You have an incredible idea for a business, an idea that will disrupt an entire industry. You want to get started right away, but there is one problem: you don’t have the capital to rent an office space. Instead, you quickly decide to convert the kid’s playroom into your new company headquarters and get going. While this sounds like an easy solution, there are several things to keep in mind when running a business out of your home. Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a professional job service for flexible workers, offers her top tips for success.
Establish a business address
Asking your clients to send their RFPs to your home address can come off as unprofessional, especially if you live at 1234 Prairie View Circle (it sounds a little residential, don’t you think?). “I recommend utilizing a P.O. Box or maybe the UPS store near your house as your business’s primary residence,” says Sutton Fell. “You can always change your address later on if you move into a more commercial location.”
Structure your time wisely
Working from home comes with a fair amount of inherent distractions: your children may need to go to the doctor in the middle of the day, your dog could get sick and need attention (or a walk or two or three), the pile of laundry in your bedroom may start sending you subliminal messages to be washed. Whatever the distraction, give yourself some breathing room to work during the hours that are best for you.
“I usually plan to work around 50 hours per week, but I have young kids and things come up, so, really, that 50 hours has a buffer built in. If I work around 45 I’ll be fine,” says Sutton Fell. “Sometimes I work in the evening and sometimes in the early morning. It really depends on the needs of my family and what is going on during any particular day.”
Set up a business phone number
Sutton Fell doesn’t believe in using her home phone or cell phone as her main business line. Instead, she uses a third-party phone service provider that routes her calls via a voice message system. “It sounds like you are calling one general number and that number is then linked to different extensions, but, in reality, the call is being routed to my cell phone,” she says.
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Beware of the ambient noise
Make sure to clear your office of barking dogs and crying children before your next conference call; background sound can hurt your credibility, especially if your client doesn’t know that you work from home. “Noise is a really big issue and the exact moment when your baby starts to cry could be the moment when you start to lose trust and professionalism,” says Sutton Fell. “I really suggest dedicating a separate workspace so you can have the utmost quiet throughout your day.”