When you’re running a business out of your home, just the fact that you’re working every day in that environment almost gives you the feeling that it’s not a legitimate business. Naturally, you know that it is legitimate, but the casual surroundings and often smaller scale have a way of fooling you into thinking that you can treat it as a casual endeavor, which will have a negative effect if you continue to look at it that way.
It’s easy to forget that everything is just the same as a standard business, except for the place out of which you are running it. You still need funding, market research, a website, employees in some cases, and every other element that you would need if you were running your business out of a regular office space. If you don’t treat it that way, you can retard your growth and impede the success of your business.
Your Home Business is the Same as Any Other Business
It’s not that there is an inferiority complex among home business owners; they just tend to run it as if it’s something else. There is even a stigma attached to home businesses, so in addition to you, yourself, treating it as if it’s more casual than it is, other people sometimes view it as less than a serious company.
Not everyone sees it that way, but when you encounter those who don’t respect it as a real company, you have to ignore it and continue to focus on doing everything necessary to ensure your success.
The bottom line is that, no matter what it looks like from the outside, you can still make just as much of a profit as any other business and will need to work just as hard to achieve that. Home businesses are not in some other category. Literally, the only difference is that you’re running it out of a different building.
Don’t Let Distractions Get in the Way
The success of your home business depends, among other things, on you putting in just as much work as you would if you ran it out of an office building, or any other space. To be able to do that, you need to concentrate without interruption. Working from home carries the potential for quite a few distractions that can take you away from the work that comes along with running your business effectively.
It doesn’t matter what those things may be—kids, spouses, neighbors, or what have you—you need to remove them from the equation or find ways to work around them. It’s possible that some of those factors will be unavoidable for you, depending on where you are doing the majority of your work and what your particular circumstances are.
This is exactly why you need to have a space that is set aside for the specific purpose of working on the business. It’s important to deliberately design your workspace to make it as conducive to work as possible, a space that is comfortable for you and free from distractions. We have an early article that deals with this exact subject, which you can find here:
Make sure that your family understands that this space is for work. As great as it is to have the luxury of working from your home, it’s still work, and running a business is still highly demanding no matter where you are.
That means you can mix each space with one another because when the lines are blurred, firstly, your home life will take away from productivity, and secondly, you’ll end up working in different spaces all around the house, which can cause a lot of stress for you. If distractions become a problem for you, then you’ll have to adapt using whatever means necessary to neutralize those things.
Set Your Working Hours and Stick to Them
Be very careful, when running your business from home, that you don’t let your working hours get away from you. Even with a conventional business that you drive to and from every day, it’s already hard to curb your hours, but when you work from home, it’s even more tempting to simply work all the time.
You have way more projects and responsibilities to tend to as a business owner, so when that becomes overwhelming, the first thing you will want to do is to keep working longer every day. There will definitely be times when there’s just no way around that, but for the majority of the time, it’s paramount that you adhere to a schedule that you set for yourself.
When you get in the habit of working 12, 14, or even more hours every day, you can easily burn yourself out before you even know what hit you, and that will set you back a lot more. There are a variety of reasons that overworking yourself is dangerous. For one, you’ll be less and less effective, the longer you work.
Productivity goes down significantly when you push yourself beyond your limits. Your family suffers when you do this, as well, which is why the much smarter practice is to quit a bit earlier every day and make sure you set aside at least 1 or 2 hours for family before the day is done.
The other side of the spectrum is the possibility that you’ll work shorter hours than you need to, due to the effect of feeling too comfortable because you know you’re at home. So, make your workspace comfortable, but not too comfortable, and remember that you’ve got a business to run. It’s honestly pretty hard to forget that fact.
Give Customers the Royal Treatment
Your customers don’t know where you’re running your business from, and there is no need for them to know. When you’re interacting with customers, you should treat them in exactly the same way as you would if you were speaking to them from a standard office. Home business owners can sometimes interact with customers in a very casual way just because they’re based in their home, but that’s unnecessary and inappropriate.
Customer service needs to be consistently professional and comprehensive, no matter what type of business it is. Furthermore, the tools and methods used to take care of customers should be the best available, so that you can handle questions and issues quickly and efficiently, as well as give them the most seamless experience that you possibly can.
For example (and we’ll explore this in the following section), if you don’t have proper ticketing software and/or messaging software to manage customer problems or inquiries, it might be a struggle to take care of them because you don’t have a system set up to handle it.
The point is that you should have more than a landline and a bare light bulb in your office to serve your customers. Getting the proper software and other tools to make the customer experience highly professional will make your life a lot easier and make your customers much happier.
Utilize Tools that Any Business Would Have
Business owners are fortunate to live in the time that we live in now because there are endless tools and resources that you can use to streamline every aspect of your business. To make operations go more smoothly, it’s important to take advantage of these tools because your operations improve, it becomes possible to expand even sooner than you thought.
You can serve far more customers today, as a sole small business owner with a computer and a cell phone, than we ever could even only a couple of decades ago. If you aren’t sure which tools to use for your particular business, you can find tons of information about the best tools for business in our Talkroute blog for small businesses here, and even instructions and tips for how to use them and make them work for you.
One of the first things to consider is that it’s really important to keep all contact channels open for your customers to reach you with their questions or inquiries. That means allowing customers to contact you via phone, email, online chat, social media, and any other channel through which you want to make yourself available.
Customer Experience is Important!
To get started with that, a good one to start with is Zendesk. They provide easy-to-use, high-functioning ticketing software for email, in addition to an online chat platform that you can set up quickly for your website and give visitors to your site a convenient way to ask you about your product or service, instantly from your site.
You can also benefit from a CRM tool to integrate all of your communication channels with customers and efficiently handle your customer relationship management. CRM software puts the customer experience together into one place, including tickets, accounts, purchases, and email marketing, to name a few.
It’s also essential to put a lot of energy into marketing and advertising. There are plenty of tools to help you get do that, and we have discussed quite a few great ones in this blog. Here are a few to get you started:
You don’t need to go from 0 to 100 miles an hour on marketing, but starting a blog for your business and linking it with your social media accounts is a really good start. Content marketing can drive a ton of new sales to your business, and it’s free besides the time you take to create the actual material and promote it.
You Need a Professional Phone System
A high-quality phone system is a standard utility for any business, whether it’s a traditional business, a home business, or any other organization. Many home businesses simply use their home phone or their personal cell phone to run their business, and that’s fine, but you need to put some power behind it.
You can have a professional phone system that operates just as well as the system of a large, corporate business, even if you’re using one personal cell phone. No matter what type of phone you have—landline, cell, VoIP, or any other type of phone—you can add a powerful system that has all kinds of features to it if you go with a virtual phone system like Talkroute.
Large-capacity business voice mailboxes, custom greetings, automated hours of operation, and call menus are just a few of the features you can add, even if all you have is a single cell phone to run the business. First of all, you need to have a system that can handle a high volume of calls if you run into those periods when you’re getting a lot of calls at the same time, which you can certainly do with a Talkroute phone system.
More importantly, though, people should feel like they’re calling an established business that has it together when they call you. Although you don’t have to use the call menu with Talkroute, that feature is available if you need it, and it gives people the automated menu that makes you sound much more professional than a line that just rings on end.
If you’re not able to get to every call right away, which often is the case when you’re running the entire business alone, then having the automated call menu that lets them know they’ve called the right place and lets them leave a message is a great asset to have. If you don’t have these kinds of features in place, there’s always the chance that you’ll lose them to a competitor that has them.
Check out all of the articles in the series, Growing Your Home-Based Business:
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.