Working From Home
or From an Office
Many small businesses
start out in an extra room or in the basement of an entrepreneur's home.
The space is available, it is cheap and it is convenient. In addition,
all the electronic devices for communication and working can make a physical
office unneeded. However, there certainly can be drawbacks.
Many people that start
working at home find that within a year or so an office is a physical
and emotional necessity. Here are some issues to consider as you ponder
your work environment.
Type of business.
If your business is primarily a personal service business (consulting,
phone sales, research, writing), working from home can be attractive.
If however, you have clients or customers visiting you, you may want to
consider the impression your home office may have. Having a meeting in
your dining room with three or four prospects can get uncomfortable if
there are distractions or the aroma of dinner wafting through the room.
Certainly any type of retail business with many customers would dictate
a physical presence they can find with adequate parking.
Many communities have ordinances that make it almost impossible to
run some businesses from your home, especially if you have a neighbor
that complains of increased traffic, frequent delivery vehicles or any
signage you may want. In addition, you should determine what the affect
would be on your homeowner's insurance policy.
Is there space at home that is conducive to your business? While computers
and phones don't take lots of space, you may need printers, fax machine,
copy machine, file cabinets, a large desk and storage space. In addition,
consider the actual space itself. The room in the basement may work, but
do you really want to be "banished to the basement" for hours
at a stretch?
You may love your family a great deal, but are you ready to spend
all your time with them in a close environment? If you decide to go the
home office route, you may want to establish some rules about interruptions.
A closed door could mean "stay out" unless it is an emergency
while a door slightly ajar could mean "come in only if it is important."
Some ground rules may prevent some hard feelings.
Having a home office will probably save money. You are already paying
rent or mortgage payments and won't incur the additional costs of renting
space, moving, furnishings (maybe), commuting and parking. You may also
get some tax benefits from a home office. The rules are a bit complex,
but may be able to claim a depreciation deduction. Consult your tax advisor.
Be sure that a home
office doesn't isolate you from a healthy, vibrant business environment.
Casual conversations with co-workers or others in a business setting are
important. If you are planning to work from home, be sure to meet others
for lunch or meetings. Don't let your office environment isolate you from
the rest of the world.
Plan for your technology
needs early. Adding extra phone lines for your fax machine and a rollover
line isn't very expensive and will ensure that calls are not missed. Set
up a voice mail system that will enable you to easily access messages
when you are out. You may also want to consider a high-speed line for
your Internet connection. Dealing with the phone company only once will
save money and reduce your stress.
Consider the impression
your business will make on prospects and customers. Your marketing materials
(business cards, letterhead, envelopes and brochures) should look professional.
You may want to spend the money you save with a home office on these materials.
They will become your primarily way of making the impression you want.
Keep a professional
and serious manner for your business. Tee shirts and sweat pants may be
comfortable, but they may lead to a casualness that is perceived by your
customers and prospects. Also, pay attention to how you sound on the phone.
Background noises of children, the TV or a barking dog can distract you
and the listener from the business at hand.