Do you run a virtual business or plan to start one from your home? Thanks to changing technology and attitudes, running a home-based business has gotten a lot easier and more commonplace in the past decade. If you’re planning to house your business out of your home, here are 6 great tips to make the experience a success.
1. Check zoning laws.
In order to avoid trouble down the line, first verify that your home-based business isn’t breaking local zoning laws. For example, most neighborhoods don’t want home-based businesses to increase traffic, create noise, or generate pollution. There are tons of zoning restrictions in effect, all differing from city to city.
How can you verify your home-based business is okay? Research your city, town or county to find out what’s allowed in your area, and be sure to get the proper licenses.
2. Set aside dedicated space for your business.
We’ve all heard the stories about million-dollar businesses that started at the kitchen table, but don’t forget that these businesses didn’t stay at the kitchen table. Without a dedicated space for your business, it’s hard to tune out your personal life, focus, or meet with a customer face-to-face.
How can you create your own space? Even if you have to convert a closet into a tiny office, or section off a corner of the bedroom with a folding screen, do what it takes to stake out a clear working space.
3. Plan for childcare.
Many parents decide to start home-based businesses so they can spend more time with their kids. With that goal in mind though, don’t just assume that you’ll be able to juggle child-rearing along with your new business role! You don’t want your 2-year-old throwing a tantrum in the middle of a conference call with your biggest client.
How can I figure out the childcare balance? Find a childcare arrangement that gives you at least a few hours of uninterrupted work time—whether that’s setting up a co-op with other home-based business owners, or hiring a sitter to come in while you work. Schedule calls and meetings during these hours.
4. Set specific “office hours.”
When you work at home, it’s easy to work long into the night, or at odd hours of the day—after all, your “office” is just steps away. But working irregularly, or just all the time, quickly leads to burnout.
How can I effectively step away each day? Set clear working hours that your family, friends and clients can count on, and stick to them as best you can.
5. Be honest with friends, family and neighbors.
Working at home opens up your workday to neighbors and family members dropping by to chat, asking you to let the cable man into their apartments, or otherwise acting like you’re just sitting around the house. To these folks, you can say “Susan, I’d love to chat, but I have to get ready for a conference call in 15 minutes. Can I catch up with you after dinner?”, and it won’t offend anyone.
How can I gracefully exit these situations? Be polite, but firm, in letting “interrupters” know that you’re working.
6. Be ergonomic.
Here’s a less intuitive one. Suppose you get back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome from long hours at an uncomfortable desk. When you’re an employee, you can get workers’ comp. When you’re self-employed, though, you’ve got no one but yourself to blame, so don’t chintz on your work setup!
How can I avoid these common workplace injuries? Spend what you need to on a quality office chair, a desk at the proper height, and accessories like headsets, wrist rests and lumbar pillows to keep yourself in proper alignment. Step away from the computer regularly to stretch your body and rest your eyes.