6 Things Not to Do When Starting a Home Business

The perks of having a home business go beyond walking to work in your pajamas: you’re your own boss and you set your own hours. But there a lot of pitfalls, too, especially when you just start out. When you’re running your own company, it’s important to keep an eye on everything and keep a potentially stupid mistake from deterring a would-be customer. To help you out, here are six things you shouldn’t do when starting a business from home.

1. Don’t Direct People To an Empty Website 

This happened to me recently. I was out having drinks and started talking business with a mutual acquaintance. He gave me his card, and added that his website was ‘under construction.’ When I went there, it wasn’t just rough around the edges, it was basically non-functional. I checked back in a few days, but when the website wasn’t updated, I simply forgot the whole thing.

The lesson? People are busy, and you shouldn’t waste their time. Don’t expect potential clients to keep checking to see if your site is working. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but make sure to include:

  • An ‘about’ section that offers a short bio and explains your company’s vision
  • Contact info (email, phone, address) in an easy-to-spot location
  • A portfolio, if applicable
  • Links to your business’ social media accounts

2. Don’t Spend on Unnecessary Stationary

I’ve seen it before. Someone starts their own business but spends more time making their new biz ‘look legit’ than putting money where it matters first: the product. Don’t spend hours thinking of a company logo—or spend hundreds for one to be designed—when you don’t have a client yet.  As you get more clients and referrals, you’ll be able to spend time fine-tuning the aesthetics.

3. Don’t Forget to Keep Receipts

Being self employed means you can, and should, write-off business expenses. But what you don’t want to do is claim a thousand dollars worth of material and not have the receipts to back it up; it’ll be a nightmare if you get audited. A great tool for this is Shoeboxed, see our review here.

4. Don’t Work All Over The House

Keep your home business allocated to one room for a couple of reasons. One, having a home office is a requirement for tax write-offs. According to the IRS, a portion of your home must be used as the primary place of business to qualify for tax deductions—meaning you can’t write off an office chair and a computer when it’s in your bedroom. And secondly, it’s the smart thing to do. A place to relax is equally important as a place to work. Keep all your paperwork and work supplies contained in your work area. This way, you’ll also know exactly what to write-off when it comes tax time.

5. Don’t Multitask

Working from home means that you are your own boss. It sounds great, and it can be, but you also have to get everything done in a timely manner. When I started working from home, I began multi-tasking everything—updating Facebook and Twitter pages, writing up half-baked pitches for clients, and doing whatever else I thought would make me succeed. The result? I managed to work for 12 hours a day and get nothing out of it but a small overdose of caffeine.  You’re going to need to make a list, and you’re going to need to stick with it. Allocate blocks of time for one task; if the task doesn’t get done, then it doesn’t get done. Move to the next task. It’s a great way to train yourself to stay on-point.

6.  Don’t Forget Your Personal Network

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” so don’t ignore it. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, make one and start looking for past business partners, clients, and work buddies. Here are 5 tips to help you make a great LinkedIn page.  It’s also important to let your friends and family know that you’re starting a business and looking for customers or clients; with any luck, they’ll give you some leads and direct other people to your new business.

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Comments

  1. says

    Good list! I’d add: don’t leave the TV on for company, especially when March Madness is on. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

  2. DB says

    @William@BtB:
    Ha Ha Ha Ha! You’re too funny!

  3. says

    Great list! I left my job last year to help my wife run our business and I can attest to the importance of all of these. You learn very quickly that self-employment is not sleeping in til 11 am, wearing sweats and watching TV all day. It takes a truckload of work, but is well worth the effort and time if you’re doing well for yourself.

  4. says

    Great points, especially the first. It seems that in an increasingly digital world, you only have one shot at getting people’s attention.

  5. says

    “meaning you can’t write off an office chair and a computer when it’s in your bedroom.”

    Actually, yes, you can. Take the square footage of the portion of the room that’s used strictly for business, and that’s your office, whether or not it’s got walls and its own door. My home office has been half the playroom for years!

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