What are the challenges of a start-up home-based business?

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You need to give a lot of consideration to the fit out of your business into your home.

 

 

Challenges can be overcome

Finding the space in your home can be a challenge when you run a small business from there.

For many home-based business owners being able to switch off from work is a challenge to overcome.

Starting your own home-based business is both challenging and exciting. It will require a lot of thorough research and a plan to ensure its success. Be sure you love what you do so you can overcome the inevitable challenges.

When you have a home-based business you run the risk of never seeming to switch off from it, so make sure you love what you do. Start by building an office and workspace to suit your way of operating.

Space required needs to be well set up and you need the discipline to manage both the business and the family separately.

Even the most focused home-based business owner can find the isolation and loneliness of working at home an issue in the longer-term.

You may not be used to spending long work days alone with no colleagues to bounce ideas off and discuss problems, making it can be a challenge to stay motivated. Don’t think too much, or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place.

 

Space is usually the biggest issue

Increasing numbers of people will be running their business from home in the future. The convenience of having no travelling time between home and work is one of the principal attractions of a home based business along with being able to have more family time.

Home-based businesses are a growing part of the business sector. Today, around 60% of all small businesses are run from a home office, even international businesses, so don’t be disillusioned.

With some adjustments, almost any business can successfully work from the home, certainly, your head office can be run from your home. The backyard shed has also become the norm for many small businesses who do some manufacturing, repairs or have the equipment to store.

 

“Not having large amounts of spare space need not preclude taking on staff, a converted spare room can be enough. Failing that a converted garage or a shed in the backyard can overcome the problem”. Peter Sergeant

 

I have been operating from a home office for more than 25 years. As far as I am concerned, the benefit of running a business from home far outweighs the challenges.

Consideration of the problems, frustrations, wants and needs of the other members of the household, need to be carefully built into the arrangement if you are to build harmony into the situation.

If you work alone or are about to leave the corporate world to pursue a small business career, you may soon discover that some of the challenges could ‘make’ or ‘break’ you. As we are basically social animals a traditional work environment can be a great place to be for business success, but not necessarily if you like working alone in a nice atmosphere.

Provided you are in a cheerful, cooperative workplace and your workmates are reasonably normal, working with others can be very satisfying and can help you to be creative, more productive and satisfied with what you do. It, therefore, becomes essential for you to create an environment in a home-based business that will do the same.

 

There are more issues than space

If you’re thinking of starting a home-based business, you have a special set of issues to consider, along with all the usual issues that must be faced by anyone who is starting a new business. Starting a business out of your home can simplify operations for you personally, but it brings with it a whole new set of challenges you need to overcome.

A common concern amongst many home based business owners is whether their clients will consider their business a substantial one, or worse, they are not taken seriously. It is much the same in a ‘Serviced Office’, where concerns have been dissipating rapidly over recent years. Since home businesses are often regarded as hobbies, your professional image and credibility should not be allowed to suffer.

You need to carefully address what becomes a business related expense and what is a private expense, if only for taxation purposes.  It is important to remember that private and business accounting should be entirely separate along with bank accounts.

Insurance policies need to be clearly understood. For example, will you need a private ‘public liability’ insurance cover for the business? While most office spaces have their own security systems, often with security guards, private homes are unlikely to have the same level of protection. Yet home offices are likely to contain expensive pieces of equipment.

 

“One of the things I like most about owning my own business is having more chances to put things right”. Peter Sergeant

 

There can also be an issue with distinguishing between time for household chores with the time that is devoted purely to work-related activities. The house where the office is situated needs to be kept scrupulously tidy at all times.

If your home and business phone lines are to be the same, you don’t necessarily have to answer with your business name. “Hello” might be all that is necessary. The same applies to your answering machine message.

If you can’t answer your phone personally, you don’t want potential customers, clients, or suppliers hanging up because they think they have the wrong number or because your message is off-putting or unprofessional.

This may be okay initially, but many established home-based businesses engage a professional answering service to handle all incoming calls 24/7. It is not expensive and can be very professional and seamless to the caller. Neither you nor your family will want to be receiving business calls at all hours of the day and night.

An answering service can be taken further to include providing basic information and even taking orders and handling any customer complaints.

As long as professional relationships are established in all your dealings, from the word go, then there shouldn’t be too many problems.

 

Design your working environment around the business

While running the business from home, you are able to make a cup of coffee while you send off a few work emails. All the equipment and information that you need should always be on hand. This will make your operations as efficient as possible and limit any interruptions and intrusions from other members of your family.

It is easy to become excited about the prospect of working from home, but you can become carried away and make some basic mistakes, that could have been avoided.

It pays to visit others who have established a successful home-based business over a number of years. They will be able to advise you on some of the pitfalls from their practical experience.

If you want to work at home, a good approach is to match up your skills and interests with the business requirements. Then ask yourself if the business requirements can be met from a home-based business.

Running your own business from home should be enjoyable as well as meeting all yours and you family’s wants and needs. You don’t want or need more problems and frustrations, although compromises may need to be made.

Creating a separate workspace helps, particularly if there’s a door you can shut behind you. But, even if this is possible, it probably won’t be enough on its own.

When you start out you may want to work to the traditional business hours of your community or the hours for your type of business. After you have been in operation for awhile, you will get a feel for whether you could better serve customers and obtain an advantage over your competitors by adjusting your working hours accordingly.

 

Marketing is always a challenge for home-based businesses

Many home-based business owners don’t pay enough attention to marketing until the end of the start-up phase. After all, until your business is up and running, you don’t have anything to market, right? Wrong.

Be quick to incorporate your marketing requirements into your value chain. While the dynamics of your home-based business may be different to a traditional, your marketing approach should still be a well-planned constant.

Marketing is the most important work you do in any type of business, along with providing quality products and services. Unfortunately, many jump into marketing by building a website and sending a few ‘calls-to-action’ in their social media, and then wonder why no one is buying and the bank balance is dwindling.

Good marketing starts by knowing who are the best buyers for your products or services and how they will solve their problems, frustrations, wants and needs. Improving your information flow about your market opportunities should be a high priority.

Focus your decision-making with good information management and analytics, it is not very expensive and will pay big dividends.

It’s important to learn about marketing and plan it during the start-up phase.  You need to create marketing materials with very focused messages. Building up content and information about your business while establishing your website and building your market presence on social media will be important.

 

“Today, consumers are looking for solutions from trusted businesses, so your marketing should clearly demonstrate your expertise while building rapport and trust with the market segments you choose to work with. Your location will not necessarily be a big issue”. Peter Sergeant.

 

There is no secret behind home business success. Building a profitable home business involves research and planning, just like any other business.

Overcoming a fearful mindset, the constraints of time while taking care of all the tasks that make money, will take time. It can be very debilitating to sit in your home office and do your own marketing but not be able to share the successes and failures or have anyone to bounce ideas off. This can slow down your speed to market and ultimate success.

 

Will your home-based business give the right impressions?

You could be concerned that your home office may not be giving the right impression to customers and suppliers. Your concern could be based merely on your own perceptions and not being reflected in any loss of business or negative feedback from clients.

Does your home have an entrance that is less noticeable to neighbours? Too many visitors could cause tension with your neighbours.

When you are working at home, your working hours and your dress code are up to you. But don’t just assume that working at home means working in your pyjamas all day.  While this may not happen often, particularly if you are an early riser, you have to be ready to respond quickly to an unexpected urgent appointment or, receiving an unexpected visit from a customer, or supplier.

As the business grows there will be increasing numbers of visitors to your business.  There are home-based businesses with turnover running into many millions and their clients are not put off by their working arrangements, as long as they are treated in a professional manner.

If you want suppliers, you will need to create a relationship based on good faith and trust, pay your bills on time. This will be important in developing a good relationship with your suppliers so they will be there when you need them to do a little extra for you. If your suppliers are happy they will provide you with reliable, timely service and you can provide your customers and clients with the same.

 

Wherever possible deal with people and organisations you like and respect.

You may find that neighbours, friends, and family feel free to ask you for discounts on your services and products or for free advice and merchandise. They would not think of making this kind of request if you worked in a retail store or for another business, but they feel it’s perfectly acceptable because your business is run from your home.

It’s important to remind those close to you that your livelihood depends on the success of your home-based business. The fact that your business is in your home doesn’t make it any less of a business.

If clients are receiving the products and services they want, then the rest will not be a problem to them. In fact, you have an opportunity to provide a better customer experience in a more relaxed environment, which is probably easier for them to get to and there are no parking problems.

 

Avoid isolation and loneliness

While working at home can provide you with a freedom not possible in a traditional work environment, it can also result in isolation and loneliness. This can result in a lack of concentration and even detrimental to your health and well-being.

Working at home will change your lifestyle, therefore, you need to adapt. When you had a ‘real job’, you may have spent an hour each day walking to and from work, going to lunch and so on.  Now you only need to walk from one room to another. Also, you may have been involved in some company organised sports and other activities, all adding to your health and well-being. It is vitally important you adjust you eating habits and exercise program along with getting plenty of sleep.

Working at home can be lonely if you don’t have employees or co-workers, and you can tend to overeat and miss regular exercise. However, don’t make the mistake of believing that working at home necessitates poor health, feeling isolated and lonely and being out of touch with your friends and contacts.

In a traditional work environment, you work and network with co-workers, you commute back and forth and socialise at work after hours. If you work at home, there are steps you can take to avoid feeling isolated and lonely as well as make and maintain new business contacts:

  • Participate in and plan events that involve people in your local community.
  • Join professional groups such as industry organisations and associations.
  • Join local groups of people working in home-based businesses.
  • Attend workshops and seminars of interest to you.
  • Engage people in the community as you go about your business and recreation.
  • Invite people you like to drop in for a cup of coffee.

 

If you are you buying a new home?

The chances are that your current home and many you look at were not purpose built for a home-based business. When you purchased your current home, you were probably not thinking of starting a home-based business.

When buying a new home consider whether it would it be feasible to build an extension to house an office space or a workshop should you decide to start a home-based business in the future? This is always an important consideration in today’s economic climate, where jobs can be harder to get.

You also need to consider the possibility of employees having to work out of your home, which poses other challenges.

Employees have to respect a clearly defined set of rules. They are not allowed to venture beyond the work office space, the kitchen, and toilet. It’s important that the boundaries are set very clearly from the beginning.

With employees, there could be additional parking problems that need to be addressed along with disability access.

At times, you can be presented with challenges from your spouse. During holidays they may want to chill out at home which can sometimes be impossible due to the presence of employees or clients in an inadequate work space.

 

[read more=”Personal Experience” less=”Personal Experience”]

Personal Experience

Increasing numbers of people will be running their business from home in the future, and there is already plenty of experience out there. The convenience of having no travelling time between home and work is one of the principal attractions of a home based business along with being able to have more family time.

Home-based businesses are a growing part of the business sector. Today, around 60% of all small businesses are run from a home office, even international businesses, so don’t be disillusioned.

With some adjustments, almost any business can successfully work from the home, certainly, your head office can be run from your home. The backyard shed has also become the norm for many small businesses who do some manufacturing, repairs or have the equipment to store.

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