What was once the dream of so many has now become something of a necessity for those looking to diversify and lay down a safety net during turbulent times. Out of choice or obligation, many more Brits are setting up home businesses and side hustles to see them through the months (and potentially even years) of uncertainty ahead.
Quite quickly, the realisation is dawning, that this #wfh thing isn’t as simple as wearing your pyjamas all day, juggling coffee and whisky, and firing off a few emails. There are deadlines to meet, bureaucracy to untangle, and self-discipline required in spades. Working for yourself can be a stressful business, of that there’s no doubt.
That said, if you are intending to go it alone, good on you! The fundamentals should already be in place; an idea, a business plan and funding. But there are other considerations which will take some of the trepidation from treading this unfamiliar path. These are those; our 6 IDEAL tips for successfully starting a business from home.
ACQUIRE A VIRTUAL OFFICE ADDRESS
All businesses need an address; a place to call home, even if it’s somewhere only in the ether. You’ll need one for purchase orders and registration with HMRC/Companies House and you’ll also need one for client communication, your Google address, your website’s contact information and more. Having a business address is crucial; it assures potential clients and customers that you exist and are genuine.
Ask yourself if you really want to be using your home address for your business? Combining your personal and work life can be messy. If your work address is your home address, you can suffer from privacy issues and also appear unprofessional in the eyes of partners and consumers.
What you want is a commercial address that looks the part.
For low annual fees, you can acquire a virtual office address for your business. A virtual office address is essentially a rented address in a corporate location — often in London or another major urban centre. You can’t visit the address or go and work there, but you can use it for all your official business correspondence, including your company’s registered address. All mail sent to this address will be forwarded on to you. Your customers see only a professional business address while you don’t have to pay for expensive office space. Perfect!
DETERMINE THE LEGAL STRUCTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS
Starting your own home business requires specialist knowledge and a good understanding of the law. To be able to appropriately manage the legal structure of your business, you need to be properly informed of the fine print.
The HM Revenue and Customs accept the following legal structures when it comes to home-based businesses: sole traders, business partnerships, and individual partners. As a sole trader, you can run your company as you like. The profits go to you after you’ve paid tax on them. With business partnerships, things are more complicated in the sense that you share the profits and losses. Remember that the partner doesn’t have to be a person. Individual partners, on the other hand, are separate accounting entities, and keep their own records, file their own tax and the rest.
TAKE TIME TO SCHEDULE & FOCUS YOUR WORK
If you’re not used to working at home, running a home business can be a bit of a shock to the system. You are now responsible for your work completion, and there are no bosses or supervisors watching your every move. You are the only one accountable for your work. However, with this being your home, it’s easy to get distracted.
Your phone, your TV, pets, loved ones, even chores, are suddenly all within reach, and nobody is there to tell you to get back to work.
To stop yourself succumbing to temptation, we recommend that those not used to working from home spend time working on discipline and focus — following work plans that force them to avoid distractions within certain periods and making to-do and deadline-meeting lists to ensure things remain on track.
You need to behave like you’re in an office with eyes on your back, even if you aren’t.
ESTABLISH YOUR COMMUNICATION PLATFORMS
Communication in business is essential. Your ability to connect with customers and partners is nothing short of critical to your success. By working at home, you immediately enter a strange state of disconnect from the business world and the usual points of reference in your industry. This is your personal space, not a professional location and people may find that a barrier to the usual effortless communication you’ve shared.
Being at home is not a disadvantage, however, if you take the necessary steps to develop your communication network. How are you going to make sure that people can get in touch with you, and that you can reach out to other people? Phone calls and emails are standard practice, but other methods should be considered to diversify your dialogue channels. Social media platforms and professional messaging services like Slack, Zoom and other video conference software are all important.
That said, communication isn’t always a verbal thing. Sometimes, a customer may have a request (such as an order), or a partner may have a work task to assign you. You might also have to communicate non-verbally, when making supplier orders or sharing ideas via images. Make sure you have a separate way of communicating these needs. From websites to cloud project management software, there are plenty of tools out there to help you manage your communication needs.
MAKE TIME TO ESCAPE YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT
Waking up, following your morning routine, working a full day from home, staying in, relaxing after work, following your evening routine, going to bed and then repeating it all the next day can become quite tedious. And that’s putting things mildly!
It’s so easy to fall into patterns of not leaving your home for days and days on end once you’ve turned it into an office space as well as a domestic one. But leaving those four walls for the vastness of the outside world is essential for your mental wellbeing, physical health and social life, not to mention your productivity at work.
The key to success is defining times for escape. Get involved in sports or exercise groups to provide a sense of accountability and scheduling to your outdoor activities. Make regular arrangements to meet friends in parks or cafés. Give yourself a reason to leave the house, or you might find you’ve meandered through a surprisingly long stretch of life without much to show for it.
Finally, getting that home office kitted out, comfortable and ergonomically sound is essential to your physical and emotional contentment when running a business from home. We’ll save us both some time here and point you in the direction of our article on the 5 home office purchases to make…it’s all there and it’s all useful!