As anyone knows who has ever tried, starting up a home business can be a tricky affair, and one that requires a good deal of forethought, organization, and compartmentalizing. From the very beginning, you are presented with the difficulty of bringing into harmony the disparate realms of your personal life and your professional one. Sure, the allure of working in your bathrobe with a three-day beard or curlers in your hair is what drew you to this endeavor in the first place, but that image is the last one you want your clients to associate with your new business.
Fortunately, you are not the first to encounter this difficulty, and you certainly won’t be the last. So we’ve put together some tips to help make your transition from the bedroom workspace to the boardroom a smooth and successful one.
Build a Web Presence
These days, a website is absolutely essential for every business, and especially for at-home startups. When you don’t have a shop front or a physical office space to present to your clients, the first thing you need to do is to create a digital space to serve as the face of your business. If you are operating on a low budget––which you probably are––the good news is that, if you have the time and patience, you can set up a website very cheaply. Purchasing a domain only costs a few pounds a month, and all the information and templates you will need to create a customized page are easily found for free online.
On the other hand, for those who are not so tech savvy or who just don’t have the time, hiring a web developer is a necessary and essential investment.
Whatever Leaves Your Business, Is Your Business
It is easy to get caught up in the flood of the essentials and forget about the little things. Guard against this. Obviously, the projects you do for your clients are the most important part of your work, but when it comes to professionalism, the minutia of invoices, quotes, emails, faxes, phone calls, and letterhead are equally important. Establish a clean, professional image for your business from the very beginning by paying close attention to every scrap of paper and information that leaves your home office. There are many inexpensive and easy tools for streamlining and professionalizing yourself, like the Google Docs free templates for business invoicing or printing house promotions like this one from Print Express for small businesses.
Don’t underestimate the value of creating a company logo to attach to everything from emails to business cards. You want to be associated with a clean, standardized, professional image.
If you want to be successful, you need to play to your strengths. One of yours happens to be that you always take your work home with you. Keep business hours of 9-5 when your clients know that you’ll always be accessible for a call or a meeting, but also be available after hours when your conventional business competitors can’t be. It will go a long way.
No matter what your work, you are guaranteed to be competing with bigger enterprises with more resources, and more overhead. So when it comes to selling yourself, don’t just follow industry standard pricing. Do the work to find out what you need to make, and what your costs are, and then set your pricing appropriately. Chances are you can work for a lot less––a major selling point for any business.
As the old adage claims: no risk without reward. Starting a business is always a risky affair, but it holds the potential for enormous personal gain. The key is to reduce risk as much as possible, and that means presenting yourself as a fully formed, carefully polished, well-oiled business mechanism from the very start (even if you aren’t yet). So don’t lose sight of the details that spell success.