Working from home is a dream for thousands of people, but making that dream a concrete reality is one of the most daunting things you will ever do. After all, it takes a lot of guts to let go of the safety net of a steady paycheck to work for yourself, but the rewards are well worth the risks. Running your own home-based business gives you flexibility, control, and incredible job satisfaction, but getting started can be the hardest part. That is why we’ve compiled everything you need to know to finally take that step and answered some of your most burning questions.
Where Do I Start?
There’s not one correct place to start when setting up your home-based business, but your website and social media presence is a good place to start. If you don’t have any experience with building a website, don’t worry: it’s not nearly as intimidating or expensive as you would imagine.
Essentially, you will need a domain (the name of your website) and a web hosting provider. Both are usually available through web building services, and doing everything in one place is better if you are a beginner who is making a simple website. Modern web builders feature intuitive, easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interfaces, allowing anyone to put together a good-looking website with little to no design experience. Check out this detailed guide to web builders to help you choose the best one for you.
Think about what your website needs, and try to keep it simple to start with - an “about me” section, portfolio, and contact page are usually enough. Then, consider which social media platforms you want to be on. Doing something visual? Instagram is a must. Showing off your way with words? Keep a witty and engaging Twitter feed.
Make sure you regularly set aside time to maintain your online presence. Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to show off on your website or social media yet. Just setting the processes in place and having these ready for when you do will save you loads of work down the line. Online tools like Later (which allows you to schedule Instagram posts on a calendar) and IFTTT (which can help you update multiple platforms at the same time) can be a huge help.
How Do I Start Getting Clients?
This is probably the biggest question for most budding freelancers and entrepreneurs, and the answer is that it depends. If you already have an established network in your area due to past jobs, then this part can be easier for you. Reach out to any contacts that could be interested in your services, and let them know what you can do. Even if you don’t have an extensive list of professional contacts, you can start by reaching out to friends and family members to get the ball rolling.
If you are freelancing, you may find online platforms like People Per Hour or Upwork extremely useful for getting your first clients. However, bear in mind that the jobs listed on these portals are not likely to be high-paying ones and that you will be competing with people from all over the world who can afford to request lower rates. If you do choose to use these services, make sure you take your time setting up an attractive profile and writing careful, tailored bids for work.
Finally, you have the option of cold pitching. While this can lead to great opportunities, it does come with its challenges - think about how many unrequested marketing emails you receive at work or in your personal inbox that you actually read and pay attention to. Make sure any emails you send are personalized and engaging, and always try to find a specific email address on LinkedIn rather than a generic “Contact Us” one. This guide to cold emailing by the Harvard Business Review is a good place to start.
What Should I Charge?
Again, it depends. It depends on the work you do, your level of experience, and your ongoing expenses. Take some time to look up the average rates for your area as well as the different ways you can charge for your work. For example, writing work can be paid per word, per piece, per hour, or per day. Consultancy rates can be hourly, daily, or weekly.
It is a good idea to set your ideal rate for each of these methods, as this gives you a starting point for negotiations. Be realistic - you won’t be able to charge high rates if you are a beginner with a small portfolio. However, you should also be able to take pride in your work, so know how low you are willing to go. One option is to offer different rates based on the complexity of different clients’ work and their budgets, and then establish a set rate based on what seems to work for the majority of them. Using an invoice app (Square Point of Sale is a popular option, and it’s free) will help you keep track of what you’re charging everyone and which rate(s) are the most widely accepted among your clientele.
Finally, many business owners just starting out wonder if they should accept “experience” as compensation in the beginning of their new venture. The question of whether to offer free or extremely cheap work during the start of your career is a difficult one, and it comes down to personal choice. Some people believe it cheapens their work and can lead to being trapped with low-quality clients, while others swear by it as a way to build experience. It’s best to take this on a case-by-case basis - for example, this list by Forbes outlines four times in which it’s a good idea to take on work for free.
How Do I Stay Productive?
One of the hardest parts of running a home-based business is staying productive. After all, home is where you relax, and there are endless potential distractions lurking around every corner. Being your own boss is all fun and games until you realize that you have to monitor and motivate yourself.
First of all, focus on properly setting up your home office. Working from your bed or the dining room table is an attractive option (and you can always do that occasionally), but you need a desk with a proper work area to get your head in the right space for productivity. If you don’t have a separate room to turn into an office, then a partitioned corner of any room can work. The important thing is that it has everything you need to be productive and that it feels separate from your home life.
Technology is a great ally to the home worker, so use it to be as productive as possible. There are apps that can streamline your invoicing, web extensions that can block certain websites (we’re looking at you, Facebook), and thousands of online playlists filled with music to promote focus and concentration.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to start putting your plan into action. Don’t worry - anyone who has ever started a business has been slightly terrified, but the truth is that millions of people have fulfilling, prosperous careers working from home. With some planning, organization, initiative, and motivation, you can join them and have the business you always wanted.