Whether you’re running a home-based business by choice or the COVID-19 pandemic has made working from home mandatory, you may find it’s more challenging than you anticipated. To optimize productivity and operate professionally, you have to establish good work habits and treat your at-home office as seriously as one at a commercial location.
A 5-Point Checklist for Home-based Office Success
✔ Establish a dedicated working space.
Consider transforming a spare room into a space solely used for business purposes. If that’s not possible, a portion of a quiet room that doesn’t get heavy family foot traffic can work well. Either way, equip your home workspace with all of the office equipment and supplies you’ll need to manage your business activities.
✔ Set boundaries for family and friends.
Some people in your family and social circles may not understand (or respect) that you need dedicated time and space to concentrate on your business. You may find that relatives and friends think that because you’re home, you can run errands, meet up for coffee, or chat on the phone whenever they want your undivided attention.
Set expectations with your loved ones about:
- Your work hours (i.e., when you will not be available for social activities)
- The estimated timeline for when you’ll respond to non-emergent requests
- How to reach you in the event of an emergency or urgent need
- What qualifies as an emergency or urgent need
If you have small children or other family members who need your care, you may have to go easier on your boundaries. However, having some house rules—even if they’re somewhat lax— will help you maintain focus.
✔ Manage your time.
Generally, working from home offers greater freedom to set your own schedule than working in a traditional office environment. That freedom, however, can create a lapse in productivity if you don’t manage your time well. Consider scheduling dedicated blocks of time on your calendar for specific business tasks. Doing so will help you stay on track with deadlines and help you navigate setting the boundaries we discussed in the point above.
✔ Get proper licensing and insurance for your home business.
States, counties, and local municipalities may have license or permit requirements for operating a business from home. It’s critical to check with the government agencies that preside over your jurisdiction to learn if you must obtain any to run your company legally. Also, especially if customers will come to your home to pick up products or attend meetings, consider talking with an insurance agent about policies to protect you in the event of accidents or property damage. Many homeowners insurance policies have exclusions for business property and activities. Ask about your options, for example, adding business coverage to your homeowners insurance policy, general liability insurance, or a business owner’s policy. The business activities you perform, your industry, and your location will affect your licensing obligations and the insurance type that will best protect you.
✔ Keep excellent accounting records.
Numbers aren’t every entrepreneur’s cup of tea, but it’s essential to keep careful bookkeeping records. Maintain separation between your business and personal accounts and financial transactions so that it’s clear how much money your business is making and spending. This will help ensure that tax preparation activities go smoothly and that you don’t miss out on using any qualifying home office expenses as business tax deductions.
Start and Grow Your In-Home Business With SCORE’s Help
No matter what challenges you face in starting and running your home-based business, SCORE is here to assist you. Our mentoring services are free—ALWAYS—and will give you expert guidance based on years of experience advising small business owners. Also, explore the many other ways we help entrepreneurs start, grow, and succeed. Contact us today to talk with a mentor!