Starting a home-based business can be a fulfilling enterprise. For entrepreneurs, a home office provides the benefits of self-employment without the extensive costs associated with renting an office, purchasing equipment, and other related expenses. However, to establish a successful home-based business, you need to need how to properly set up your home office.
For Steps to Setting Up Your Home Office
1. Your first step should be to check with your local government about zoning regulations. In some communities, certain types of home-based businesses are prohibited. These types of businesses usually involve the coming and going of a large number of customers. Most local governments have a web site that explain local regulations, so try typing your city’s name into a search engine with the word “zoning” to find out if your business qualifies.
2. Once you get the green light from your local government, you'll need to choose the part of your home to use for your home office. Give careful consideration to the amount of room you are going to need. The most desirable arrangement is to set aside an entire room for your office, particularly if you plan to use the office for client meetings. (delete)If clients won't be an issue, you can always section off a portion of another room for your office, making sure you give yourself enough room for a desk, computer, filing cabinet, and other necessities. Also, review IRS publication 587 – Business Use of Your Home to determine the requirements to take advantage of qualifying deductions.
3. Keep in mind that when you are just starting up your business, you do not need to overspend on unnecessary or overpriced equipment initially. As your business grows, you can always upgrade your equipment. However, it is advisable to have at a minimum a computer, a dedicated phone line, and a fax machine (if you can find a reasonably priced all-in-one printer/copy/scanner/fax that's even better) and a filing system for tracking invoices and receipts. Another necessity is some type of accounting software like QuickBooks Simple Start. Even if you decide to hire an accountant to assist you in handling your taxes, you'll need to keep track of your incoming and outgoing cash.
4. Finally, it's a good idea to visit your local bank and set up a business checking account. For tax purposes, you should keep your personal expenses and your business expenses separate. Plus, it allows your clients to write checks to your business name, which is more professional.
Keeping a Professional Image Working From Home
While home-based businesses are gaining more respect today, some potential customers still question the professionalism of someone who might be doing their work in their pajamas. However, there are ways for you to combat these stereotypes and maintain a highly professional image even with a home office. One of these is mentioned above, keeping a separate checking account for your business. Clients who have to write their checks to you, not your business, will not view you as a professional organization.
Before you set up that account, however, you should make two other stops: your post office and your phone company. At the post office, you'll want to rent a post office box. There are several good reasons for taking this step. Obviously, using a post office box as your address will obscure the fact from your clients that you are working from your home. Another advantage is that it protects your privacy – a definite asset for you and your family. A post office box is a safe way to receive your mail, especially if you may be receiving checks or important documents.
With the phone company, you'll want to have a separate line installed for your business phone. In fact, if you suspect you may receive a great deal of faxes, you may want to install two new lines: one dedicated to your fax machine and one for your phone. The price of an extra line is fairly affordable, but if money is tight, you could also use a mobile phone as your dedicated telephone line. If you choose that route, be sure that you consistently get good reception in your home office and keep your phone charged at all times. Whether you opt for a mobile line or a land line for your business calls, be sure to have either an answering machine or voice mail ready to take a message from clients when you're not able to answer for yourself. Understand that many new clients will not call back if no body answers when they call, so it is important to answer as many calls as you can.
One final nice touch is business cards, pre-printed envelopes and business letterhead. While you don't need to spend a fortune on business cards and stationary when you're starting out, you also don't want to skimp on quality. With your business cards, you can often find the best deals on custom printing at office supply stores. Choose the best quality paper possible – it does make a big impression on potential clients.
Keeping Work Life & Home Life Separate
Traditionally, work life stays at work (or at least it should), but when your office is in your home keeping that separation can be challenging. Separating your work space from your office space will help you make this transition (One good reason to do all of the steps discussed above). If your office phone and business mail are separate from your personal calls and mail, then you have more control over how intrusive your work is in your personal life. You don't have to worry about getting client phone calls during dinner because that phone line will be directed to your voice mail and/or your answering machine.
A second way to establish this boundary is by establishing a set work hours. If your business was run from an office outside your home, you certainly wouldn't be there and available 24 hours a day, would you? (deleted – answer to rhetorical question) Set working hours that are convenient for the types of clients you work with. For example, if you take photographs in your home, you may want your business hours to include weekends and evenings to accommodate clients. On the other hand, if you provide professional services to other businesses, such as accounting, then you would want to keep fairly standard hours.
When the end of your business day comes, you turn on your answering machine, turn off your computer, and close the door to your office. However, when your business hours start the next day, you should be in your office and ready to work. This type of discipline is key not only to preventing your home-based business from taking over your life but also to running a successful home office.
The opposite is true for staying motivated to get work done while working from home. The television, personal phone calls, even housework can all suddenly seem like a priority in the middle of your work day. Make sure that when you get up in the morning you dress appropriately. Feeling more professional can go a long way in keeping your work load a priority. Turn off you personal phone line and let the answering machine get the call. Finally, set boundaries with your family if they are home at the same time. Saying to your family, “Mom/Dad is working when I am in this office, and I can’t be disturbed unless it is an emergency” can help eliminate distractions throughout the day.
Starting a business is a challenging venture on its own, but tying to run a business from your home brings new challenges to the picture. Following the above steps will alleviate some of these challenges and will give you a greater chance of growing your business into a successful company.