Amazon, Apple, Dell, Disney, Google, Harley-Davidson, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Nike. The names are instantly recognizable because they’re all giants in the world of commerce. But do you know what else these companies have in common? They were all started at home — proving to entrepreneurs everywhere that spending a lot on overhead is not necessary to begin building a successful business.
Starting a business can be intimidating, especially when you’re setting up and running an office from your home. You’re bound to run into some issues along the way, but those can be dispatched with a little foresight. And the troubles will be worth it once you begin to see your empire grow beyond your dining room table.
Nail down the logistics
Establishing ground rules early to help govern your time, space and processes can save you a lot of trouble in the future.
1. Set a schedule
One of the most difficult (and most important)items for running a business from home is setting up a schedule. You’ll likely want to give every waking moment to your business — and when your office is just down the hall from your bedroom, you can start before the morning coffee’s even ready. However, try to contain that urge.
Working nonstop is a short road to burnout and can cause problems down the road. Set up specific hours for working, as you would with an office job, and you’ll conserve your energy for the long haul.
2. Meet the legal requirements
When filing your company’s initial paperwork, it’s important to know the rules and regulations your city imposes upon home-based businesses. You’ll need to obtain any necessary permits or look into the fine print of your lease agreement to make sure working from your apartment is an option.
3. Create a fulfillment process
Finding customers and selling products or services is only half the battle. Delivering those products or services is the other —and it needs to happen in a way that works best for your customers. If you’re not organized with a process in place, it’s easy to waste time and energy dealing with incorrect orders, delayed timelines, damaged products and unhappy clients. Establish a fulfillment process to make sure you’re sending out orders accurately, in a timely manner and to the right buyers.
Set up your space
Creating a designated space to work within your home is not only necessary, but it also offers great peace of mind when your work and life can so easily merge.
4. Make a little, do a lot
A space-saving option for a small home is a floating desk, which mounts straight onto the wall and takes up less space than a typical desk. Or consider choosing a closet to serve as your office. This provides a dedicated working space while still allowing you to close the door and leave the office after working hours. Consider storing anything extra in a storage unit.
5. Keep your space clean
Working in an office building means having a janitor come in after hours to vacuum and clean around workstations. Once you forego that convenience, office maintenance becomes your responsibility.
6. Explore the world of co-working
For the times when you need a place to meet with clients or contractors, consider renting a co-working space. Many offer open floorplans with different “microenvironments” that are suited to holding meetings, collaborating, or working independently without distraction.
7. Bring the outside in
When you’re focused on work, it’s easy to isolate yourself. To bring in the outside world, decorate your home office with house plants. They’re beautiful, provide clean air to your workspace and have been shown to improve your mood. Similarly, remember to leave the house regularly for some fresh air. The fact that you no longer have to commute is not a license to hole up indefinitely.
Take care of your tech
With modern technology, a business owner can do almost anything from a laptop. The trick is not to seem like you’re skimping on overhead, even if you can keep some costs to a minimum. Taking the time to get your technology straight should be among the first items on your to-do list.
8. Troubleshoot cell and Internet service problems
If you run into any communication issues, the service you provide will suffer. Test your Internet speed, WiFi signal and call quality in your home office — and make sure you have a completely reliable tech kit in place. You may want to update your Internet or cell plan to have business-grade service, and compare providers who offer small business packages.
9. Boost your cell signal
If your cell signal is weak, consider buying a microcell unit, which works by using an Internet connection to give it a boost. If a microcell isn’t an option, you could try a cell booster — however, note that you may have to mount equipment outside your home to use this.
10. Increase Internet dependability
Working at home also can mean trying to function with spotty Internet dependability. If you can’t count on Internet access when you need it, the first thing to do is make sure your router is up to date. After that, consider moving it to another location in the house and as close as possible to your workstation. Remove obstacles between your computer and the router, so the signal can travel more easily.
11. Increase WiFi security
The Number One rule for solid WiFi security is to make sure you have a strong WiFi password that keeps strangers from connecting to your network. Make sure to only give the password to those you know and trust. (You can also setup a guest network with a separate password.) Get in touch with your Internet service provider and ask about other options to increase WiFi security.
Worth the effort
Clearly, establishing your home-based business will be a lot of work — but will come with a lot of rewards if done correctly.
Among other tasks, you’ll need to devise a business plan, address legal and logistical concerns, configure your home workspace to fit your company’s needs and optimize the technology that will help you satisfy clients. With these conditions fulfilled, building a big business in a small space could be the best thing to ever happen to you.