Many entrepreneurs opt for working from home, but as with many business decisions; it’s not to be taken lightly. There are lots of benefits, such as a better work-life balance, flexible hours, no commute and potential tax write-offs, however there are also some challenges. An important aspect of operating a successful home-based business is self-discipline. You need to display skill and competence to your customers wherever you are based, so here are some tips for getting the most out of your home office – professionally and personally.
Create a Dedicated Workspace
Start by setting a boundary between your work and your living space. A private, organized office will provide separation from the demands of home life and will also enable you to set parameters and expectations for family members and friends. Take time to design the layout of your space and if you’re going to be sitting a lot, invest in a good ergonomic chair. Choose colours that inspire you and remember that it needs to be functional first and beautiful second.
Establish a Routine
Making a daily routine and setting tasks is important. Get into the right mindset by dressing for work and leaving the PJs in the closet. Keep regular office hours whenever possible. Disallow chore distractions; that pile of laundry can wait a little while longer. Mentally prepare yourself for a day at the office, but know when to close the door and walk away.
Although you work from home, a professional presence is still mandatory. Assuming that you have met all the rules and regulations of your municipal by-laws, as well as insurance requirements, customers and clients may need to know where you are. Therefore, proper signage is a must. A business phone, website, letterhead, office equipment and supplies are necessary as well. Depending on the type of business you have, consider setting up a P.O. Box if you want your location to remain anonymous, yet still have a business address for correspondence.
Sometimes professional relationships can be limited when you work from home. One of the most important tips for home-based entrepreneurs is to stay in touch with people. Getting outside the office and connecting with peers and other professionals will have a significant impact on developing those relationships. There are professional groups on LinkedIn where you can join in discussions. Also, when planning your work week, consider setting up in-person meetings instead of conference calls so you can build socialization into your routine. Look into getting a membership with local business organizations such as Boards of Trade and Chambers of Commerce so you can get out to the networking events they host.
Ramp up Your Tech Skills
Make sure you have the best IT at your fingertips and that you can get a technical expert on site quickly when you need it. Invest in back-up technology to ensure you can access your files in case you get hacked or have a system meltdown (It happens!). If you are doing a lot of presentations, look at signing up for web-conferencing software such as GoToMeeting or Cisco WebEx.
Get Tax Advice
There are definite tax perks when it comes to operating a home-based business, but before you run off to buy the most elaborate furniture for your office or a new vehicle, do your research so you know what the eligible tax credits are. Canada Revenue’s website is a great place to start and your accountant will also be able to give you guidance. It is better to avoid disappointment (and worse, unexpected tax bills) by being informed from the get-go.
One trait that all entrepreneurs have is adaptability. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your home office and working environment as your business evolves. If you find that you are not as productive or as motivated as you could be, or that you just can’t adapt to a home office, the beauty is that you have the ability to change it.