According to last year’s Enterprise Nation Home Business Report, the three groups showing the fastest growth in home based start-ups are graduates, mums and the over 50s.
And they’re involved in a whole range of businesses too. From interior furnishings to writing, catering, fashion and consultancy, it seems that pretty much any business can now be started and run from the comfort of your own home.
Here Emma Jones, founder of home business website, enterprisenation.com and author of 'Spare Room Start Up' offers her tips on how to turn your business idea into reality and realise all the benefits that come with working from home.
From business dream to reality
In five simple steps, Emma shows you how you can become your own boss and turn that spare room into a profit centre:
Step 1: What's the big idea?
It all starts with the idea. What’s your idea? If you have one, then skip to step 2. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, think about these factors:
- What is your passion/hobby skill? Turning your hobby into a business is a great way to get paid for doing what you love and it never feels like work.
- Spotted a gap in the market? If you've ever looked for a product or service that you just can't find, maybe others have looked too - meaning there's a market out there for something that doesn't yet exist. Fill that gap.
- I can do it better. If you see someone doing something but think you can do it better yourself, then go right ahead.
If you’re still all out of ideas, then consider a franchise. There are plenty about, offering a proven business model and an opportunity to work with other people who have the same goal as you. Check out companies like Travel Counsellors, My Secret Kitchen and Virgin Vie.
Step 2: Write the plan
Once you’ve come up with your idea, it’s time to write a plan. This doesn’t have to be a big job; in fact, the best business plans are the most brief. You might want to include some key headings that I label IMOFF:
- Idea – what’s the idea
- Market – who are your customers
- Operations – how will you manage the business/what extra resource might you need
- Friends – who can you turn to for advice
- Financials – can you sell the product/service for more than it costs to make ie make a profit.
Your plan will act as a route map for the journey ahead.
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Step 3: Get set-up
Ideally, find dedicated space in the house to serve as your home office. That way you can make a clear boundary between what’s work time and what’s not!
Furnish this space in a way that makes you feel comfortable. You’ll probably need a laptop or computer, a phone and printer to get started. With prices falling, you can get your whole home office set up for well under £500.
Invest in a good desk and chair and choose space that offers plenty of natural light. One of the upsides of working for yourself from home is that you get to choose the work environment.
Step 4: Sales and marketing
You have an idea, a business plan and a home office that’s raring to go. Now all you need to do is secure your first sale.
Make a list of contacts and write to them individually to set out the benefits of your offer. Include price details and a point of contact. Follow up with a call and be prepared to negotiate on the price for your first sale as this could be the one that leads to many others.
Once you’ve won your first customer, shout about it! Write a press release to keep up the marketing momentum. Before you know it, you’ll be well known and talked about in all the right places.
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Step 5: Keeping it going
The last step is to keep it going. I manage this by balancing what I call the golden triangle:
- Admin (cashflow, accounts etc)
- Business development (finding new clients)
- Customer care (being good to current clients)
If you keep these three things in mind and in balance, you’ll continue to enjoy the every day adventure that comes with running your own home business. It’s one of the finest feelings in the world.
* Emma Jones is the founder of home business website, enterprisenation.com and author of 'Spare Room Start Up - how to start a business from home', published by Harriman House.