Desk with computer at home

Tips for Running a Successful At-Home Business

As of 2012, there were more than 38 million home-based businesses in the United States, and that number is growing at a rapid rate. In fact, a new home-based business is started about every 12 seconds.

If you’re passionate about starting a home business, you’ve probably done a ton of research about your company and industry. But have you thought about what it takes to set up a productive home office and balance your personal life with your professional life? Don’t worry. We have you covered!

Creating a Productive Office for Your Home Business

Woman working on computer at desk

Perhaps the most important tool for an entrepreneur is a dedicated work space that encourages productivity. For those starting a home business, this can often be easier said than done due to a wealth of distractions when you’re working where you live. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to set up an ideal home office that can help maintain a high level of focus and productivity.

Find a Quiet Place

No two houses are the same so there’s no one-size-fits-all option for where your home office should be located. While some people have a spare room they can transform into an office space, others may have to re-purpose a corner of their bedroom for a work space.

Ideally, you should seek out the quietest place in your home to set up your office. This is the first step in eliminating distractions. The farther you are from the noise and foot traffic of your family or roommates, the better. Below are a few ideas to get you started:

Spare Room Home Office

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If you’re lucky enough to have an unused bedroom to transform into a home office, you can really create a great working space. The home office above gets the desk away from the wall, provides excellent lighting, and even has a comfortable reading chair.

Basement Home Office

The basement office is perfect for anyone who wants to remove themselves from the main living areas of the home where they might become distracted.


Home Office in a Small Space

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With a minimal setup that includes small office furniture, you can practically set up an office anywhere. The home office above is a perfect example of creating a space dedicated to work even when there is little to work with.

Bring in Some Green

Natural scenes have a calming effect on people and can boost mental energy. If possible, try to choose a room in your home with a great view of the outdoors. Leafy greens make the best background for productivity, so windows facing trees are ideal. If you don’t have much wilderness around your home, try placing a small fountain outside your window or bring some potted plants into your home office.

Create Flexible Working Stations

Having control of your environment can improve professional performance so create a home office that has flexible configurations. A rolling chair and multiple desktops allows you the freedom to switch positions and refresh your mind. Other ways of controlling your environment include adjusting windows, lights, and having a couch or comfortable chair for reading and brainstorming. With multiple options in your home office, you’ll have the power to dictate your working environment throughout the day.

Staying Productive While Working at Home

Man working on computer at desk

For some, the biggest struggle associated with working from home can be maintaining focus and discipline during working hours. When you throw in household chores and family members, it can get even more difficult. Here are some great tips that should help you stay free from distractions and focused on your home business.

Stay Organized

Albert Einstein once said “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” While that’s a fun quote, a cluttered desk is still no friend to productivity. After all, how are you supposed to get any work done while swimming though piles of paper and pens?

If your home office is messy, take the time to declutter your desk and get organized. Working at a clean desk will help clear your mind and keep you focused on the task at hand.

Don’t just stop at your office either. Some people find it hard to focus when other parts of their house are messy or unorganized, even when they shut the door to put it out of their mind. Spend a few minutes every night tidying up your house using these tips so you won’t be distracted while trying to work the next morning.

Staying on Top of Paperwork

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Home businesses tend to have a lot of important paperwork so it’s crucial to stay organized. One of the easiest ways to stay on top of a growing number of invoices, catalogs, order forms, and more is to keep digital versions saved on your computer. Important files may be worth keeping a physical copy on hand. Just make sure you have a place for those as well.

The home office above uses a color-coded filing system to keep physical files organized. Whether you choose to use a filing cabinet, folders, or a digital system, make sure everything is clearly labeled and organized by purpose.

Have a Plan for Your Inventory

Depending on the type of home business you have created, you may run into the issue of storing and organizing inventory. When your office is your home, that can be quite the challenge. Some entrepreneurs end up using their garages, basements, or any other extra storage space for their growing inventory. But these solutions are almost always temporary, and without a plan you may end up losing more and more of your home to your business.

Other solutions for storing a growing inventory include:

  • Warehouse Space: Instead of paying for an entire warehouse, some places allow the option to pay only for the space you use. It’s sort of like renting a portion of a warehouse. This is a great solution if you’re selling large items like pieces of furniture.
  • Self Storage: Have more privacy and quick access by renting a storage unit to house your home business inventory. This solution works well for companies selling smaller items that can fit into a range of standard storage unit.
  • Dropshipping: Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method where you rely on a third party to both store and fulfill any orders. With this method, you won’t need to use any of your own space for storing your inventory, but you’ll have smaller margins.

Take Effective Breaks

Everybody needs a few breaks throughout the day to keep their creative juices flowing, but not all breaks are created equally. Many of us default to checking Facebook or Twitter when it comes time for a break, but that doesn’t give your mind the reset it truly needs.

Instead, aim for taking productive breaks that either help refresh your mind or lead to inspiration. For example, you can read relevant material for business inspiration, learn new techniques or strategies in your industry, or even do something that isn’t work related to clear your mind.

You’ll feel more mentally refreshed after stepping away from work for a few minutes, whether it’s for a short walk, to meet up with someone, or almost anything that gets you out of the house. As long as you have a time limit for your time away, you’ll be able to stay productive and give yourself breaks that actually boosts your mental energy.

Stick to a Routine

One of the best ways to set yourself up for productive days while working from home is to stick to a routine similar to what you’d do if you were working a regular office job.

If you make it a point to shower, get dressed, and even have breakfast like you’re preparing to leave the house, it could help get you into a working mindset. Staying in your pajamas all day may not. But whatever you do to get ready for the day, sticking to a routine should help signal to you that it’s time to work.

Set Some Ground Rules

Balancing your personal life and professional life is always important, and it can be a challenging task when they take place in the same building. While occasional distractions are to be expected when working from home, many interruptions can be avoided by setting some ground rules for your family, yourself, and your coworkers.

Set a Schedule

When you work in a separate office, it’s easy to know when your work day starts and ends. When you’re in the office, it’s time to be productive. Once you leave the office, your day is over. When you’re starting a home-based business, your two worlds can blend together and work can accidentally bleed into your evenings and weekends.

An easy way to stay productive and keep your work life and home life separate is to set specific working hours and stick to them. To ensure you’re staying productive, consider keeping a timer to track your time as well. Having a set schedule will not only increase your productivity, but it can also prevent your home business from taking over valuable family time.

Limit Family Interruptions

Kids may have a tougher time realizing when you’re supposed to be working and when you’re not, so it can help to have rules set in place to limit interruptions. Those with younger children will need to be more flexible in order to take care of their kids, but rules will still help you stay on task.

Rules should be easy to understand and even easier to follow. For example, one rule could be that when the door is shut it means you’re busy and shouldn’t be interrupted unless there’s an emergency. You’ll need to establish what constitutes as an “emergency” as well.

One of the easiest ways to limit interruptions from kids is to plan out their day as much as possible. This can include setting out clothes, snacks, and activities in advance. The busier they are, the less likely they are to interrupt you while you’re working. It also helps to take little breaks throughout the day. If your kids know you’ll come out of your office eventually, they’ll learn to wait to ask you any questions.


Make Sure Your Home Is Zoned for Business

There are a lot of steps to follow when starting a successful home business and you’ve probably done your research about them. However, before you look into how to start a home business, you need to check if you’re legally allowed to run a business from your home in the first place. Ideally, you should get this information from your city and county zoning regulations before you even open your business. But if you’ve already started your business, you’ll need to review your local zoning regulations right away.

Advice for Homeowners

Entrepreneur advises all home business owners to start at the lowest level when seeking ordinance and zoning regulations on operating a business from their home. For example, if you’re part of a homeowners’ association, check what the covenants and restrictions are for your association before searching anywhere else. From there, you can work your way up to checking city regulations and county regulations, if necessary.

Many cities now provide their entire code book online, so check if your city’s book is available. But if you have to make a call or stop into the municipal office, try to avoid using the word “business” and instead use the phrase “home occupation” when asking for copies of the applicable ordinances. According to Entrepreneur, talking in terms of a “home business” can be an instant red flag for zoning officials.

Advice for Renters

Unfortunately for renters, there may be even more restrictions for a home business than there are for the average homeowner. Every renter should first consult with their lease agreement before checking any zoning laws. Read your entire lease to ensure that running a business from home won’t violate anything laid out in the lease, even aspects that aren’t directly related to operating a business. For example, if your business has the potential to be disturbing to other tenants, it may violate other parts of your lease.

If your lease doesn’t permit you to operate a home business, you’ll have to look for other inexpensive options. One such option may be to look into a local co-working space. Many small home businesses try to avoid the costs of renting a full office, which makes this an attractive option. While it’s not as affordable as using your own home, co-working spaces are still one of the most affordable options for external offices.

There you have it! Starting a business from home is one of the best ways to reduce risk when starting a business, and with the ideas above, you can remain productive as you transition to working from home.