Think for just a second about the typical entrepreneur. Where are they working? Do they have a corner office on the 25th floor of a building downtown? Maybe a co-working space or an open-office plan? Do they own a storefront or restaurant?
How about the living room?
Yup. The majority of US-based entrepreneurs are working out of their homes, more than 14 million of them according to the US Small Business Administration. Fourteen. Million. There are more home-based businesses here than there are people in the country of Senegal.
And it’s not just the United States. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor issued a 2012 report based on surveys from 6,000 entrepreneurs worldwide and found that 69 percent of them started their businesses at home.
Our global economy is powered by a network of entrepreneurs who could, if they so choose, forgo changing out of their pajamas after they wake up.
Thomas Friedman told us this was coming when he wrote The World is Flat back in 2005. Technology is tearing down barriers that once existed. Whatever can be done in the realm of business, will be done — less expensively and more efficiently than ever before.
You don’t need expensive hardware and software. You don’t even need to hire professionals to create a website or design a logo. Sitting at your kitchen table, you can build and manage an empire in ways that were never even possible 20 years ago.
The US has been here before. When the country began, most businesses were home businesses. Private quarters were attached to every storefront where a blacksmith, shoemaker, seamstress, or butcher worked. Only much later in history was the workplace separated from the home.
Of course, it’s not accidental that the business world is experiencing a homecoming. The trend started with the advent of the personal computer and has continued with each technological advancement since. In an Entrepreneur article, Rudy Lewis of the National Home Based Business Association said, “as personal computers and printers got cheaper, home businesses of all kinds were able to grow from modest, usually one-person operations into sophisticated, high-earning businesses.”
So just imagine what the growth of the internet and mobile technology has helped foster.
Dr. Karyn Koven knows this all too well. For the past year, she’s been building her company, LanguageBird, from the comfort of her Los Angeles home. LanguageBird is an accredited online school offering curriculum for learning 11 languages. Either for high school or middle school credit or just for fun, students learn languages in a way that traditional schools have a hard time teaching themselves.
It’s language learning for 2018. And it doesn’t require Karyn to leave her home. Students who enroll in LanguageBird courses learn from their own homes, interacting with teachers through video in a one-to-one setting. The model works; students actually learn the language instead of just passing language classes.
For Karyn, in a city with the country’s most stressful commute — including an average commute time of 54 minutes — she simply walks down the hallway to start her day.
Make no mistake, Karyn’s home office feels like an office. She has a separate room for her work, complete with a standing desk and file cabinets. On one wall hangs her diplomas from Wisconsin and UCLA and framed inspirational quotes; the others are turned into whiteboards with neatly-organized strategy ideas and to-do lists.
She’s also had the room for growth at home. LanguageBird has two employees now, in addition to her network of teachers working around the world. Her first employee is her full-time assistant, and her newest was brought on to help with marketing. Both work right in Karyn’s home, enjoying an enviable view of the surrounding area and playing with Karyn’s dog, Nate.
As LanguageBird continues to grow, it’s hard for Karyn to know for sure if running the business from her home will remain a viable option. But right now? It’s perfect.
4 MAJOR BENEFITS TO RUNNING A HOME BUSINESS
You already know how a bad commute can affect your mood. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. TIME suggested that commuting adversely impacts blood sugar levels, cholesterol, risk of depression, anxiety levels, blood pressure, and sleep. Yikes.
The average American spends 204 hours a year commuting. I’ll save you the conversion: it’s 8.5 days.
It’s not just the cost of renting an office that you avoid paying when you run a home business. Working at home means avoiding paying double for internet, furniture, and a computer. In addition to that, you save by not paying for a commute; by eating your meals at home; and by not needing an extensive, office-ready wardrobe every day to impress colleagues.
The importance of a flexible schedule can’t be overstated. It’s not just that you start and finish your day on your terms (which is great, mind you), but that you can multitask, be more available for appointments and errands, and have a much easier time committing to after-work social outings.
Operating your business from home may also help you come tax season. The IRS offers a nifty Home Office Deduction if your residency is your business’s exclusive place of operation. Deduction amounts typically are based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use.
3 CHALLENGES OF HOME-BASED BUSINESSES
The comforts of your own home come with a myriad of built-in distractions. TV, a stocked refrigerator, and your bed are just a few of the obstacles standing between you and your completed work. It’s imperative to do what Karyn at LanguageBird did: create a separate space for your work. Even if it’s just a desk somewhere, you need to have a space where you can feel engaged and productive, and not easily slip into relaxation mode.
Gundi Gabrielle, bestselling author of Influencer Fast Track and The Sassy Way to Starting a Successful Business when you have NO CLUE, is an influencer and Top 100 Business Author. Plus, her Sassy Beginner Internet Marketing Series is a great resource for newbie entrepreneurs taking their first step.
Marketing, she says, is the biggest challenge to starting and operating a home business.
She recommends “having a solid strategy to not only create products or services but first of all, how to market them: Who is your target audience and what problems do you solve for them? Where does your product or service provide massive help? That — is the basis of successful marketing! Conduct research before you even develop your first product or choose your niche. Then develop a clear strategy on how to reach your target audience and how to market to them. Only when all that is in place are you ready to create your first product.”
Projecting a Successful Image
Home-based businesses are everywhere, but unfortunately, they don’t always conjure up images of shining success. It’s unfair. Many home-based businesses are absolutely crushing it. But you need to be prepared to project success to give the right impression.
Invest in great headshots and photography, create a professional website, develop and share great customer testimonials, and publicly celebrate your successes on social media — it will send the message that you’re to be taken seriously.
HOME BUSINESS SOFTWARE STARTER KIT
Gundi Gabrielle’s advice for home entrepreneurship? Become familiar with technology tools.
“So often I hear people say, ‘I’m not really computer adept, I’m not really techy’ or…’I’m an introvert, so I can’t do marketing’. These are all just excuses your mind makes up because it doesn’t want to step out of its comfort zone,” Gabrielle says. “Don’t let that stop you. Instead, make a commitment to GET computer adept and techy. Learn marketing and whatever else you need. Plus, there is so much help in the “2 FREE Universities” as I call them: Google and YouTube — you can learn pretty much anything there and it will be much easier than most things you had to learn in college. You just have to take this as seriously as you would any other profession or training. Apply yourself and have a long-term mindset and success and freedom can be amazing down the road!”
With that, here are the technology resources you should consider getting acquainted with when you build out your business from home.
There’s no shortage of helpful website building software. All of them allow you to start with a template, and then drag and drop your way to the spiffy-looking site of your dreams. Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly are among the most common. Shopify and Zoey do the trick if you’re managing an e-commerce store.
Graphic Design Tools
If you turn back the clock just five years, your options for having professional designs and images were limited to 1) hiring a professional graphic designer, or 2) creating the designs yourself. The problem with the latter is that every graphic design software, namely the Adobe suite, comes with a horrendously daunting learning curve. Today you can quickly create sales sheets, advertising and social banners, infographics, and mailers using inexpensive programs like Canva. Plus, you can pull free, amazing-looking stock images from sources like Unsplash.
Work Management Apps
It doesn’t matter the type or size of your business, having a way to organize your workflow is a much-needed way to actually complete tasks. You could write down your to-do list on scrap paper, sure. But there are easier, more efficient, and cheaper (paper isn’t free, after all) ways of keeping you on task. Both Trello and Asana are handy for this.
Before you have the capital to make your first hire, you can still enlist the help of professionals to complete major projects for your company — from writing content to strategy consulting. Fiverr or Upwork are terrific resources for finding freelance work for relatively cheap, whether it’s copywriting or photo editing. And if you’re looking for higher level strategy on the cheap, services like Clarity offer consultations with experts in their field where you pay by the minute.
Email Marketing Services
You can build email lists, customize email campaigns, and receive full reports on open and click rates with very minimal effort or expense. There’s an ocean of available email marketing services. Many of them offer a free plan that would be enticing to any home-based business. These tools are the best way to announce new products or services and highlight customer use cases. Some popular services to explore include MailChimp, Constant Contact, and VerticalResponse.
Any business needs a simplified way to collect and manage information. Applications, registrations, general inquiries, feedback, requests — you name it. And when you use an online form workflow, you reduce the need to print paper and take up file space in your home. We, of course, are partial to JotForm.
Working from home isn’t reserved for small ideas. Hewlett Packard. Apple. Amazon. All of these industry titans started as home businesses — with far fewer resources at their disposal than fledgling entrepreneurs have today. So be aspirational, even if it feels like a reach. Running your business from home is a relatively low-risk way to get any size company off the ground. Plus, there are plenty of ways to start a business with no money.
Even with the surge in co-working spaces available to business owners, working from home remains a viable and attractive option. Technology empowers people to start, maintain, and grow businesses from the comforts of their homes like never before.