Top 10 home-based business myths
This article first appeared on July 17th, 2012.
The advantages of starting your business from the comfort of your own home are clear – you keep your overheads to a minimum, you eliminate the daily commute and you can be flexible with your hours.
But there a number of myths that surround home working. Many people can’t grasp that a serious business, rather than a hobby, can be built from your home.
So, if you’re weighing up whether to launch your business from the spare bedroom or kitchen, here are 10 common misconceptions you must be aware of:
1. The hours are easy
It’s tempting to think that running a home-based business involves a few hours on the computer in the morning, a nice leisurely lunch, maybe a phone call or two in the afternoon before an early finish.
However, if your business is to be anything other than a mildly diverting sideline, you will have to put in the work.
“When you’re by yourself, you do everything – bookkeeping, marketing, sales, the lot,” says Cas McCullough, who runs social enterprise Mumatopia and Support a Work At Home Person from her house.
“All of this takes a lot of time and people underestimate this. They often take things on as a hobby and then find it is very popular and organically grows. They don’t think long-term.”
Set a strategy for your business early on, have an in-depth business plan. And consider outsourcing – it’ll save you time.
2. You can sit back and get rich quickly
Despite what the endless ads tell you, there aren’t many jobs that will earn you big bucks just by staying at home making the odd phone call.
“You look at the content behind those stupid Google ads about homeworking and it promises that you’ll be working for about seven minutes a day,” says McCullough.
“You can be a success if you have the right business model but, if not, you’ll fall on your face.”
“People who are pushed into home working because they lose their job or think they will get rich quick are more likely to fall over. They set up a Facebook page and wonder why no one has turned up.”
“It’s better to start a business that you’re passionate about. You’re then more likely to be proactive and engage with people.”
3. You don’t need to spend money on day care
For busy parents, working from home may seem like the ideal solution – not only do you see more of your family but you also save money on day care for your children.
“You will occasionally, if not regularly, need a babysitter for your children,” says McCullough. “I have regular care once a week and sometimes my husband can help out, but you need the balance as you will need to go out for meetings.”
“Also, your business commitments won’t keep to normal working hours, when your kids may be at school.”
4. It’s not a real job
Perhaps the most hurtful myth about home-based working is that it is somehow a lesser job. That it is a frivolous hobby for bored mothers, rather than a platform for fast-growth businesses, ignoring the fact that the likes of Google and Amazon started life as home-based start-ups.
“A lot of people tell me that it’s not a real job and I can see the irritation that causes others who work from home,” says McCullough.
“It has got a bit of a bad rap, but just look at the number of people who work from home. Look at what many of them go on to achieve. They are worthwhile businesses and they are contributing to the economy.”
5. All you’re doing is moving your job to your home
If you’re moving from a corporate career to working from home, it’s natural to think that you can just supplant your previous working life and routine into your new one.
Jane Shelton, managing director of Marshall Associates and author of No Workplace Like Home, advises: “It's always nice to have a steady routine in a large corporation, where there are colleagues at hand to address the various competing demands of the clients and superiors, but when the only boss you have to blame is yourself, the rules of the game must change.”
“Time schedules have to be modified to address your role in the value chain, the demands of business development, the schedules of family, friends and of course competitive suppliers of your products and services.”
“A better way to respond to the time schedule and routine is to look at it as a question addressed by your business and marketing plans.”
“You will find that the way that you go about the only real task of business – creating and corralling customers – relies on a systematic focus on staying within the decision-making cycle of your clients, customer and business communities of interest.”
6. You don’t have to worry about health and safety
If you are wallowing in a messy, potentially dangerous home-based office, you risk more than being called a slob.
Not only is your own health and safety important if you are to keep running your business, but any staff and clients will need to be protected too, as a recent case where Telstra had to pay medical and legal costs for an injured home worker highlighted.
“Ensuring that your home is a safe workplace doesn’t happen by chance or guesswork,” Shelton says.
“It requires a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards and risks and any particular circumstances that apply to your home working base.”
Shelton advises going through five key steps to get your OHS in good shape:
- Finding hazards that could hurt the people who either live, work or visit your home.
- Family forums that bring together all of these people on a regular basis to make sure that they are as safety conscious as you are and undertake the safety drills that are an essential part of hazard awareness.
- Figuring out how the people in and around your home life could get hurt and working life hazards (the level of risk).
- Fixing identified problems by sorting out and installing the most effective risk controls that are reasonably practicable under your circumstances.
- Following through on your risk controls and checking that they are working to cope when things do not go according to plan.
7. Your home life will remain exactly the same
Home is a nice place to relax and turn off after a long, hard day at work. Surely, if you spend all day there, you will be permanently in the comfort zone? Shelton has some words of warning.
“Firstly, map your own interests and personal priorities and then set out how the start-up is going to help you achieve your objectives,” she says.
“Be honest with yourself and answer these core questions: How will this venture change our way of life? What do I really like doing, and how will it shape my family's future?”
“Who can support me while I get the business up and running? Where will all this take us and what will it cost to succeed?”
“Then you need to set aside a fixed amount of time for your business homework, when the kids have done theirs and get partners and friends to share the burden of developing your start-up as an adjunct to your family life rather than an alternative to it.”
8. Clients won’t take you seriously
Many budding entrepreneurs fret about the impression left upon clients by their home office.
Obviously, you don’t want to hold an important meeting with a key client while you are both wedged on the sofa, trying to ignore the child that is watching cartoons on the TV.
But this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to convey a professional demeanour to clients.
If they have to come to your house, set aside a room for meetings and ensure there aren’t any interruptions. Better still, hold the meeting at a café or at a serviced office that you can rent out by the hour.
There are other tricks to making your business appear bigger, such as adopting a 1800 telephone number, but, ultimately, your customers will primarily care about the products or service you provide them. You working from home shouldn’t be a factor.
9. There’s no good financial reason, other than cutting overheads
A common rationale for working from home is the money it will save you on office space, furniture and commuting.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that there is little other financial reason to working from home other than the overheads you’ll save on.
Australia’s tax code is fairly generous for entrepreneurs with home offices, with deductions offered for factors such as electricity, cleaning supplies, depreciation of office equipment, mortgage interest, rent, rates and insurance.
Indeed, the Tax Office provides a “bonus deduction” of 50% for small businesses with qualifying assets.
10. Being at home all day is awesome
Office dwellers commonly think that working from home is an indulgent luxury that they’d give their right arm to experience.
In reality, working from home by yourself for a long period can be quite taxing. Entrepreneurs often miss the collaboration and interaction that comes with working alongside colleagues.
Shelton says: “You need a staged plan that lists the people who are your keys to success. This means that you identify business leaders, distributors and potential customers who you plan to meet and greet.”
“By doing this you are proactively establishing what’s new and different and can overcome that sense of being cut off by your start-up activities.”
“Pick up the phone, send them an email and invite their comment on what you are doing.”