Homepreneur. It's the new name for people who run businesses out of their homes. There are plenty of them according to smallbiztrends. com — 6.6 million — and many of them provide half of their family household income.
Thousands of people are starting their own businesses these days. While there are many organizations that offer classes on setting up a home-based business, ensuring that your venture survives and prospers long term is another matter. There's much more beyond the business and marketing plan, financing and licensing regulations.
When Anita Treiser, former marketing director for the city of St. Petersburg, retired and started her own consulting firm, she said there were challenges and surprises. "I had to be my own IT department," she said. "That was quite a challenge. I was used to calling IT anytime something went wrong with my computer or when I had to learn a new application or software. Suddenly, I was on my own.
"I had to learn how to maneuver graphics, fix and repair computer glitches, and access different software. My biggest frustration was receiving an attachment I couldn't open," she added.
Treiser went on to say that there were also surprises. "Five o'clock comes too soon! I may be in the middle of something that I need to discuss with a client and I realize that they're going to leave the office at 5. E-mail won't always do it. I'm so busy that 5 o'clock comes without me realizing what time it is."
Here are the top six secrets of successful home-based businesses.
Make your office your office. Have a designated, well-lit, quiet work space with the equipment and communications you need to run your business. If you are claiming a portion of your home as a tax write-off, the IRS has specific regulations you need to know. Consult your tax professional or visit www.IRS.gov/business/small/index.html. Stipulate that you are the only one using this work space.
Set boundaries. For family, boundaries mean no interruptions unless there's a crisis. It also means quiet in your business area. Client boundaries mean setting the time and place to meet with or communicate with clients. It's up to you to set these boundaries. Some new home-based business owners feel they must be on call 24/7, but that's a surefire path to exhaustion, lost productivity, mistakes and eventual loss of home/life balance. Tell your clients that you choose to work on their products or projects when you are rested, focused and at your most creative. If they are in other time zones, use e-mail or arrange a mutually convenient time to talk with them. As long as you meet your deadlines and deliverable dates, good clients and customers will appreciate your honesty and professionalism.
Be disciplined. Get up in the morning, get dressed and go to work. No hanging around in your pajamas all day. Set aside a set number of hours a day to concentrate on your business. Breaks to multitask (family errands and household chores) are fine as long as you can return to work and focus. Work the hours that are best for you. You may use the daytime to meet with and communicate with customers; the evening hours to write, catch up on correspondence or handle financials.
Avoid isolation. Working at home can mean too much working alone. Get out of the house a few times a week. Join groups and organizations that will expand your business contacts, open your mind to new ideas and perk up your creativity. Meet clients and customers for coffee, lunch or dinner away from your workplace. Get involved with a charity or civic group that allows you to "give back" and have fun.
Follow the rules. Every community, city, county and state has rules and regulations for home businesses. For example, if your homeowners association says don't park your company truck in your driveway, park it elsewhere. If your city says no company sign on your lawn, don't put up a sign.
Have a crisis plan. How will you meet your business responsibilities in case of fire, flood, a hurricane or illness? Consider how you'd handle anything that would disrupt your business and keep you from meeting your responsibilities. Back up your computer files, keep CDs and hard copies of important documents and records, and store a copy of crucial information off site if necessary.
Marie Stempinski is founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in marketing, public relations and business and career trends consulting. She can be reached at [email protected]