Working from home comes with many benefits including flexibility, but there are some key points that one should follow to make your home based financial business more successful.
1. Make sure you have a dedicated work space
When operating a business from home it could be challenging to actually find a space that suits your business needs. Make sure your office space allows the noise from the rest of your home or family to be blocked out. Not only will you be able to concentrate better, but when speaking to a client on the phone, you don’t want background noises, like the dog barking, interrupting your call. Make sure you also have a locking door to your office. Most credit agencies that you pull client’s credit reports from will require that as a precaution. Also, it is likely that you will be storing sensitive information on your computer and in file cabinets, so you don’t want just anybody roaming into your office. For safety and protection of sensitive information, always treat your home office like an office in any professional building.
2. Turn ordinary personal expenses into tax deductions
One of the many benefits of running a business from home is that what once were personal expenses now could be considered a business expense and qualifies for a tax write off. Here are some key points to consider when operating a business from home, but as always we recommend you contact a qualified tax professional before opening any business.
• Your real estate taxes on your home
• Interest paid on your mortgage, or rent you pay. Measure your work area and divide by the square footage of your home. That percentage is the fraction of your home-related business expenses; rent, mortgage, insurance, electricity, etc., that you can claim.
• Any type of repairs done to your home.
• Phone bill. It is imperative that you keep your business calls and personal calls separate. It is much easier to track.
• Internet. Most likely you will use the internet for personal reason as well so most tax professionals will deduct a portion of what you pay your internet provider.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is the part of your home you call your office must be used regularly and exclusively for business purposes. The business part of your home must be either your principal place of business or the location where you meet with clients or customers in the normal course of conducting business. For detached garage or other separate structures, the requirement is only that the building is used in connections with your trade or business. You can also claim deductions if you use an area of your home for storage of inventory or product.
3. Structure your Day
If you’re coming from corporate America, you are most certainly accustomed to having a boss over your head looking at your every move. There are clear deadlines that you must meet in order to tackle your responsibility. None of that pressure exists when you are your own boss. You have no one to answer to but yourself. So given that lack of direct supervision, and possible distractions like the convenience of eating whenever you want, turning on your favorite TV show, or taking a nap whenever you’re tired, it is easy to see how time can be wasted during a work day. It is important to set real attainable goals for each week and follow through with those goals. Whether it’s calling 10 prospects per day, taking a banker or CPA to lunch or simply improving on a marketing plan, you have to set goals and make an effort every day to achieve them. To help you in that effort, there are a variety of scheduling programs available to you, such as ACT! from Sage.
4. Look and Sound like a Big Business
One of the many concerns in operating a business from home is the fact that your clients will know that your business is home based. It is a valid concern, but there are many tools to help you look and sound like a fortune 500 business. One of the best ways to convey that you have a professional business is setting up a good phone system with voicemail. Using your home phone line and setting up a one dimensional voice greeting will make your business look one dimensional. Having a toll free (800) number and a professional greeting and voicemail system can really separate you from other home based businesses. One does not have to spend a fortune to have this. There are numerous companies that have voice over IP systems that come with virtual PBX systems that allow you to have a professional voice greeter, multiple extensions, and a dial by name directory. All of this is not that much more expensive than your home phone bill. Since your phone system is a voice over IP system, there is no complicated hardware or software to set up.
Another underutilized aspect that home based businesses neglect is having a professional website. Anybody can have a website these days but not everybody has a professional one. A businesses web presence is like a first impression. If it looks cheap, then people mostly assume that your business is cheap. It is worth spending some money on a professional web development firm to build a website that looks just like any fortune 500 company.
5. You don’t have to list your home address
Many people don’t want to list their home address on their marketing pieces or websites for fear that their clients will somehow know that they are operating out of their home. The reality is that most clients don’t really care where you operate from so long as you can perform what they need you to do, which is procure capital for them. However, there are some options that allow you to post a different address without using a PO Box. There are mailboxes you can use through the popular UPS stores that allow you to have a number like #210, and don’t require you to use the PO Box symbol. Instead of the number sign you can put whatever you like such as “Suite” before the number. This allows you to have the UPS stores address without using your personal home. You can get a mailbox with a real street address and secure 24-hour access to mail and package deliveries. Additional services include mail forwarding, fax receiving and the ability to call in and check for new mail.