It’s never been easier to run a successful business from home. Thanks to ever-improving technology, online marketplaces and services such as Fulfilled by Amazon, you can set up shop from your kitchen table and welcome customers and clients from all over the UK.
Whether you’re selling products or offering a service, if you have a great idea and the determination to make your business succeed, you’re halfway to achieving your goal. But can you realistically launch a business from home? From juggling your personal life to creating a dedicated working space, if you get the basics right you can start a successful home-based business without the expense of premises or a lengthy commute.
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10 ways to run a successful business from home
1. Get the basics right
You’ve oodles of enthusiasm and have written a great business plan. But no new venture will be successful unless you get the basics right.
Make sure you have a decent computer or laptop that you don’t share with someone else in the family, and record it as a business expense. Invest in a reliable broadband connection and a mobile contract with unlimited minutes so you can talk to customers without worrying about unexpected costs. Consider obtaining an alternative landline telephone number or buy a dedicated business mobile so family members don’t accidentally answer business calls.
Kitchen table start-up tip: If you don’t want to use your home address for business post, set up a PO box with Royal Mail.
2. Learn to juggle your workload
The ability to prioritise is key when you’re running a business from home. Parents may have toddlers to care for and teenagers to taxi around, and then there’s the dog who needs to be walked – the day can easily run away if you’re not organised.
Creating a to-do list every morning can help. Or write it at night and plan for the following day. Set realistic deadlines, don’t juggle too many tasks and regularly review your workload.
Kitchen table start-up tip: Think about paying for a childminder or carer – the Government’s Tax-Free Childcare scheme could help with costs.
3. Structure your working day
Much of the appeal of setting up a home business is the flexibility to work as and when it suits you. However, successful entrepreneurs plan their working hours carefully, allocating specific time to focus on important tasks, as well as equally important ‘me time’.
Get into the habit of concentrating on a project for a couple of hours, then take a break and move away from your workspace. Water plants outside, make a quick call to a friend, do a 10-minute workout – you’ll return to your work refreshed.
Kitchen table start-up tip: Turn off app notifications so work doesn’t get interrupted by social media posts, news updates or other unnecessary distractions.
4. Set up a dedicated workspace
Regardless of where you decide to run your business – the kitchen table, a spare room or the garage – make sure it’s a dedicated workspace where you won’t be disturbed. Perching at the end of a breakfast bar while others in your family eat isn’t ideal, and you won’t appear very professional on a Zoom call if kids are playing loudly behind you.
It also pays to invest in a comfortable, sturdy office chair to support posture and reduce the risk of back or neck pain. Good lighting is crucial too.
Kitchen table start-up tip: When sitting at a table, place your feet flat on the floor. If they don’t reach, use a footrest – a stack of large books will do in a pinch.
5. Know your legal responsibilities
Every new UK business needs to register with HM Revenue & Customs. To run a business from home, you may need to inform your mortgage provider, landlord or local council.
Check your home insurance policy too, as it may not cover stock you keep on the premises – upgrade to business contents cover if necessary. Public liability insurance is another must-have if customers will be visiting your home, and it’s always a good idea to keep on good terms with your neighbours.
Learn more about what every new business should know about tax, insurance and the law
Kitchen table start-up tip: If you’re setting up a new food business from home, you must register with your local authority as an environmental health officer will need to inspect your premises.
6. Keep on top of finances
Every penny counts when starting out and your initial cash flow may be unpredictable, so manage your budget carefully. If you aren’t a numbers person, consider paying an accountant to help with bookkeeping and tax returns.
Always keep a record of your incoming and outgoing revenue, and save all your receipts. Be aware that anyone who’s self-employed pays National Insurance contributions on profits over £6,475.
Kitchen table start-up tip: It’s wise to build a nest egg before starting a business, and remember to put money aside for tax bills such as VAT or corporation tax. If you’re a sole trader, have two bank accounts to keep business and personal spending separate – by law, a limited company must have its own business bank account.
7. Know your customers
If you’re planning to sell products from home, it’s especially crucial to understand exactly what your customer wants. Talk to people and listen to their feedback – everyone from your best friend to people attending your yoga class could be potential customers, so share your ideas and gather insight. Adapting an original idea may prove worthwhile in the long run.
Kitchen table start-up tip: Aim to provide a great, not just a good, customer experience. You’ll have a better chance at getting recommendations and repeat business.
8. Don’t try to do everything yourself
Although you may set out intending to run your entire business on your own, not every entrepreneur has the necessary skills to be an IT specialist, finance expert and marketing guru. You may simply not have the time.
Sometimes it makes business sense to get additional help with admin tasks, so you can concentrate on craft-making or all-important networking. Rather than risking burnout, seek the services of a virtual assistant. The Society of Virtual Assistants allows you to search for suitable candidates.
Kitchen table start-up tip: If your home is tight on space, outsource your product storage and order fulfilment. You’ll also save time otherwise spent standing in post office or ParcelShop queues.
9. Find ways to socialise and network
Sitting by yourself at your kitchen table day in, day out can get lonely. But being a one-person business doesn’t mean you can’t have colleagues – of sorts. You may not be in a communal kitchen chatting about last night’s telly, but you can network and link up with like-minded entrepreneurs online.
Kitchen table start-up tip: You can find additional networking support via the British Chambers of Commerce, an organisation that helps connect businesses.
10. Understand it’s a learning curve
Even the best-laid plans can go awry, so from the onset, accept that your journey to success may not follow exactly the same route you’ve described in your business plan. Situations outside your control may intervene – Covid-19 scuppered thousands of great plans – but also new opportunities may arise.
All business ventures have good days and bad, but if you stay motivated and learn as you go along, you’ve every chance of success. For more inspiration, see our Dragons’ Den success stories.
Kitchen table start-up tip: A mentor can provide crucial support in the initial stages of setting up a new business. When you apply successfully for a Start Up Loan, you get free mentoring for 12 months to help your business succeed.
Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur. Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses include:
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, marketing, project management, management and leadership.
Disclaimer: While we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.