Running a business from home offers many benefits to entrepreneurs, such as a flexible schedule, no commute, and a lack of office politics, but it also presents its own unique challenges. According to Helene K. Liatsos, President of Home Office Management Experts, there are seven mistakes that she sees home-based entrepreneurs make.
1. Not Writing a Business Plan
Every startup needs a business plan, and according to Liatsos, a home-based startup is no exception. “Think of it as a road map,” she says. “It tells you where you are, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there.” As you write the plan, you’ll begin to put together the pieces of how to divide your time between your business and home life, where you’ll locate your office, what equipment to buy, and what to expect in terms of having enough money to continue to cover your home expenses, plus the added expenses of running a business.
2. Not Understanding the Need for Capitalization
“Lots of people start off part-time while they work their full-time job, and that’s okay,” says Liatsos. But you can’t start a business believing that you’ll be able to pay your bills with the business’ sales because they can be slow to come in. Instead, you’ll need to create a budget. She suggests doing some research and putting together a list of your startup costs and your daily operating costs. Then, take a look at both your business and home budget, and see how they fit together. By doing this, you’ll be able to plan and save accordingly so you can properly capitalize your business before opening.
3. Not Understanding the Discipline and Structure Necessary to Work From Home
Liatsos says that when working from home, you can’t just wing it. Every day you must have a plan for what you need to do. And you must factor into that plan the inevitable distractions that come when you work from home. For example, you’ll need to have a plan for when the kids stay home sick, the dog needs walking, grocery shopping needs to be done, and the laundry is piling up. Focus is the key, she says, and you need to work on that skill every day.
4. Not Keeping a Separate Space for Your Business
“I know that space is often limited,” Liatsos says, “but you don’t want to set up shop in the kitchen or dining room where everyone in the household congregates.” For instance, she says it’s wise to not put yourself in a position where you have to set up your office in the morning and then take it apart when it’s time for dinner. Instead, create a professional environment where you can concentrate on business matters without distractions and disturbances.
5. Not Being Organized
In order to be effective in your business, you need to be efficient. For example, if you have to spend time looking for a client’s file, you’re not earning money during the process, but instead just wasting time. Liatsos says that you should take the time to get organized, and then have the discipline to maintain that organization on a daily basis. It’s an investment that will pay off in time, energy, and money.
6. Never Leaving the Home Office
According to Liatsos, when you never leave your home office, it can create loneliness, and that decreases your motivation. She suggests you take the time to get dressed in the morning, just as if you were going to work outside of the home, because it will make you more ready to face the day, along with the challenges that come with running a business. You should also plan some socialization time into your day. For example, you can schedule a face-to-face meeting with a client or attend a networking breakfast or lunch.
7. Not Balancing Home Life with Your Business Life
It’s easy to become a workaholic when you work from home, and you’ll have to learn to balance your business and home life. Liatsos suggests educating your family on what it is you do all day, and that will make them feel a part of your business. You’ll also need to set some parameters during your work hours, and be firm about when you can’t be interrupted. But don’t let your home life suffer. Instead, plan family times, and be sure to keep the dates.