According to a study conducted by the Freelancers Union, more than 57 million Americans freelanced last year. Of those who made money working from home, more than 60% did so by choice.
Whether you’re fed up with working out of a stuffy office full-time or have a small business idea for something that you’re passionate about, now is an excellent time to set up your home-based business.
Creating a successful home business takes hard work. It’s not something that you should jump into blindly.
Fortunately, with a bit of foresight, you can thrive when working out of your own home. Below, you’ll find a checklist that you can use to set up your own business from home.
1. Find your space
A mistake that people make when serving as their own boss for the first time is blurring the line between work life and personal life. If you want to create a successful business, you need to make sure that you don’t spend your work hours gardening or folding laundry. Thus, the first thing you should do when establishing a home business is set aside a specific space in your home where you will work.
Whether it’s a spare bedroom or a desk in the kitchen, make sure to pick somewhere that you can dedicate entirely to your new business. And no, the couch and the bed do not count as workspaces. Wherever you choose, make sure that the area becomes synonymous with work. By establishing a dedicated workspace, you will develop a routine, which can help you become more creative and productive.
2. Set up your space
Once you’ve gotten your workspace set aside, decide what you need around you to make you most productive. Of course, you’ll need standard office supplies, like pens, paper clips, and a stapler. But you’ll also want to consider a few of these other essentials.
A comfy desk chair
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good chair — even if you’re only working part-time. A comfortable, supportive desk chair can prevent pain.
Shelving or filing cabinets
Even if you’re starting an online business, you’ll still find yourself needing to print out vital documents. Shelving and cabinets help keep your space uncluttered and organized, which is conducive to productivity.
Some people do their best thinking with a pen and some paper, while others prefer a whiteboard and markers. How do you do your best brainstorming? Invest in the equipment you need to spark your creativity, whether it’s a case of legal notepads or a dry erase board.
3. Get connected
No matter what home-based business you have in mind, you’ll need communication equipment to keep your company running smoothly:
Desktop PC or laptop
Depending on the type of business you run, you may want to look into upgrading your computer. For instance, if you plan to do something graphics-heavy like web design, it might be best to invest in a computer with higher processing speed and more RAM.
Even though you may already have a cell phone, you’ll want to consider adding a landline for business purposes. By securing a landline, you can reserve your cell phone for personal use. Although it’s essential that clients be able to reach you, it’s also critical that you establish boundaries between work time and personal time.
Most printers today come with scanning, copying, and faxing functionalities, so you can purchase one slightly more expensive machine instead of four separate ones. You should also consider what type of ink you’ll need for your business.
You may not need a full-color printer, which will end up saving you significant funds in the long run. If you expect to have a high volume of items to print, consider investing in a laser printer or something with more commercial capabilities. If your business model doesn’t call for frequent printing, you could always skip the printer and outsource these services to a local copy shop.
You probably already have an internet service provider for recreational use, but now that you’ll be relying on that connection for your online business, you might want to look into an upgrade. This is especially important if you live with other people who might be using the internet when you’re trying to work.
Connection speeds can range anywhere from 1.5 Mbps to 20 Mbps. With a 1.5 Mbps connection speed, it takes about two minutes to download a large presentation. It’ll take roughly 10 seconds to download the same file with a 20 Mbps connection.
Additionally, if your business opportunities require video chatting, such as those needed for a virtual assistant position, you’ll want to make sure that your bandwidth is adequate.
If you haven’t already, invest in the latest version of Microsoft Office. This is the most common business software on the market today. You’ll have no trouble reading or editing files that clients send to you, nor should you have any problem reading files that you receive from them.
Google Docs would be a low-cost option compared to Microsoft Office. Other software that you can consider includes Adobe Acrobat Professional, which allows you to edit PDF files, and Adobe CS6 Design, which includes things like Photoshop and InDesign.
4. Set a budget
Your budget should include the startup costs mentioned above as well as marketing services to help increase awareness about your new brand.
When calculating your costs, you may find the number to be much higher than expected. Failure to calculate and budget correctly could leave your business with debt, which will make it difficult to turn a profit. Make sure you not only set your budget, but that you have funding to cover the budget as well.
5. Develop a written plan
Before you open a business out of your home, you should make sure you have a plan in place. Decide what exactly you’ll do to earn money and who your customers will be. One of the best ways to organize your thoughts is with a written plan.
There are many business plan templates available online, but the key features of any business plan include:
- Executive Summary: includes ownership details and an overview of the products and services offered
- Company Overview: consists of a mission statement and details regarding business location
- Products and Services: details how products or services meet current marketplace demand
- Market Analysis and Market Strategy: outlines target demographics and provides a competitive analysis that details what makes your product or service unique
- Financial Overview: includes projections, profit-and-loss analysis, and sales assumptions
6. Get ready to conduct business
After you’ve secured financing and developed your business plan, you’ll need to focus more intently on the details relating to your business. One of the key pieces to setting up your home-based business is determining what licenses or permits you may need to conduct business legally.
Below are some of the licenses you should be aware …
General business license
Check with your state or local government to find out what types of local licenses you might need. There is typically a nominal filing or administrative fee associated with these permits.
Professional or trade license
Depending on the kind of business you operate, a local or national organization may require you to be licensed. An example would be buying or selling real estate.
Home occupation permit
Your home is more than likely in a residential area, as opposed to being in a business or retail zone. To conduct business in a residential district, you may need a permit from your local or state government.
Your local zoning board can answer your questions regarding the requirements for permits. Not all home-based businesses will require a business permit, but it’s always best to check.
Sales tax permits
If you intend to open an online store to sell taxable goods, you will need to obtain a sales tax permit. Sales tax permits not only refer to where your business is, but where you conduct business.
Even if your state of residence doesn’t require sales tax, if you transact business in a state that does, you will still need to have a permit. Small business sales tax laws can be complicated, so take the time to figure them out before conducting business.
Health and safety permits
Similar to professional and trade organizations that require licenses, you may also need health or safety permits to legally operate your business. Checking with your state’s environmental protection agency is an excellent jumping off point.
This will not apply to all home-based businesses, but if you intend to post signs, you may need a permit.
If you intend to make any structural changes to your home, you will need construction permits. Your local government is typically the entity that issues these.
Also, don’t forget to check the bylaws of your Homeowner’s Association. If you live within the confines of an HOA, ensure that you are in compliance.
7. Get ready for tax season
As the owner of a home-based business, there are many different tax deductions and credits that you may be eligible for. For instance, you could qualify for the home-office deduction. The home-office deduction allows you to take into account all of the operating expenses for your home office, including the square footage of your office space, and deduct them from your taxes.
Also, if you have a profitable business, you’re going to have to pay taxes. Because you’re working from home, there’s no employer to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Typically, an employer pays half of these taxes on your behalf, and you are responsible for the other half. However, as a freelancer, you’re responsible for paying the entirety of these taxes.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure to keep track of business expenses throughout the year by using reliable accounting software like QuickBooks. By tracking your home-based business expenses throughout the year, you’ll have a much easier time filing taxes.
Building your home-based business today
If you’ve longed for flexibility in your daily schedule and work-life balance, then a self-employed job could be for you. Why wait? Begin today on the road to becoming a business owner.
However, before doing so, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve taken steps to prepare yourself. By following our seven steps, you’ll put yourself in an excellent position for success.