You’ve decided you’ve had enough. No more 9-to-5. No more meetings or dress codes. It’s time you started working for you instead of the company. It’s time you started your own at-home business.
Of course it is. Starting an at-home business can be very empowering. But making an at-home business successful and viable year after year is difficult. Before you turn in that resignation letter and move from your cubicle to your couch, make sure you’ve carefully considered each of these questions.
- What will you do? What skills or services will you provide your paying customers? Will the service you provide be an extension of what you did at your previous job? Or will it be an extension of a passion you previously pursued in your free time? Not all business models can be turned into successful at-home businesses. Make sure your business plan can be executed from your home by researching the field. If others do what you do from their homes, for starters, then you’re probably on the right track.
- Is there a market? People won’t do business with you simply because you own an at-home company. You must provide a service or good that they need, and one with a market that isn’t already saturated with competitors. Before you commit wholeheartedly to your at-home business, make sure there is a waiting, available market. Otherwise your at-home business will be just you, sitting at home.
- Are there any permits or regulations you must consider? Depending on your at-home business and where you live, you may be required to obtain certain permits. Contact your local or state business development department to learn which permits and/or licenses are required for businesses in your area.
- How will you reach your customers? Working for a bigger company offers you name recognition and an established client base. As an at-home business owner, you are essentially starting from ground zero (or close to it) when it comes to a customer base. So what’s your marketing plan? How will you reach customers? Is it through ads in the local paper or online? Attending networking events? Offering free demos of your services? To be a successful at-home business owner, you must realize that you are not just a writer, photographer, house cleaner or other professional; you’re also the head of your own marketing department. And without the latter, your main role won’t matter much.
- Where will you work? If your marketing efforts are successful, customers will come. So where will you work to provide the services they demand? It’s a good idea to establish a space in your home for your business. This can be your office, your basement or even your garage. An established space will make it easier for you to stay organized and focus on work when it needs your attention.
- What about your neighbors? Will your at-home company bother your neighbors? If you’re working as a writer, it probably won’t. But if your business is constantly drawing people to your home or if it requires you to work loudly at odd hours, they may notice. Remember, you live beside your neighbors all the time now.
- What’s your budget? Starting an at-home business is often more cost efficient than launching a traditional small business. Yet there is still equipment to buy, licenses to obtain and, of course, a marketing plan to write. Determine the budget for your at-home business ahead of time and then do some honest research to learn how much it will all cost. Make sure you factor in expenses for professionals you will need to help you run your business, such as accountants and lawyers. If the two numbers don’t add up, you’ll have to adjust your expectations.
- What are your future goals? This is the fun part of your planning session because it allows you to dream. Consider where you see your at-home business in five or ten years. Is it your goal to hire employees? Do you want to provide some new service, or simply continue as you started but with increased volume and revenue? You should also look at your industry and consider how it might change in the next five to ten years. How will you respond to that change? Planning ahead will keep your business fresh and prevent you from being left behind when the market shifts.
Another thing you need to consider is insurance. The next (and final) post will tell you what you need to know about home-based business insurance.