So, you want to start a home-based business (work from home)?
If you want to start a small business, you need to think about the pros and cons of running a business from home, versus from an external office. If you then decide to work from home, you need to consider the below issues and challenges.
An online-only shopfront can work really well
If you run your business from home, your online shopfront is the only place to showcase your business.
If you are running your business from home, you need a really good online shopfront. This is the place your customers who “walk past” (virtually) can check out what you are selling.
Your online shopfront will be a combination of a website, advertisements, and social media pages or profiles (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook/Meta). In addition to these, your online shopfront will need you to spread yourself around the internet via social media and other platforms. Some examples are:
- regular blogging (connected to your website
- regular Youtube videos
- social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others
- socialise in closed and public groups connected to what you are selling; e.g. I am an editor/writer and so I am very active in online editor groups, writer groups, and publishing industry groups
- be very generous with your advice online. What goes around comes around!
How to meet with online clients and customers
Your main tools for doing business with customers are email, telephone, Zoom, your website and the various online and social media platforms you use.
Whilst you may meet with local customers or clients face to face, in most online businesses this is rare these days. Virtually all services and goods can be sold and delivered without any face-to-face meetings.
However, when they can be managed, face-to-face meetings are an excellent way to connect and network with your customers and potential customers. Attending industry forums or conferences where you can actually get to know people face to face can bring you into contact with potential clients and also potential partners and professional colleagues, and this will benefit your business in the long run.
But do you have what it takes to run a business?
If you want your online business to be competitive, you’ll need these skills and qualities:
- really good knowledge of what you’re selling and who your customers are.
- proficiency online and using computers, and willing to learn extra skills.
- be willing to work very long hours including weekends for the first couple of years.
- be able to use, or learn to use, a book-keeping program to manage your finances.
- be very good at communicating with people via telephone and Zoom, and excellent at expressing yourself professionally in writing (emails, social media).
- be an ‘ideas person’, creative and enthusiastic, but also practical and realistic.
You’ll also need to have the usual office equipment such as phone, internet, computer, printer etc. It’s also a good idea to have back-up funds, in case you need financial support during the first year or two of managing your business.
Case study – what I knew (and didn’t know) when I began my business
When I decided to start up a home-based business, I launched myself into it straight away without any training in small business management. It was only once I was managing my business and up to my neck in expenses, income, bank statements and BAS that I realised I needed some formal training.
In between managing clients and bookings and earning money, I learned about business plans, marketing, book-keeping and other business practices.
In retrospect, trying to learn the basics of business management whilst flat out working was really exhausting and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
If you want to start a business, I suggest that you first undertake at least a short course in small business management. This will make it easier to manage your business and mitigate the risks of running a business.
More information about working from home
- Work-life balance when working from home
- The benefits of working from home
- 4 rules for staying healthy (when you work from home)
- Safety for women freelancers and sole traders
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