Running a business from home
Content supplied by Barclays
Working from home sounds idyllic. No rush-hour commute, expensive work wardrobe or rushing through the door at past 6pm to tired, grumpy children (or a tired, grumpy partner).
Building a business empire from your bedroom is possible - provided you ignore the ironing and follow a few strict rules.
Barclays asked Wendy Shand, founder of Tots to Travel, for her invaluable list of dos and don'ts. Mum-of-three Wendy, from Northamptonshire, set up her family holiday-let business from her spare room five years ago, and now has an annual turnover of £1.5m. She says:
Do… take a leap of faith
Setting up a business is a steep learning curve. At the beginning I had an idea I believed in, £5,000 and a spare room with a computer in it. I spent eight months learning (through trial, error and asking friends) about everything from contract law to setting up databases. I spent the money on a good camera, flights to France to source family-friendly properties, and on paying someone to design me a logo and website. Then I launched. It's all grown from having an idea and being willing to learn.
Everyone needs human interaction during the day. When I was first setting up the business, I used to get ridiculous amounts of pleasure from going to pick the kids up from nursery - I'd collar anyone for a chat. But it's more useful to link into a community of mums who are doing start-ups. One good networking hub is Mumstheboss.co.uk, which has peer-support groups for 'mumpreneurs'.
Don't… do the washing up
There's always stuff that needs doing round the house. If it's not the ironing, then it's the washing up/hoovering/gardening. But if you want to run a business from home you have to prioritise. It's much easier if you've got a space in your house where you can shut yourself away and close the doors on all the chores. I used to work in our spare room and now I've got an office - a deluxe shed - in the garden.
Do… dress for business
During a working day I make an effort to dress smartly. I don't wear a suit (why would you when you don't have to?), but I'll put on a smart skirt, a blouse and a necklace. Dressing that way makes me feel like a professional who's doing something with her life, and puts me in the right frame of mind.
Don't… work all night
Running your own business from home means it's very easy to work late every night, especially when you're a mum, because you take time off during the day to spend with the children. But it's not good for you and it's not good for the business. You end up so tired your brain can't function properly. I make it a rule not to work later than 9pm. That way, I always have time to unwind before I go to bed.
Do… enjoy being at home
It is a privilege to be able to work from home, so I try to make the most of it. When I have a break I go and sit on a wall in my garden with a cup of tea or, in the morning, when I could otherwise be commuting, I go to a Pilates or yoga class. Enjoy the fact that working from home lets you live a more balanced life.
Don't… take on everything
When you can afford to, start outsourcing. With Tots to Travel I knew there was no way I was going to be able to build my own website, so I got someone to do that. And I quickly handed over my PR to someone else. I've learned that the more I hand over, the more time I have to work on the overall strategy for the business and keep it dynamic.
Do… get a mentor
It's so worthwhile investing in a mentor, especially when you're working on your own. There are companies who provide mentors for a fee, but if you possibly can, build that service into your costs. You need someone you have a rapport with and whose commercial acumen you respect. My mentor is a multi-millionaire who's grown several successful businesses. He's taught me loads and pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone.
Don't… criticise yourself
When you're working in a bubble on your own, it's easy to obsess over the stuff that isn't going well, rather than looking at how far you've come. I used to scold myself and say, "You've achieved nothing today." That's miserable. You need to be your biggest cheerleader, not your harshest critic.
Barclays has a wealth of advice on starting a business if you think you've got what it takes to set up your own business.
Head to Barclays on Mumsnet for lots more:
- Expert information on starting your own business
- Family budgeting and saving tips
- Money-saving videos and inspiring start-up videos
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