Expert answers to home-based business questions

home-based business

With so many of us working from home these days, the small business landscape has changed. Maybe your team is slowly starting to return to the office, or maybe you’re exploring the idea of remote working in the future. Maybe you’ve become inspired to start a home-based business of your own.

Our GoForth Experts have fielded lots of questions about home-based businesses over the years, and have answers about topics such as zoning, permits, the home-based business lifestyle – and more! Here are a few home-based business questions our expert entrepreneurs have answered:

Have a question of your own? Search our database of over 1,000 small business questions and find answers from our expert entrepreneurs.

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How to stay organized when working from home

How to stay organized when working from home

Working from home is appealing to many entrepreneurs for its flexibility and potential cost savings. However, staying on top of your work can be difficult when you’re away from a traditional workplace. Here are some tips for keeping yourself organized when you work from home.

Have a dedicated home office space

Many home-based entrepreneurs love being able to work in a non-traditional environment. You can host an onboarding call from your couch or create your handmade jewelry at your kitchen table. However, having a dedicated office space can go miles in helping your small business succeed. Find an area in your home – it doesn’t have to be large – and keep all your files and supplies there. This will ensure you’re not scrambling for a contract in three months’ time. If you hold meetings with clients in your home office, this space will hold a larger importance and should look professional.

This area can also play a part in tax deductions for home-base businesses.

Stay on a schedule

Working from home often gives you a flexible schedule. However, there should be a schedule of some kind. Review your non-work plans and write them out, allowing for things like transportation time and traffic. Consider how these plans will fit in with your upcoming projects and deadlines, and reference this schedule often. Making sure you actually have enough time in your week will mean you’re not pulling all-nighters two days before your next deadline or deliverable. And most importantly – leave your work behind at the end of the day wherever possible! It can be tempting to keep working when you don’t actually need to, but try and stay mindful of it.

Keep on top of your filing

It’s a good idea to have a dedicated home office space, but you should definitely invest in keeping your space clutter-free and organized. Set aside regular chunks of time to review your files. Recycle, scan, or shred the items you don’t need anymore. And don’t forget about your digital clutter, too! There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your computer files arranged neatly in proper, easy-to-find folders.

Make sure you hang on to these important accounting records.

Minimize distractions

Being able to stay focused and will keep you on top of things and prevent your task list from going off the rails. Try to avoid having any kids in your home treat your home office like their play room, for example, and set limits with friends or neighbours who want to call or drop by “just for a minute” if you’re in the middle of a project.

Find organizational aids in software

Whatever your small business, there’s sure to be a program that can help you stay organized. For example, at GoForth we use Slack for messaging and calls, and Dropbox for file sharing. Ask your friends or colleagues what they like, and do your research before downloading anything (especially if it sounds too good to be true)!

If you’re running a virtual business with remote workers, check out our tips on how to manage a virtual office.

Also, read some working from home tips from real entrepreneurs!

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50 businesses you can start from home

Home-based entrepreneurs are self-employed, working alone or with few employees. Companies run by home-based entrepreneurs typically don’t have a storefront, street advertising signs or customer parking. Entrepreneurs working from home may have an office, studio or workshop, depending on their business.

Sounds great, right? If you think starting a home-based business might be ideal for you, here are 50 small businesses you can start from home, either full-time, or on the side:

  • Travel writer
  • Bookkeeper/accountant
  • Photographer
  • Event planner
  • Visual artist
  • Blogger
  • Freelance journalist
  • Personal assistant
  • Writer
  • Editor
  • Financial planner
  • Graphic designer
  • Web designer
  • Web developer
  • Marketing consultant
  • Bicycle repair
  • Social media management
  • IT consultant
  • Computer repair
  • Make-up artist
  • Alterations or sewing
  • Hairstylist
  • Manicurist
  • Personal shopper
  • Virtual assistant
  • Transcriptionist
  • Personal trainer
  • Tutor
  • Massage therapist
  • Bed & breakfast
  • Daycare
  • Clothing designer
  • Dog walker
  • Pet groomer
  • Jewelry designer
  • Ceramicist
  • Music instructor
  • Purse designer
  • Notary public
  • Language instructor
  • Home organizer
  • Interior decorator
  • Business coach
  • Personal chef
  • Video game review writer
  • Caterer
  • Wedding planner
  • Woodworking
  • Dog trainer
  • Home inspector

As always, we encourage you to thoroughly research and plan when starting any small business. Entrepreneurs starting a home-based business should be especially wary of scams and opportunities that sound too good to be true.

Good luck, and have fun!

For more tips on starting and running a home-based small business, check out these posts:

How to identify a work-from-home scam
You should sell these! How to start a business selling your handcrafted work
Perks and snags of internet or home-based businesses
Home-based business permits and expenses

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Calculating home-based business deductions

Did you know that entrepreneurs operating their business from home may be eligible for home-based business tax deductions? To qualify, your home must be either:

  • The principal place of your business (that means over 50% of your income-producing activities are performed there)

or

  • Your home office must be exclusively for your business and used regularly for meetings with clients, customers or patients.

How to calculate home-based business deductions

The business-use-of-home deduction is found by calculating how much of your home you use for business — usually, if you have a home office it’s possible to take the area of your work space and divide it by the total area of your home.

A portion of household expenses that directly relate to your business — including utilities, telephone, internet and cleaning materials — can also be deducted. House insurance, property taxes, or rent may also be claimed.

If you operate a part-time business out of your home, expenses must be adjusted accordingly by calculating the hours the work space is used per day, divided by 24 hours to get a calculated portion of your total home expenses.

Employees and commissioned sales employees of your home-based business are also able to make tax deductions.

For more information, including what in-the-home expenses you can and cannot deduct, check out CRA’s guidelines for work space in the home expenses.

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Working from home advice from real entrepreneurs

home_officeWhen you work from home, it’s incredibly important to keep your work and your home separate as much as possible. You don’t want your business life to damage your family life, but at the same time you don’t want your family life to interfere with your business’ success.

We asked some entrepreneurs just like you for their best work-from-home tips. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Check with local requirements and zoning regulations to make sure that your business can be run from your home.
  • Install a separate phone line in your office to truly keep your business separate from your home life (and to make sure your kids don’t inadvertently make a sale on your behalf!). You should also have a professional voicemail system, separate from your family or personal voicemail.
  • Set specific start and end times for your work day. Decide on your work hours and stick to them.
  • Try to stay committed to a set schedule as much as possible to avoid any chance of not spending enough time on the job, or not spending enough time with your family.
  • Try to make your work area as professional and motivating as possible. Keep the office work-related, and try to avoid having any kids in your home treat it like their own play room. Consider having something inspiring or motivating in your work area in order to remind yourself why you’re working so hard — whether it’s a favourite quote, a photo of a dream vacation spot on your desktop background, a major financial goal written in big flashy letters, or a dream board filled with pictures of things you’d love to have.
  • If you have to do any renovating for this home office of yours, make sure you keep records of everything. Keep track of your utility bills and mortgage payments so that you can deduct these expenses when it comes to tax season.
  • Consider using a virtual office service. This will allow you to rent a mailbox at a downtown location so that clients will see a more sophisticated address when sending packages. These companies also usually rent out boardrooms for meetings at a downtown location. If necessary, you may also be able to hire a virtual assistant who will answer your phone calls in a professional manner before connecting the call to you at your home office.
  • Make sure that your office has a door and can be a quiet environment when you need to get down to business. Avoid distractions as much as possible.

For more tips on working from home, check out these past blog posts:

Tip of the Month: Working from Home

Perks and snags of internet or home-based businesses

Tips for staying organized from working from home

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