For instance, trying to conduct phone meetings with clients who are sitting in professional offices can be difficult when your toddler is having a meltdown. On the other hand, running a business that deals with services or products for children can be easier, since you’ll be working with other parents who are less likely to be surprised to hear your children in the background.
Spending more time with family: This is a great reason to run a business from home, especially if everyone is on the same page about what that means. Will you have more flexibility to attend soccer games or field trips? Most likely. Will you be available 24/7 for family matters? Not if you want your business to succeed. Set boundaries early and stick to them (see below).
Saving money, avoiding a commute and benefitting from tax write-offs: These are all legitimate reasons to run your business from home. However, you’ll miss out on the benefits of having the visibility and legitimacy that comes from a physical location. There are ways to work around this pitfall, however.
It’s a Real Job
The biggest challenge for many home-based business owners is convincing those around them that they’re working a real job.
If your business isn’t kid-friendly, you’ll need to organize in a way that accommodates the needs of your children, while maintaining a professional image. Some moms are able to take care of clients while their children are in school, but moms with small children know that the needs of babies and toddlers always seem to coincide with those important client calls. Consider hiring a babysitter or mother’s helper to care for the kids during important meetings or specific work hours.
Family, Friends, Neighbors
Your spouse may assume that, because you’re working from home, you’re available to run errands, watch the kids or take care of other household chores. Friends and neighbors may expect you to be available at all hours to pick them up from the airport, watch their kids or do volunteer work because you’re home. Establish firm boundaries to avoid these issues. It can help to have a dedicated office and specific “office hours” that are dedicated solely to work. Let personal calls go to voicemail during that time, and be firm that you’re working when asked to do things during work time.
Attracting Clients with Signage
Since home-based businesses don’t have physical locations, they have unique marketing challenges. While you don’t have a storefront for a banner or yard sign, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still benefit from signage. Here are some ideas:
Advertise you business all over town, using car magnets. Businesses that use fleet vehicles, such as landscaping or house cleaning, gain legitimacy with inexpensive magnets that alert clients of their presence. Magnets work well for personal vehicles too: they can be applied when meeting with clients, then removed when using your car for personal errands.
A slightly more permanent solution is car decals. Decals are applied to your car’s windows and are designed to stay there for 1-2 years. They’re eye-catching and inexpensive.
Yard Signs and Banners
Some home-based businesses can benefit from yard signs, whether installed on the front lawn or at the location of the clients.
Any business that does work at a client’s home can temporarily place a yard sign in the client’s yard: plumbers, roofers, landscapers, HVAC contractors, etc.
Other home-based businesses, such as daycare centers, preschools, tax preparers, etc. can install yard signs or larger, vinyl banners on the front lawn to advertise to everyone in the neighborhood and alert clients that they’re in the right location.
In addition to using signage, home-based business owners can take advantage of networking opportunities to find clients. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce to find networking events. For more information on finding local resources for your business, check out the article we posted last week, “Small Business Resources Within Your City.”