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Five things that every home-based business needs

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 | By Oliver Milman

feature-what-you-need-thumbLaunching a business from home cuts down on the hassle of several things – commercial rents, management of staff and transport woes, to name a few.

 

However, there are several vital things you need to put in place if your home office is to run effectively.

 

We spoke to the experts to find out the five key things that every home-based business needs.

 

To see each tip, click on the tabs below.

 

 

1. Domain name

 

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If you’re working from home, it’s likely that the primary marketing and interaction tool you’ll have with potential customers is your website.

 

Therefore, it’s crucial that you have a website that ranks well, states its purpose clearly, is easy to navigate and fulfils either a direct sale or provides a clear pathway for an offline one.

 

The first step to this is a domain name. You need to hit keywords that sum up your business, but you also need to keep it fairly snappy – think Amazon, Google and so on.

 

Your domain name will help build trust – you need an ABN for a .com.au domain name, so this should be your first target.

 

“Google recognises this and trusts it more,” says online entrepreneur Fred Schebesta. “Other countries don’t have this requirement, so it’s harder for spammers to use a .com.au site.”

 

“Suffixes such as .info and .biz are a little salubrious and known for spam. Anything with hyphens doesn’t look good, either.”

 

“Ideally, you want to keep your domain under seven characters. If someone asks for your website and you tell them something that’s 15 characters long, there’s no chance they will remember it.”

 

Further reading: Top five tips to choosing the right domain name.

2. A decent web developer

 

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Unless you possess the technical know-how to tackle it yourself, it’s worth making the investment in a web developer who will provide you with a top-notch online presence.

 

But how do you choose one? There are plenty of people out there who will claim to be able to knock up a website for you, but their skills – and price tag – may not be quite what you’re after.

 

“Because each developer takes a different approach, it can be difficult for you to compare apples with apples,” says Scott Robinson, founder of digital marketing agency Jack In The Box.

 

“Worse, there are many ‘cowboys’ out there who prey on inexperienced business owners.”

 

Speak to other business owners to get a recommendation and ask for examples of previous work. Determine exactly what your needs are and what you are prepared to spend up front so that time and costs don’t blow out.

 

And choose someone who you feel you can communicate with easily – it can be a long process and often there is a disconnect between an entrepreneur’s vision and what the developer can deliver.

 

Further reading: Scott Robinson’s five top tips on choosing a web developer

3. SEO and social media

 

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Isolation can be a problem in home-based businesses – not just in terms of personal interaction but also in terms of the opportunities you have to spruik your business.

 

Therefore, your search engine rankings and social media presence both need to pack a punch if you are to compete with rivals who have more firepower than a soloist in their spare bedroom.

 

You need to focus on how Google ranks your website on certain keywords and get basics such as title tags, meta descriptions and analytics sorted out early.

 

Run a blog on your site to post fresh, engaging content that people will like to read and try to generate in-bound links from other sources – a great way to boost your rankings.

 

In terms of social media, find out where your customers reside and interact with them as much as possible. Think about utilising Facebook competitions or customer service via Twitter – your brand will benefit as a result and you’re compare well to large, unresponsive competitors.

 

Further reading: 10 top SEO tactics to cut through the web clutter and five ways to engage with customers via social media.

4. A dedicated workspace

 

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Many home-based entrepreneurs find that their homes become swamped by work, especially if their business expands.

 

You need to carefully consider where you want to locate your business to see if it meets your needs in terms of storage, internet and phone connectivity and, potentially, client meeting space.

 

Jane Shelton, a leading home office consultant, says: “Take the time to talk with the small business consultants that your state or territory government provides so that you avoid making expensive purchases and idealistic decisions that are not supported by your cashflow and your bank.”

 

“My own experience in tackling your question was to set aside a room in the house for my office, storage space for papers in an outside room and constant access to phones, computers and the living room to escape the constant pressures that are associated with being a homeworker.”

 

“The design of the office can keep you going for a couple of weeks if you’re on your own or for a couple of months if you have a considerate partner who is willing to put up with customers and visitors taking over your family home and life.”

 

“There is more to it than just converting the former kids room into an office, making the necessary structural changes to your home – such as an extra phone line, air conditioning and stocking your home office with more gadgets, paper clips and electronic business systems – or talking to a tax agent about costs.”

 

“Now is the time to find a friend, former work associate or a hired business adviser who is willing to help you work through the checklists for a successful small business.”

 

Further reading: Top 10 home-based business myths.

5. A separation from home life

 

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Shelton says: “If your family and friends cannot see your home office as a work space which needs to be respected, there is every chance that you will come to resent their invasion into your business as much as you resent having an unwanted visitor at a family party.”

 

The work/life balance of home-based soloists can be ideal – they can see more of their families, cut down on frustrating commutes and use money saved on overheads on more enjoyable things.

 

However, if there aren’t clear boundaries between work and home life, you can find that the distinction becomes unhealthily blurred.

 

You need to be able to walk away from your business at the end of the day. Similarly, home life shouldn’t intrude too much if you hope to have a productive working day.

 

Further reading: Jane Shelton’s top three tips on maintaining work/life boundaries.

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