Customer service

It may be true that, in general, the startup costs for a home-based business are going to be substantially less than a brick-and-mortar business, it is important to know that the logistics can be just as complex. You still have to manage your products and services. You still need to set up your books. You still have to communicate with your customers.

And let’s not forget about all the other considerations that come into play when you choose to work from home. How are you going to separate your home life from your work life? Are you going to have set business hours? What about the infrastructure that you need to run your home-based business?

The Workstation

Let’s start with the basics. When you are setting up a traditional business in a traditional brick-and-mortar location, you have to think about thinks like equipment and furniture. If you’re opening a bakery, you’ll need ovens and counters and whisks. The same idea applies to a business based out of a home. For services that can be rendered over the Internet, like graphic design or writing, the workstation really only requires a reliable computer with a reliable Internet connection. This is why it is possible to have a remote office, though you may still want to have proper infrastructure in terms of a printer, scanner, sewing machine, or whatever else you may need. These startup costs have to be considered.

Many people also run traditional service-based businesses out of their homes. Perhaps you are a registered massage therapist. Then, you’d need an appropriately relaxing room where you can set up your massage table, ideally quite separate from the private family areas of your house. I’ve seen people convert spare rooms into hair salons and photography studios, for example, as well as “crafts rooms” to produce handmade items for online stores like Etsy and eBay. For that, you may also need a proper workstation for order fulfillment and product storage.

Invoices and Payment

While part of the reason why you may choose to go into business for yourself is to gain some more autonomy and freedom, you still want to get paid. If you had a traditional brick-and-mortar business, you’d want to set up a cash register of some kind, but that may not be appropriate or necessary for a home-based business.

There are many solutions available for both online payments and in-person payments. While it possible to accept a regular cheque in the mail, it makes more sense to set up a retail merchant account for payment processing online. PayPal is a popular choice, of course, and you can use the Square dongle and app to accept credit card payments in person.

You also have to consider how you’re going to keep track of all these payments and how you’re going to manage your invoices.

Customer Relationship Management

And that brings us to the realm of customer relationship management, or CRM. Major corporations use highly complex and comprehensive CRM systems for this purpose, tracking everything that has to do with every customer they’ve ever had. You can imagine the size of the database that Amazon may have, for example. While you may not need that level of complexity, you should have a system in place to manage your customer relationships.

This includes invoicing and payment, as mentioned above, but also keeping track of your open orders, current projects, client preferences, rate quotes and everything else. For some, a spreadsheet may suffice. For others, something more robust may be needed. If you are selling physical products, for example, you may need a better system for receiving orders, fulfilling orders, tracking and shipping, processing payments, and so on.

Still a Business

It’s easy to hurl yourself into the realm of entrepreneurship without realizing all the different roles and factors that come into play. There is a lot of accounting and administration to do, in addition to the actual production of the things that you sell. Whether you have a downtown office or you work out of a spare bedroom, your small business is still a business and it needs to be treated as such.