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Starting a Business at Home? You Must Answer These Questions First

Starting a home business is not something that should be done without careful planning.While you may have some success at first, there are bound to be difficult issues that you will have to deal with at some point. It can be a very stressful period for anyone when starting a home based business. You must have all the necessary information to hand before you begin. Here are some questions for you to consider before taking the final decision.

What is it that you have to offer? Where will you find a market? Do you have some expertise in the products you plan to sell? Do you have a unique selling point, to convince people to buy from you, rather than from someone else? Do you plan to concentrate on a single product or a range of goods? How will you handle your sales campaign. Do you have a functional website. Have you sufficient funds in hand to have one built. Enough for legal and accountant’s fees? Funding to sustain your family and pay household bills for a period before you can generate some returns from the business?

Do you have all of the necessary skills needed? Can you run your own office, keep essential records, handle shipping if selling physical goods? With your website in mind can you write articles or have the ability to communicate your thoughts, while posting to any forum, or social media site you may use in your marketing efforts? Has your previous job prepared you for these, and other tasks? These may seem like odd questions since you will be your own boss, but you will need to handle all these duties on your own. Most people, starting a business from home, lack the finances to employ anyone at first. It is not easy to run a successful home business but, of course, it can be done. While you may not need a college degree or any other type of formal training, there will be several skills that you need, in order to do well. Separate out those areas where you feel confident and list the ones you are likely to find difficult. Spend time, and maybe discuss with your family how you plan to overcome these difficulties. This is not a time to be negative. Approach problems with a positive attitude, and you will be on the way to success, just as others have before you.

Consider the products you want to sell against the general background of the economy. In tough times people will tend to buy what they need rather than what they want. Whether the economy is good or bad you will still need to identify your market and attract buyers. In general people will buy less when the economy is not doing so well, but there are many products that will continue to sell well. When researching your market you will find people fall into identifiable groupings. Look at where the money is likely to be. For financial reasons your product may not do well with teenagers, newly married couples or pensioners. People in the 30s to 50s age group, have generally had time to gain experience and promotions in their jobs, and are thus more likely to be higher paid then the average. Does this grouping fall within your target market?

Do you have space in your home to allow you to set up an office and perhaps a storage area as well? Make no mistake you need to be able to separate your working area from your living area. You must be able to isolate yourself from your family, to a large extent, in order to be able to work effectively. Does your home have such a space? Do you need an extension, or a conversion, and will you have to reconsider your finances? To what extent would noise effect your work, and will you need to install some kind of sound insulation?

Do you plan to start on a part time basis and thus keep the security of your job while finding your feet in your home business? This has been found to be a suitable compromise for some but is that what you want to do? or are you sufficiently prepared (and financially strong enough) to go full time right from start up? Are you sure you are not motivated by dissatisfaction with your job, rather than by the excitement and challenge of running your own business? Has the idea of an easy, casual approach to work been one of the attractions? Unfortunately those who have that mindset usually fail. Have you considered the fact that any business, regardless of its location, needs hard work and dedication to have any chance of success?

Many home businesses fail because people do not make proper preparation. Using a proper and detailed business plan, and accepting that hard work and persistence are a requisite part of any business, is the only way you can expect to succeed in building your own home based business.

3 Tips for IT Companies Making the Transition From Home to Business Clients

The owners of many IT companies and Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) start their careers by working as sole technicians, often serving the domestic market – fixing home users PC’s.

I myself found went down this route. For 3 years I provided support to a large number of home users, doing everything from setting up Wireless networks in homes, to fixing printers, to cleaning viruses infested PC’s (again, and again, and again it seemed… ).

But then a revelation takes place. You begin to appreciate that you don’t own a business, you own a job. You also realize that you are selling your time for money, and that if you want to earn a decent income, the low-rates you are charging to home users multiplied by the same amount of hours in each day mean that you’ll never reach your income goals.

And so you make the decision to start focusing your attention on the business market.

Here’s 3 tips for making the transition from working with home users to business clients.

Raise your rates

Home users are typically ultra price sensitive. You might be charging your existing home user clients anything from $60 an hour and lower.

Your instinct, therefore, is to charge something similar to this for business clients. You’ll struggle to believe that you can charge more than that for your services, based on what you currently perceive to be your own value.

This is a trap I’ve seen a lot of IT companies moving from serving the home user to business market fall into.

If you under-price your services, then you’ll cause a lot of potential clients to question why it is you are so cheap often significantly, you will be perceived to be offering good value and the amount of business you will win will increase.

Wait a minute! By charging more, I’ll win more business?

Absolutely. Do some market research and find out how much your competitors charge. Then at least match those prices. Preferably charge more. Then watch as you win more business.

Act Professionally

When dealing with home user clients, especially price conscious home users, it’s not so much who you are but whether you can get the job done – and cheaply.

When dealing with business clients, they want to know they are dealing with somebody trustworthy, legitimate and professional.

You can help to build this professional image and engender trust by taking a few simple steps.

  • Offer a landline telephone number, and not just a cell phone number. A single cell phone number suggests a sole Technician. A landline number is still much more trusted. If you’re worried about missing calls when you are out, employ the services of call answering service or utilize Voice-
  • Have proper business cards printed. While cheap flimsy cards are OK when you’re dealing with home users, if you offer a business a wafer-thin dog-eared business card to any typical business owner – they’ll immediately perceive you to be less than a stellar business owner.
  • Dress the part. Jeans and a polo shirt may have been OK up until now, but if you want to walk into business offices and be taken seriously – it’s time to consider your appearance. Dress for the location. If you’re working in a factory environment, a shirt with your logo on and smart trousers and shoes might be appropriate. If you’re working with a professional services client (such as an accountant or solicitor) then suit, shirt and tie might be more befitting. If in doubt, go with the suit.
  • Invoice promptly. And by promptly, I don’t mean a month later. Invoice the same day as you complete any work. This will ensure you have a better chance of being paid promptly while the work is fresh in the clients mind. Make sure you include your bank details and any other relevant information on the invoice. Ensuring you bill in a timely fashion for the work you’ve done shows you’re a serious business, not a part time hobbyist.

Give up servicing Home Users

Finally, and this is often the toughest step – you’ll need to give up servicing home users sooner rather than later.

This might be hard, especially when you’ve built a loyal portfolio of clients who need your help and who you are earning income from, but trying to juggle home and business users is a very, very tough gig and I’ve yet to find a successful IT company that does it well.

But just because you’re growing, doesn’t mean you need to simply dump your home user clients. Build up a relationship with another Technician in your area who is perhaps at an earlier stage of business evolution than you are. Start to sub-contract home user work across to them and when you’ve built up trust based on good quality work and professionalism – speak to them about handing over your home users.

You might come to an arrangement around referral payments, or you might prefer to simply know your old clients are being well looked after. Either way, you’ve found a good home for your home users.

Then, notify your clients that you’ll no longer be offering services to home users. Express gratitude for their long term support, and give full contact details of who they can contact for their future support requirements. Assure them they are in good hands, and that if they are unsure, they can still call you for advice.

Finally, make sure to let them know that if they want you to visit them in their business or work lives, you’d be happy to do that.

I personally won a lot of business clients based on home users I’d worked with before. If you make it explicitly clear that you’re now working only with businesses, you’ll find plenty of referrals based on your previous good work.

Conclusion

It might feel like a wrench to leave behind an often comfortable lifestyle business servicing home users, but ultimately, if you truly do want to stop owning a job and start owning a business – it’s a necessary step.