How to run a small business from home successfully

Published: 10/11/2020

Whether you’ve always dreamt of working from home and love the idea of bringing home the bacon from the comfort of your own four walls, or the events of 2020 (we won’t mention the C-word) have left you no other choice, the key to nailing it is proper preparation.

From regulations and legalities to communication and technology there’s quite a lot to think about, so in this article, we’ll be going through everything you need to know to be set up for success.

Get disciplined

It can be so tempting when working from home to roll out of bed in the morning, plonk yourself in front of your computer and get to work in your PJs, but it’s not a good idea.

Dressing the part will have a big impact on your mindset and productivity.

Set a schedule

Another appealing aspect of home working is the flexibility it can offer - if you set your own schedule and dictate when you do what, it can be tempting to start late or take an extra-long lunch break, and that’s fine so long as you’re disciplined enough to stay dedicated and focused on what needs doing.

When running your business from home there are no rules saying you have to work 9-5 if that doesn’t float your boat or fit around your other commitments, but if you do opt for 7-3 or 12-8, hold yourself accountable and make sure you’re productive during those hours. 

Top tip: before each new week sit down and work out what hours you’ll be working to provide a structure.

Make a habit of slacking and your business might bear the brunt - so get disciplined and your bottom lines will benefit.

Stay organised

It’s important to have a clear system for what goes where so you don’t end up with piles of paperwork or running out of stock. Make use of the likes of filing cabinets, colour coding, folders, and so on so you can be as productive as possible and save time hunting for a particular item.

If you deal with invoices and accounts this can get complicated and involve a lot of paperwork. A great alternative is digital invoicing - like that available with our beepaid, pay by link, and virtual terminal solutions - which keeps all your information in one easily accessible place, removes the need for paperwork, helps you keep on top of your finances and ultimately makes your life easier. 

Top tip: for more information about the benefits of digital invoices for your business head here.

Set boundaries

It’s also a good idea to have a set workspace at home. Not everyone has the luxury of a home office, so whether it’s the dining table, a desk in the living room or you want to set yourself up in the shed, having one place that you work is a great way of drawing a line between work and pleasure and keeping you organised and focused.

Conquer communication

You need to think about how you’ll keep communication smooth when working from home as one of the perks of working from a shared space is accessibility - you can quickly grab an employee for a chat, have team meetings with ease, and read others’ body language.

Here are our tips for top-notch communication when working remotely:

  1. Make your expectations clear - from working hours to deadlines, communicate clear expectations so everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and working towards a shared goal.
  2. Set boundaries - since you’ll be communicating via technology, it’s a good idea to set boundaries about how you’ll do this so there’s a clear line between work and pleasure. Emails or work-specific group chats are more professional than texting, for example. 
  3. Pick up the phone - when something’s urgent and you can’t just knock on someone’s door to get their attention, pick up the phone and ring them. Real-time conversations over messaging cut out potential miscommunications, and allow issues to be resolved instantaneously. 
  4. Empathy - working from home inevitably comes with distractions like pets, kids, and outside noise (think lawnmowers and power tools), so it’s important to keep this in mind and offer your workforce a little empathy. Take a deep breath and remember everyone’s doing their best and handle disruptions with grace - it’ll work wonders on your staff morale.

Technology

Make sure you’re ready and rearing to go with equipment that’s fit for purpose including your computer, phone, payment systems, and internet.

There’s nothing more painful than slow tech holding you back, and as a small business owner there’s little worse than knowing you’re not reaching your full potential, so invest in the best equipment you can.

Remember: you may be able to claim back some of the cost as business expenses when it comes to filing your tax return.

Check your internet speed and contact your provider if it’s not up to scratch, and make sure your phone tariff is adequate to your needs to avoid being caught out by a hefty bill.

Payments

The payment systems you use will depend entirely on the nature of your business, but the key is making sure you’re with a reliable provider (spoiler, like us), and offering your customers what they want - a convenient way to pay. 

If your small business involves selling products through your website, then a payment gateway is likely to be your best option - they allow you to accept card payments online and keep your business open 24/7.

If you offer a mobile service like hairdressing or window cleaning, you’re a tradesperson, or you don’t sell via your website and run your business from home then you’ve got options:

  • Mobile card reader - a mobile machine allows you to accept card payments from anywhere in the UK thanks to the 3G technology it’s powered by. They’re light, durable, hold a long-lasting charge, and print instant receipts.
  • Beepaid - beepaid is an invoicing app that allows for totally contactless transactions of any amount on the go, and all you need is your phone.
  • Virtual terminal - with a virtual terminal you can accept card payments over the phone, you simply take your customer’s details and pop them into a secure page on any internet-enabled device and get paid.
  • Pay by link - pay by link makes email invoicing a doddle - all you do is create a custom invoice and email it to your customer, they enter their details and the money lands in your account in a matter of days.

Remember: for a helping hand working out the right payment solution for your business, our friendly experts are only ever a phone call away. 

The legal stuff

While running your business from home can be a really cost-effective option since it removes the outlay of paying for a separate premises, it’s important you brush up on what’s expected from you legally in order to do it properly or you could end up with a costly surprise down the line. We’ve broken down what you need to know below.

Permissions

There are a few people you might need to ask permissions from to start running your business from home:

  • Your landlord or mortgage provider - if you’re renting check your tenancy agreement, or if you own your home the property title held by Land Registry will outline any restrictions. Residential mortgages also sometimes prohibit using your home to run a business, so it’s important to find out if this applies to you to avoid unexpected costs. 
  • Your local council - if you need a licence, want to advertise outside of your home, or expect lots of customers or deliveries to be arriving, you’ll need to talk to your local council.
  • Your local planning office - if you intend to make alterations to your home to accommodate the running of your business you’ll need to apply for permission.

Top tip: to find out exactly what you’ll need to do get in touch with your local authority to discuss your plans and seek advice.

Insurance

The home insurance policy you already have in place might not cover your business, i.e. any stock, electrical equipment, customer health and safety, so it’s a good idea to contact your provider and find out exactly what’s included and what’s not.

Top tip: Head to the British Insurance Broker’s Association (BIBA) website to find an authorised insurer.

Business rates

Business rates might be payable for the areas of your home from which you run your small business - this will depend on whether or not a part of your home has been given a rateable value by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

Contact the VOA in England by ringing 03000 501 501 or in Wales on 03000 505 505, to find out if this applies to your property. 

Good to know: your small business might be eligible for small business rate relief if your home has a rateable value of less than £12,000, find out more here.

Tax allowances

If you’re a sole trader or part of a business partnership you can include your business costs when completing your Self Assessment Tax Return. 

This means a proportion of the costs for things like heating, lighting, phone and broadband, and council tax can be claimed on your return, so do your homework and you could save yourself a pretty penny.

Remember: if you decide to sell your home you might need to pay Capital Gains Tax on the portion of your home used to run your business, so don’t get caught out. 

For heaps more tips and resources head to our blog, or to discuss your options for taking payments from home reach out to our dedicated experts today.

Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce

Copywriter

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