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 manage your team when working from home

Managing Employees Working From Home

Many small businesses across Canada have had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes having everyone work from home. If you’re new to managing a team of remote workers, here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind.

How to manage a remote team

  • Be flexible and understanding. Many entrepreneurs and employees alike have been thrust into the work-from-home life in this unprecedented time, and are doing their best to manage their work responsibilities while managing family and their own mental health. Of course, your employee should be as considerate of their deadlines and schedules as in a traditional office. But it’s important to remember that most people are adjusting to this new way of working, while at home potentially with other family members who have their own schedules and needs too. You may have to be extra flexible to account for this, and cut your team a little more slack than normal.
  • Check in on a regular basis. Whether it’s weekly group chats or one-on-one check-ins, make sure you talk to each of your employees on a regular basis to see how they’re doing. They may need an extra day to complete a project, or may be in need of community resources to help them. Don’t pressure them to talk, but make sure they know your virtual door is always open.
  • But don’t jam-pack the days with meetings. Back-to-back meetings are often distracting even in a regular office environment, let alone a working from home during a pandemic environment. It’s important to make sure that everyone is kept up to date and knows what’s going on, but it might be a good idea to scale back the amount of meetings you have, to ensure nobody gets overwhelmed or falls behind. Instead, try quicker messaging options like Slack.
  • Trust in your team. A huge part of running a virtual office is trusting that your team is working. You can’t stroll by and chat with them like in a traditional office. Of course, you should be monitoring their overall progress and how they get there, but don’t make checking their social media and constantly asking for updates a regular part of your day. Many of us have seen reduced productivity during the pandemic, so take that into consideration as well.
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Mental health when working from home

Working from home can be a rewarding and fulfilling pathway to entrepreneurship for many. However, sometimes entrepreneurs working from home can feel isolated or disconnected from colleagues and others. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are working from home who may not be used to it. It can take a toll on our mental health if we don’t have proper support or connection.

The Globe & Mail recently shared some mental health tips when working from home, from Shrad Rao, the founder of remote company Waypoint. In the article, Rao says:

As a company that’s worked 100-per-cent remotely since day one, we’ve learned some important lessons about staying mentally healthy while getting the job done from home. Our solutions may not work for your company, but if you can take any positive from our experiences, then we’re all better off for it.

Visit the Globe & Mail’s site for the full article with mental health tips from a remote company.

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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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