Starting a home-based business is often a good idea – it helps to test the waters, to find out if your business idea can be sustained in the long run. Lower start-up costs and lower financial risks make it an easy ‘experiment’ to try out. Once you are convinced that the business is growing and has potential, you can look for office space outside. But before you make arrangements to set up your office at home, make sure you have taken the following into consideration:
Find out about zoning restrictions The first step before you set up a home office is to find out if there are zoning restrictions in your area that prohibit you from working at home. Usually there are no restrictions as long as your work is not bothering the neighbourhood or posing a hazard. But it’s advisable to check with your municipality or housing society about any existing zoning ordinances. If there’s any, you may have to consult with a lawyer. Also, you need to check for permits, business licenses and registrations.
Choose an appropriate working space Be realistic about your needs and expectations. Also, consider the fact that your home office needs to create impression on your clients as well.
• Choose an area that is away from the main household, quiet and private. This will help avoiding distractions to you while working or entertaining clients.
• Work area should be properly lighted, clean and well-ventilated.
• It should have enough space to move about. Keep enough room for desk, chairs, filing cabinets, other equipments etc. • If feasible, have a separate entrance to your home office. This will limit the ‘casual’ visitors dropping in for a chat.
Use practical furniture Though it’s tempting to use some of the existing home furniture, it is best to use minimalistic, practical and office-like furniture in the work space. The key is to make work space look good and work friendly. • Use a proper computer table or desk while working. • Pay attention to ergonomics when you’re selecting chairs as you will be spending a major portion of your day sitting in it. • Buy modular filing cabinets, computer desks etc. as they are easily movable and cheaper. You can also find them for cheap in second hand furniture markets.
Avoid distractions Working from home shouldn’t compromise on your professionalism. Hence, take care of distractions and disturbances caused by activities at home. • Ask family members to tone down their noise levels; that means no blaring TV and loud phone conversations.If possible, get soundproofing done. • Refrain from chit-chatting with guests or household members during working hours. • If you have a window in your home office, resist the temptation to look outside from it every now and then.
Invest in home office equipments wisely Though you would like to minimize the cost on fancy office equipment, there are certain things that are unavoidable; hence plan carefully and invest in them wisely.
• Have a separate land-line for a home office. It avoids ambiguity and keeps your professional image intact. If a separate land-line number is not possible, don’t give one out at all.
• Install the equipments that are updated with smart and latest technology. – Appropriate computer system with fast broadband internet connection and all necessary software (financial ones too) – Storage and back up devices – Printer, Scanner, Fax machine, Copy machine – Answering machine with a business message – Smart phone – Tablet if your business needs one.
Make a list of office rules Taking things for granted is the biggest threat to working from home. Hence, make a list of office rules, stick it by your desk and follow them diligently. • Wear the same clothes that would be expected in a professional office environment. • Ask your family members to treat your home office like a unit that is separate from the rest of the house. • Establish standard working hours with appropriate break times. It will not only facilitate your clients in knowing when you are available for business but will also help creating a good work-life balance.
Keep track of accounting and budget Don’t give budgeting a miss; if at all keep it tight and have a conservative approach while planning for a home office. • Set up separate bank account, credit cards for your business. This will make your accounting much easier. In case, you are unable to get a business credit card, get a personal card and use it only for business expenses. • Make a simple budget in Excel and record every business expense that is made.