Building a small home-based business from scratch isn’t easy, so preparation is key to ensuring success. Transitioning from an office environment to a home business can result in ample rewards, but it’s essential to have the right mindset, strategy, and tools.
The age of digital has brought many advantages to small businesses. Tools and techniques that were once the domain of big business have become far more accessible. To help ensure success, here are some of our top tips to get you started.
Be prepared to manage money
As a salaried worker, you typically bring your paycheck home at the end of the year and settle income tax annually. As a business owner, you need to handle paying salaries, calculating personal taxes and company taxes, and manage the money for other operational needs.
Unless you’re prepared to engage a bookkeeper, you need a more reliable way of managing finances. One way of doing this more efficiently is to subscribe to a Cloud-based accounting package like Quickbooks.
I’ve been running my home-based business for several years now, and Quickbooks has eased my life immensely. It’s a centralized system for me to record income and expenses, plus provides on-demand reports whenever I need them.
You can even attach receipts, create invoices, and much more. Then at the end of the year, your accountant can access everything directly and help you tabulate your taxes. It saves lots of time, confusion, and money.
If Quickbooks isn’t the right choice for you, there are many alternative options available. Some examples include Freshbooks, Xero, and Financio.
Cloud accounting services like Quickbooks makes your business finances much more manageable (Image source: Accounting Stuff)
Consider your web hosting needs
Small businesses often deal with small clients. Even if that isn’t the case, it remains very likely that some of your customers will ask you for more than simply web design. For those who need a complete package, having a reliable web hosting partner can make life easier for you.
If it happens frequently enough, consider signing up for a reseller package or Virtual Private Server (VPS) plan that you can sublet to various customers. Having an asset such as this can help you provide more comprehensive services as well.
Many small businesses may balk at web hosting fees while not understanding the implications of the service. You may know the difference between free and paid web hosting and why they perform differently, but they often will not.
For customers like these, be prepared to do some hand-holding. Your reputation is on the line if they decide to place your brilliantly designed website on a free hosting plan.
VPS or Reseller hosting can allow you to:
- Use your branding for customers.
- Allocate individual hosting spaces for each.
- More easily bill customers for their web hosting packages.
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Be prepared for remote collaboration
Home businesses are often small-scale, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be working alone. While I hate office environments, these admittedly offer the opportunity for more accessible communication and collaboration.
Having the right tools will allow your remote design team to work together more cohesively. There are many options available, but remember, you need to be able to cover:
Communication - Depending on your workflow, you may be happy with a simple text messaging platform. Given that we live in the 21st century, one that supports voice and video will be preferable.
Task Management - Having the right project or task manager can help smooth workflow considerably. Find one that will allow you to post tasks for remote workers and track assignments with it as well.
Collaboration - As a writer, I use Google Docs since it includes excellent collaborative features. Depending on the tools you use, find one where your entire team can access documents or designs to enable seamless input from all parties.
My combination of choice for this includes:
- Asana for project management
- Slack for communications
- Google Docs for collaborative work
Asana offers great visual workflow control for remote work teams. (Image source: Asana)
Security needs to be prioritized
One of the biggest mistakes that home business owners make is to neglect security. I’m not talking about locking your front door, but the cybersecurity equivalent of doing that. Home networks can be notoriously insecure, and if you plan on running a business from home, you need the proper safeguards in place.
As long as you’ve got a device connected to the Internet, there’s a chance you may get hacked. If that happens, your entire business may be at risk. Consider a hacker gaining access to your financial documents and confidential client information; the result may be a severe monetary and reputational loss.
There are many cybersecurity best practices to consider, including:
- Securing your router and wireless network
- Keeping applications updated
- Making sure you use strong passwords
- Using a reputable Internet security application
I also strongly advocate using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to ensure digital security and privacy. These tools can help you mask your home IP address and block trackers on websites that you visit.
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Get a subscription for images
Whether you’re planning to start a design business or any other, you’ll need access to a repository of stock images to use. These can be put to good use for various needs; creating designs for your customers, preparing your marketing materials, or building your business website.
In the past, images ruled the day but increasing broadband access means you may need various formats of stock materials. Some examples include voice clips, video b-roll, and more. It helps keep things more dynamic and exciting.
There are many places you can sign up for subscriptions, but how much it costs can vary greatly. Some of the best resources you can consider:
- Getty Images
- iStock Photos
- ShutterStock Photos
If your focus is purely on websites, you may want to consider signing up with a Cloud-based design tool as well. These can help speed up the design process for various things like social media post images, brochures, infographics, and more.
Set up a separate office space
You may think running a home-based business is ideal since everything is within reach. However, it isn’t as peachy as that, and you may find it very distracting at times. Although you’re working from home, set aside some dedicated workspace to ensure you’re able to focus.
Keep some things at arm’s length, such as your TV or sofa. At the same time, the “office space’’ needs to be equipped with the proper hardware to serve business needs. Consider investing in a decent desk and an ergonomic chair so you won’t suffer as you work.
This office-like space doesn’t mean you need to keep all creature comforts at bay, though; remember that the main idea is to facilitate your work. If that means access to a radio playing Jazz while you’re at it, then, by all means, go ahead.
Get your legal documents in order
Even home-based businesses need the proper paperwork so make sure yours is in order. What you need will vary depending on your location and, sometimes, the nature of your business. Some of the permits you may need may include;
- General business license
- Health or safety permit
- Professional license
- Tax license
While you can often find the necessary licensing information online, make sure to check details for your locality as well. Some businesses may require specific zoning, so check to see if you actually can run your business out of your home premises.
Conclusion: Being your boss is rewarding
Starting your home-based business can be challenging, but it doesn’t come without rewards. Purring aside the potential for higher income, you quickly learn to become very hands-on at things you may have taken for granted in the past.
Don’t let the million and one things to consider be an obstacle. Instead, take it as a challenge to overcome and look forward to the satisfaction of seeing both yourself and the business grow as you develop.