When starting or growing your home-based business, you will need your work area clearly defined and separate from your living and family areas. Find a room or build one in the basement, backyard, or garage that you can dedicate to your business and nothing else. The area must be separate (mentally and physically) from your personal living space. Let your kids know this area is off limits to them 24/7. If you’re going to have a successful business, you need a professional business location. And if you use this area only for business purposes, you may even get a tax deduction. Check with your accountant for the current guidelines.
Here are some important things to consider so you can make your home-based business a success:
- Close off your work/business area in some way from the rest of the house.
- Lock the office door when you’re out or during non-business hours.
- Keep children and family members out of your business area.
- Use a modern phone system with multiple lines and voicemail for when you’re busy or out of your office.
- Forward calls to your cell phone if you feel comfortable taking them when you aren’t in the office.
- Get dedicated lines for your fax and Internet. (Your fax line shouldn’t be busy just because you’re using the Internet.)
- If you will accept credit cards, connect your merchant machine through your fax machine.
- An inexpensive air purifier will refresh musty and dirty air from a closed-in room.
- Install a closed-circuit TV system to watch your children, if applicable.
- Paint walls a light, neutral color. It can help avoid fatigue.
- Hang motivational posters or pictures on free wall space.
- Mount a dry erase or blackboard to keep schedules and appointments in view.
- Have a smoke alarm and a fire extinguisher in the room.
- Use a large wastebasket that doesn’t need to be emptied daily.
- If you have space, get a water cooler so you don’t have to keep leaving your office to refill your water glass.
- Use a radio or stereo for soft background music, but do not use a television.
- Buy a comfortable chair that swivels and rolls.
- Use locking file cabinets for records (and keep them locked during non-business hours).
- If you have room, a small refrigerator for drinks and snacks is a nice addition.
- Get an offsite mailbox with a street address. These are usually available from the UPS Store or Postal Annex.
Never let a caller hear children crying or yelling in the background (unless your business is daycare)—that’s an immediate turnoff. If you can’t control it or you have a sudden emergency, just let your voicemail take the call. You can return the call as soon as things settle down. Your customers need to know they are working with a professional who puts their needs first. And if you need to take your child to the doctor or dentist during working hours, just say you have another appointment and don’t explain further.
Clean and organize your home office regularly during non-business hours. You don’t want to spend valuable customer-contact time looking for things that have been misplaced. Good office organization is key to quick and effective work habits. If you plan correctly, customers and clients won’t realize that you are working out of your home. Make your home-based office a business-only room, and with hard work and a little luck, your business will outgrow it. But while you have it, it’s all business.