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Home is where the office is

ARE you thinking of setting up your own home business? After running one for over six years, I have found the following tips most useful.

Support from family

Your partner can offer financial support when you are starting out. Cash flow will be tight in the first few months, so it helps if there is someone helping you to pay the bills. If you are alone, you may need to save up to one year’s worth of living expenses to tide you over in the initial stages.

Some people may argue that this amount is too much. However, the more money you have to fall back on, the less stressed you will be about your business bringing in income quickly. And you will be able to focus on setting up your business properly. You will put the right processes in place and not be tempted to take short cuts to save money.

Proper working area

It would be great if you can allocate an entire room for your home office. Otherwise, try to partition a section of a room to do your work. It is important to establish a separate “work area” from the general living area.

This will ensure that there will be fewer distractions and you will be able to focus on your work better. If you have young children, it is important to explain to them that this work area is off-limits while you work.

Discipline

This is the most difficult part of running a home business. The television, the refrigerator and the coffee-making machine are easy distractions. There are no bosses to tell you how long your lunch or tea break should be.

As you head for the kitchen, you may see dirty dishes in the sink and laundry to wash. The temptation to take many breaks or to get the housework done is great.

Therefore, you need to be disciplined. This is best achieved by creating a daily routine and sticking to it. Just pretend that you are going to work. Plant yourself in your work area and stay there!

Watch cashflow

As with any business, cashflow will determine whether your business stays afloat or sinks. Although you do not need to pay any rental, you will still need money to pay your bills, grow your business and keep saving.

The most important thing about cash flow management is getting paid. Make sure you get paid, preferably upfront (in full or partially), for the services you are providing.

Be professional

When you are operating a home business, you will need to answer the question, “Why should someone use my services instead of those offered by traditional brick-and-mortar set-ups?”

Most home businesses attack a niche market as they lack the financial muscle to compete with the big guys. Therefore, a professional-looking website and business cards are all-important aspects of running a home business.

Be professional, too, when you meet clients. For example, if you choose to see clients at home, you can’t have little children running about and interrupting the meetings. Arrange for a caregiver to supervise them while you are with your clients.

Marketing

All businesses must invest in marketing in order to attract customers. In fact, you should be spending most of your time marketing during the initial phase of your business.

For a home-based business, the initial investment would most likely be word-of-mouth or publicity in free or low-cost advertising websites.

You should enlist the help of almost everyone you know to spread the word about the services you are providing. You can also use social networking sites like Facebook, which have the potential to reach out to many people.

A final word of advice: Do not be lured by “get-rich-quick” schemes or short cuts to success. You must be willing to work hard to succeed. - Source: ST/ANN

Article by Vivian Yew, the founder of ViVE Creation. She conducts beading workshops and manages an online beading supplies business.

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