Is running a small business from your home a long-time dream? Or is combining your work with personal life your worst nightmare?
For 14 years, I enjoyed running my consulting business from home. I could get up, go straight to work, wear what I wanted, and loved my “one-room commute.” When my business outgrew my home, I left with some regret. But I now thrive on the creativity and interaction of working with others.
Before you decide where to base your business, recognize the dreamy benefits and nightmarish drawbacks of working from home.
Low-cost. You already have a place to live, right? If you set up your company from home, you won’t have to rent another space, buy more furniture, phones. Every dime counts, especially when you’re starting out.
No commute. Commuting—yuck! For many, the worst thing about having an office is the commute—especially if you drive during rush hour. Working from home saves time, money on transportation expenses, and especially saves your nerves.
Productivity. When I worked from home, it was far easier to write or work uninterrupted on a big project. Working home—alone—avoids the productivity-zapping conversations that inevitably happen in an office full of people.
Pets. Run your small business from home, and you don’t have to leave Fido or Fifi alone all day. Woof!
Wear what you want. Or nothing. Who am I to judge?
Tax deductions. Working from home, you can still write off legitimate business expenses—including computers and electronic devices, software, supplies, postage. You can deduct mileage for driving to meetings with clients and the cost of entertaining clients and prospects. (Just don’t expect to write off your kids’ Xbox!)
Work any time. Are you a night owl? An early bird? Do you want to be able to pick up the kids from school? Set the hours you want, as long as you can interact with customers or others as necessary.
Space and Stuff. Where are you going to work or put all your stuff? Often, it means sharing the dining room table, carving a corner out of the living room, or taking over the garage. Now where are you going to put the lawn mower?
Kids. Spouses. Pets. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll get lots of work done while the kids play quietly. Ha! Or that a spouse won’t want you to run an errand during your work day. Or that Fido won’t keep barking while you’re on an important call.
Nowhere to meet. Sometimes you need to meet clients or hold meetings, and your home just won’t do. This is less of a nightmare because of drop-in work space services like Liquid Space (founded by my former neighbor, Mark Gilbreath), or SAP’s Hanahaus in Palo Alto, CA.
Isolation. Coffee houses are filled with home-based workers. But they’re not the most ideal place to work, nor do they encourage interaction. Join entrepreneur, trade, or networking groups—and find a business buddy to bounce ideas off of.
Stagnation. There’s a reason Steve Jobs designed his buildings so employees would run into each other frequently—creativity gets sparked when working with others.
Home address. Do you want to put your home address on your website and business cards? Nope. Instead, rent a mailbox from a UPS Store or Pakmail or from the United States Postal Service.
Home tax deduction. The IRS allows you to take a tax deduction for the portion of your home you use EXCLUSIVELY and REGULARLY for business. Even with the new “simplified” method of claiming the deduction ($5 per square foot up to 300 sf), it can be challenging. Taking this deduction is often thought to increase your chance of being audited, too. Discuss this—and all other home office deductions—with your accountant or tax advisor.
Distractions. Why work on that challenging project when you’ve got a ton of laundry needing attention? A friend said her house was never cleaner than when she ran her small business from it. With the kitchen just steps away, your frig may become your biggest—and most fattening—distraction.
Work any time. Since you can work any time, you may feel you have to work ALL the time. There’s no escape.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015
This article originally ran in USA Today on June 5, 2015