Jean has been a home-based business owner for a number of years. She has gained valuable experience and insight along the way.
A One-Person Home-Based Business
People usually start a home-based business to get away from the corporate world. They want to work from home and spend more time with their families. They also want to be their own boss. As your business grows, you need to decide whether you want to structure your business so that it can be managed solely by you and perhaps your partner, or whether you will eventually hire or contract out employees. State, provincial and federal laws will dictate whether you can contract out.
But the point is, do you want to go from answering to the boss to being the boss? From the get-go you need to decide how your business is going to grow. It will determine what systems you need to have in place that will grow with your business. So, this article is all about a one-person business that remains a one-person home-based business.
Organizing Your One-Person Home-Based Business at a Glance
- Are you entrepreneurial?
- What turns your crank?
- Research to see if your business idea is viable.
- Design your products and test market them.
- Check your local municipal laws.
- Check with your home insurance provider.
- If you are in a strata, check the strata bylaws.
- If you are making a food product, check local health regulations.
- Pick a business name and register it.
- Get a business license.
- Talk to your local tax office to see what deductions you are allowed.
- Set aside a dedicated place to run your business.
- Decide if you are part time or full time.
- Set up your bookkeeping records.
- Set time aside to work in your business and on your business.
- Understand you can't do everything yourself.
- Organize your time for working in your business.
- Get rid of distractions.
- Limit your phone time.
- Consider these useful social media sites.
- Get an online presence happening.
- Get them to beat a path to your door.
- Remember that no traffic equals no sales.
- Find a mentor.
- If you are selling a service, join your local Chamber of Commerce.
- Decide if you are willing to do consignment sales.
- Find online tools that work.
- Test your product sales.
- Automation is key to keeping things going.
- Be serious, but above all, have fun.
Are You Entrepreneurial?
This very important question is at the crux of whether your business has the possibility of being successful. If you are a self-starter and you can work alone in a motivated way without having someone else direct you, then you are on your way to being able to start and operate a home-based business. If on the other hand you can't seem to get going without having someone direct your activities then a home-based business is not for you, no matter how much you want to be your own boss.
Some people are naturally entrepreneurial and some are not. It is a built-in attribute that you cannot teach. It is a characteristic like having brown hair, for example.
You need to be very honest with yourself in deciding if you have the capacity to make a home-based business successful. You can certainly learn skills that will help, but it is very difficult to learn to be a self-starter if you do not have that tendency.
What Turns Your Crank?
What are you passionate about? What interests do you have? These are key questions when you want to start a business of your own. If you are going to be doing something day after day, it might as well be something that you are interested in. Make a list of all the things you like to do. Then start researching on the internet to see if there are any websites out there that give out information about any of these topics. If there aren't you can gather that there isn't much interest in your topic.
The intrinsic difficulty in launching something entirely new is that it takes a lot of publicity and advertising to garner enough awareness to see if there is enough interest to make the project economically viable. You can go that route too, but don't quit your day job just yet.
Once you have an idea of what is out there, it is a great idea to create an original product that people will really want. Put on your thinking cap and see what is out there.
Research to See If Your Business Idea Is Viable
It's always a good idea to see what's out in the world that may be similar or the same as what you are intending to do. There is nothing wrong with competition. Sometimes it is better to have others out there doing what you want to do. If they are across the country or around the world they may be interested in mentoring you because you are not close competition.
If there is no one else doing what you want to do, two reasons are possible: it is an original idea, or it has not been viable for anyone yet. It is important to find out which it is because if no one is interested in your product or service, you will not make any sales unless you can drum up enough interest.
Design Your Products and Test Market Them
Ask anyone who is willing, to test your product and give you a review of their experience. Feedback is important. Just because you like it doesn't mean anyone else will. A great idea is only great if other people think so too.
You also need to consider if your product can be mass-produced should it prove successful and do you have the time to devote to it. You can have a run-away product and no way financially or time-wise to produce enough of it yourself. You may need to turn to your bank for help.
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Check Your Local Municipal Laws
There a municipal, provincial/state and federal laws regarding home-based businesses that you must research and abide by. There is no purpose in being shut down because you are not in compliance. It is much better to follow the letter of the law to ensure you can keep moving forward with your home-based business.
Check With Your Home Insurance Provider
Everything you are using for your home-based business should be insured in case of fire or theft. Your home insurance provider can advise you about what you need and what you can and can't do without insurance.
If You Are in a Strata, Check the Strata By-Laws
Every strata is potentially different. Look through the strata by-laws or ask a counsel member what is allowed with regards to home-based business.
If You Are Making a Food Product, Check With Local Health Regulations
Most health regulations require food products to be produced in a commercial kitchen under proper sanitary conditions. It is generally forbidden to produce a food product in a home kitchen.
Sometimes preparing a food product in a separate kitchen, like in a basement, away from personal food preparation is allowed, but check.
If anyone reports an illness or a concern, the health department could come knocking on your door.
Pick a Business Name and Register It
You will want a registered name if your product is successful. If someone else is already using the name you want, all your marketing efforts will be back to square one.
You could also be in a tight legal position if the person owning the name discovers you.
You will need a registered business name to get your business license, get a business bank account, file business income tax and perhaps get a business loan should it become necessary.
Get a Business License
Get a local business license so that you are in compliance with the local authorities in addition to your insurance provider. Should your neighbors object, you can let them know you are a registered business.
Talk to Your Local Tax Office to See What Deductions you are Allowed
When you are organizing your business, you need to know what you can deduct so you can organize and store your receipts in your bookkeeping system. Even if someone else is going to be doing your books, you need to be organized and time efficient.
Set Aside a Dedicated Place to Run Your Business
Any inspector coming to your home-based business location will not approve your bedroom as your place of business. It must be in a separate area that is only used to conduct your business.
The corner of your living room that will fit a desk or a place in a spare room is ideal.
Are You Part-Time or Full-Time?
It is usually wise not to quit your day job until your business is bringing in the same amount or more than your job does. Depending on your product and your dedication, it can take a couple of years, or longer. There is nothing wrong with working your business part time, provided you are using your business time efficiently.
Set up Your Bookkeeping Records
Plan on paper how you are going to keep track of your bills, receipts, accounts receivable and where you are going to store it all. Get it all set up ready to rock.
Set Time Aside to Work in Your Business and on Your Business
Working on your business is all about what you are doing to organize and grow your business. Working in your business is filling the orders, talking on the phone and answering emails. It is a really good idea to set one day a week aside to work on your business and do it the same day each week. You can still answer the phones and do the necessaries while you are working on your business. The other days of the week, you are working in your business.
You Can't Do Everything Yourself
When you first start out with your home-based business, there is usually time to get most things done, but some things like monthly bookkeeping can sometimes fall behind. If you can automate as much as you can, it can free up time to get other things done like new product development.
But, make a list of the things you can afford to farm out, like hiring a bookkeeper one day a month. A social media manager is also nice because they take care of your social media activity.
Organize Your Time for Working in Your Business
You can't help when the phone rings but you can be efficient at how long you stay on the phone. You can also organize your emails into folders and only answer what needs to be answered right away. That way, you can deal with the other emails in a few spare moments.
Time can be eaten up very quickly, when all your friends realize you are home and think you are free to spend time with them. It can also be eaten up by facebook and pinterest and all the other attractions online.
Get Rid of Distractions
All kinds of things can distract you when you are working in your home-based business. The kids need attention, obviously so you may need to plan what you are going to do when they nap. The pets also need attention but things like online games, social media browsing and the like need to be set aside as a low priority. You do, however, need to do your posting on social media efficiently and then log out.
Constant snacking, watching you-tube videos and webinars can be productive if done effectively.
Limit Your Phone Time
It's not only your friends who want to get on the phone with you. It's the customers and potential customers who want to phone you up with their questions that think you have nothing but time for them. Some will phone every day and have no intention of buying anything. It is a delicate task, being polite but limiting the time you can spend with them.
Social Media Sites You May Find Useful
Get an Online Presence Happening
- Start a social media profile and post regularly.
- Comment on blogs that talk about similar products to yours.
- Join forums.
- Join Yahoo answers.
- Join Facebook groups.
- Open a business Twitter account.
- Post on Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr and Tumblr.
- Set up a LinkedIn profile.
On some sites you can set up timed postings so that you can write a whole bunch of posts and they will automatically post at the times you specify. It can be a huge time saver.
Get Them to Beat a Path to Your Door
Get ready to put up the signposts that will direct people to your door via your internet presence. You don't necessarily have to have a website but you do need to have something up to let people know where you are. Then you have to have an incentive for them to want to visit you. Usually giving something interesting away is motive enough. There are all kinds of things you can give away but first let's talk about how to get people to find you.
There are three ways to do it—one is free, the next costs some money and the third costs lots of money. The free way is to pepper the internet with all kinds of interesting things about what you have to offer. You can do this through websites, blogs, forums, social media, free ad and banner sites, articles posted on article sites, backlinks to your website, email campaigns and so on.
The second way is to pay for ads like google adwords, admob ads and facebook ads. You can also pay to have your ads placed on ezines and other advertising sites. You need to put a ceiling on how much you want to spend on these ads or you can get into financial difficulty very fast.
The third way is to pay someone to optimize your site for keywords and other Search Engine Optimization (SEO) protocols. I paid someone a lot of money for over a year with very little results. I don't recommend this method.
As you can see, there is lots to keep you busy. The beauty of the first way is that you are building your future. People will find your path over and over again. As your skills improve, people will be more attracted to what you have to sell providing you have done your homework.
No Traffic Equals No Sales
Just like any storefront business, if you don't have people coming in the door, you don't make any sales. With a home-based business, you may have a few people coming in the door, but the majority of your business will probably be over the internet, unless you are targeting your local neighborhood, advertising your cleaning, babysitting or cooking services, for example.
You can make anything into a home-based business but you do have to decide how much money you want to make, how much time you will spend doing it and if there is a demand for what you want to sell.
Find a Mentor
Every community has resources for new business owners. Some of the services are free, some are not. There are even courses provided for newbies. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce to find out where these services are and how to contact them. Some have mentorship programs run by volunteer business people who have run businesses for years.
If You Are Selling a Service, Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce
Depending on what your home-based business does, you may want to join the local Chamber of Commerce anyway. They have valuable resources and you may meet some useful business contacts there.
Are You Willing to do Consignment Sales?
One business strategy that some businesses employ is to place goods in stores on consignment. It you do this in different locations, you will get a good idea how your product is selling.
Keep in mind that certain areas of the city sell differently than other areas. Don't be afraid to move your product around to see if you can find a better fit.
As A Newbie, How Do You Find Online Tools That Work?
When you're starting out setting up your home-based business, you need tools that work and don't cost an arm and a leg. You need someone to guide you through the pitfalls of the 'buy me now' syndrome and show you what works. Take a look at this.
Where Else Can You Test Your Product Sales?
Is your product suitable for a local farmer's market? Are there craft fairs that are suitable for your product? Think of other places where you can get exposure for your product.
Do you Have a Contingency Plan if the Sales of Your Product Take Off?
- Plan ahead, in case your product become successful. Can you hire trustworthy people to make it? Get a non-disclosure/non-compete agreement together.
- How is your credit? Will you qualify for a business loan? Repair your credit now if you need to.
- Is your family supportive of your improved business? Have a discussion with your family so everyone is on the same page. If they become resentful of your busyness, it will put added stress on you.
- Are you looking after yourself enough? What do you need to do to stay on pace and on time?
Automation Is Key to Keeping Things Going
When you start a home-based business you need to research all of the ways you can automate your business and keep in contact with everyone in a consistent way where you become their information guru. Establishing a relationship with people and getting them added to your contact list is the first step before turning them into ravenous buyers of what you have to sell.
But before you do that however, it is important to look at why you are starting a business in the first place and how you can streamline things so that you can do more of it. If you set up and automate as much as you can, then there is more time to focus on inventory levels or when your next promotion is.
Whether you are selling kitchen witches or car parts, even information, you need to make contact with people who are interested in what you have to sell. By automating as many systems as you can, it frees you up to develop new products and work on your business.
Some examples of automation are autoresponders to automatically capture contact information and send out emails of your latest information and offers; quick books and other accounting software that keeps track of inventory and accounts receivable and payable; RSS feeds that automatically load content to your blogs and websites; traffic generation software that directs traffic to your websites and blogs.
All of these types of tools allow you to do the work once and reap the benefits over and over again. They allow you to leverage your work and have more time to work on your business or take some time off to spend with your family.
Automation Tools and Time Savers for Your Home-Based Business
You certainly don't need to go crazy getting every known automation tool. Every one of them requires regular input from you, but you can batch task a lot of it by writing several blog posts at once then allowing them to be posted at predetermined times and days, for example. Make a plan and see what is practical for you to automate and what you want to do hands-on on a daily basis.
- Email autoresponders that send out an email sequence that you write on an automated and timed sequence. Some examples are Aweber, Mailchimp and GetResponse.
- Scheduling blog posts in word press so you can write a pile of blog posts while you are waiting somewhere, then use the scheduling tool in the back office to have them post automatically.
- Xero and QuickBooks to keep track of your bookkeeping and accounting information.
- Shoeboxed is a great receipt manager that can save to a ton of time.
- Use Jetpack to coordinate your blog posts with your social media so when WordPress publishes a post, it updates your social media at the same time.
- With Hootsuite you can schedule miltiple social media posting on multiple platforms and track the stats.
- EverNote is a great admin tool that can help you organize a lot of files and manage your business.
- Dropbox is also another great admin tool and file-sharing tool. It also has a back-up mode.
- Having a contact form on your blog or website helps you and your customers have more efficient contact. Contactform 7 is a WordPress plug-in that is easy to use and install.
- An FAQ is not an automation tool but it can sure reduce the amount of time you used to use answering the same questions over and over again.
- If you want to farm out some of the phone “fix-it” issues, customers need attending to, Zendesk is a great support desk tool and customer service software
- Infusionsoft is a great customer relationship management software that helps you have a great rapport with your customers.
- To organize your daily tasks and making sure you don't forget anything Trello is a great task management tool.
- To organize projects and break them down into steps Do and Asana are both great organizers.
- An online shopping cart like WooCommerce helps you sell what you are offering.
- To manage the all-important money YouNeedABudget is one of the best.
Be Serious, but Above all Have Fun!
It's important to keep things light and fun but be serious enough to get as much done as possible in the time that is allowed for your business. If you can only work a few hours in the evening, make the most of those few hours.
Make prioritized to-do lists so the most important things get done first, like filling orders and staying alive online. Just remember, you can do this!
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.