As part of a social campaign, #RecipeForSuccess, QuickBooks ProAdvisors® are creating recipes for small business success. Here’s one from Heather Satterley that ran on the QuickBooks® Online blog; read it and feel free to pass it on to your small business prospects and clients.
Leaving your job to start a home-based business is exciting, but it’s not for everyone. The secret ingredients to make a home-based business are vision, ambition and self-discipline.
- Business plan
- Business license and/or permits
- Business advisor
- Dedicated “work-only” space
- Phone or VOIP service
- Multifunction printer or scanner
- Software, including QuickBooks
- Fast internet connection
- Website and marketing plan
Step 1: Combine your vision, ambition and self-discipline to create your business plan. Vision, ambition and self-discipline are vital ingredients needed to start a home-based business, but these alone won’t get the job done. You need to develop a business plan to define the vision and purpose of your business, and determine the logistics and direction you’ll go. You’ve heard the saying, “Without a plan, it’s only a dream.”
Your plan can start as just a few notes jotted down in a notebook, but eventually you’ll need to develop a short- and long-term business plan. You can find resources to help you develop your business plan on the SBA website, and there is also a wealth of resources, including articles, videos and templates found on Entrepreneur.com.
Step 2: Prepare, submit and obtain the required business licenses and/or permits. During the development of your business plan in step 1, you likely discovered you need to obtain various licenses and permits. All states and most local municipalities require that you register your business with them. Make sure you check out the requirements where you live to ensure you are in compliance. The SBA provides a list of local resources that can help you find out what you need to operate in your area.
There may also be special ordinances regarding conducting business from your home that you should be aware of, so check with your city or town, and with your homeowner’s association, if applicable, to make sure you can legally operate from your home and obtain the necessary permits.
Step 3: Develop a relationship with a business advisor that you trust. Whether your business is home-based or something else, starting a business is exciting, but it can also be intimidating. Finding a seasoned business advisor you trust, such as a CPA or QuickBooks ProAdvisor, will help to alleviate much of the uncertainty. This professional’s job is to explain the laws and regulations, and provide advice about financial and strategic decisions.
Step 4: Create a dedicated “work-only” space in your home. Working from home is convenient and efficient, but it’s easy to blur the lines between work and personal life when they all happen in the same space. Create a dedicated work-only space to contain work to a particular place. Make a deal with yourself that you’ll only conduct business in this space and try to keep personal stuff, such as laundry or kid’s toys, out of it. This will help you keep your focus when working and protect your personal space from being consumed by work.
Ideally, your “work-only” space should be a separate room, but if that’s not an option, even dedicating a corner of a room and adding a divider or screen can do the trick. The main point is not to allow personal items to seep into the work area and, depending on the type of work you do, you’ll likely want to make sure your space is away from heavy traffic areas in your home.
Step 5: Purchase your essential tools. Once you’ve defined your work-only space, you need to make sure you have the tools you’ll need to do your work and stay on track. If you don’t have a desk and chair, you’ll definitely need those. Don’t skimp on a good chair; you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in it! The business plan you developed in step 1 should have allowed a budget for the essential tools you’ll need for your particular business, but most businesses need at least these essential items:
- Computer – With cloud-based technology, you likely don’t need to buy an expensive computer unless your business uses heavy graphics or video. Make sure you know what applications you’ll need first, including the technical requirements, before you purchase your computer.
- Software, including QuickBooks – Sometimes, you can save money by bundling your software with the purchase of your computer. Many computers come preloaded with trial versions of productivity software and provide a discount when you activate them after the trial. For your bookkeeping and tax prep, a good accounting program, such as QuickBooks, is also a must! Set this up early on, so that you can make sure you know your financial position and how your business is doing. You can find a local QuickBooks ProAdvisor who can help you set up your books and provide valuable advice about setting up and running your business. See step #3 above!
- VOIP or phone – You’ll need a way for your customers to call you. You can subscribe to VOIP services that will send business calls to your existing landline or cellphone; many of these also may alert you with a push notification or an announcement when you receive a business call. PCMagazine does an annual review of business VOIP providers.
- Multifunction printer or scanner – While many businesses are paperless and use cloud-based applications to store documents, you’ll likely need a way to scan documents you receive by mail, and you may need to print something for a customer or client. Do your homework and try to find a machine that is reliable and won’t cost a fortune in ink.
Step 6: Connect high speed internet to your office and establish your connection to the world. Don’t skimp on your internet connection. Really. There is nothing more frustrating than a slow or weak internet connection when you are trying to be productive. If your business involves video conferencing, this is especially important and you should consider using a wired connection to your computer, rather than using WiFi.
Step 7: Build your website and develop a marketing plan. We live in a global world connected by technology, so your website will likely be the most important marketing investment that you make. Because you don’t have a brick and mortar presence for customers or clients to visit, your website will be your storefront. Hire a great web designer who has proven experience in design and SEO optimization. Before you meet with a potential designer, scope out other websites in your industry and related industries to determine the elements that attract you. This will help you determine the most effective way to get your message across. A good web designer will guide you through this process and provide advice and suggestions on the direction to go.
While your website will be your digital storefront, you’ll need to develop a plan to get people to visit. This involves creating a network to drive potential customers to your website through the use of social media, blogging and partnerships.
Step 8: Don’t forget to purchase the appropriate insurance to protect your business. You are investing so much in your new venture: your time and money, not to mention your intellectual assets. Make sure you protect your investment by buying the appropriate insurance coverage for your business. Common types of insurance you’ll need include business liability coverage, property insurance and workers compensation insurance, if you plan to hire employees. Depending on your industry, you may also need to look into bonding your business.
What’s your #RecipeForSuccess? The recipe may be different, but the goal remains the same: a truly satisfying business that you can get excited about and look forward to every day. Good luck!