So you’ve finally decided to go alone. You’ve been “working for the man” for years and now it’s time to set up shop and enjoy working for yourself. To make this deal even sweeter, you’ve decided you’ll run your business out of the comfort of your own home.
Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? It is.
Not only will you be starting your very own business, but you’ll also enjoy the best of both worlds: starting a company and remaining in the comfort of your own home. It’s a win-win for anyone that has the ability, drive, and resources. Anyone who has ever run a business out of their home will tell you how exciting and fulfilling it is.
But before that business can take off, there are certain things you’ll need. Let’s take a look at five of those things—some of which are required, and some are merely a suggestion.
This is a business. And no matter where this business is, it must be legal. The first thing you must do is decide on a form of ownership. Three of the most popular types are:
- Sole proprietorship
If this is a small business, and it’s just going to be you, the sole proprietorship is your best option. If, however, you think your company will eventually expand out into something much larger, you might want a corporation. Your best bet, however, is to talk with your accountant to know what option best suits the company you are about to launch.
Depending on where you are located, you might also need a business license and run your business according to the laws dictated by your local or federal government. This is another issue to take up with your accountant. Even if your business will be formed as a means to work with offshore developers, you must take care of all the legalities before you launch.
If you neglect this step, you could find yourself in a world of trouble.
You probably didn’t think about this. But if you’re starting your business in your own home, you need to find out from your local authorities if your neighborhood is zoned for home businesses. If it’s not, this could come back to haunt you. Certain municipalities do not allow for the zoning of home businesses, so you must find this out first.
If your local zoning laws do not allow for home businesses, you might take this up with those in charge of zoning. Get your neighborhood to sign a petition and take it to the zoning board. In the end, you may not be able to change their minds and you’re out of luck for your home business. However, if your neighborhood is already zoned for home businesses or the zoning board is amenable to your request, you’re good to go.
We’re not done with the legalities here. You might find your home business requires certain permits, in order for you to legally do business. Depending on what your business is going to be, make sure to check into the following permits:
- Home occupation permit – this goes along with the zoning. If your neighborhood is zoned for home businesses, you still may need to acquire a home occupational permit. Of course, not every type of home business requires a permit, but you should check to make sure.
- Sales tax permits – If your business will be selling taxable products, you must obtain a sales tax permit. And even if you live in a state that doesn’t collect sales tax, if your business will be selling online to states that do (such as for offshore software engineers), you’ll need this permit.
- Health and safety permits – This is another issue where you’ll need to check in with your local government. Some states require health and safety permits for businesses.
- Sign permits – Believe it or not, if you plan on hanging up a sign, you might need a permit to do so. This doesn’t apply to all home businesses, but you’ll need to find out from your local government if your business (and your location) requires a sign permit.
- Construction permits – If you plan on making any structural changes to your home (such as creating an external entryway to your office), you’ll have to acquire the proper construction permits to do so. Without those permits, you can’t legally modify the structure of your home. This, of course, varies from state to state.
You need a plan. This plan will outline how your business is structured, how it will make money, who your customers will be, etc. Consider including (at minimum) these points as you create your plan:
- Company Overview: Your mission statement and the details about your business’ location.
- Executive Summary: This will be an overview of the products and/or services offered by your business.
- Financial Overview: This includes your projections, profit-and-loss analysis, and sales assumptions.
- Market Analysis and Market Strategy: This outlines your target demographics and information about what makes your products and/or services unique.
- Products and Services: This includes the details of how your products and/or services meet the current marketplace demand.
Your plan should also include a two-year projection, a five-year projection, and a ten-year projection. You need to have milestones in place for comparison as you grow.
You can’t run a business out of your home without a proper office. Okay, you can but you’ll find it frustrating and inefficient. Chances are you’ve already designated a room as an office. If not, now’s the time to do so.
Make sure this room is large enough to house all of the furniture and equipment you’ll need to run a business. A desk, a chair or two, a printer, a server, and any technology specific to your business.
You also want to make sure the office space you chose lends you a modicum of privacy. You don’t want people interrupting you all day.
And, if at all possible, select a room that has its own external door. If you’re going to have clients or customers in your office, you don’t want them to have to walk through your home to get there.
Don’t overlook the choice of proper office space.
If you’re ready to launch your own business out of your home, take care of these five things and you can rest assured that your company is starting off on the right (and legal) footing. It might take a bit of time to take care of these issues, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did.
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