Starting a home-based business can be a daunting prospect for entrepreneurs. Many step away from a career in a different industry to pursue a passion, often without a clear indication of whether they can succeed in their new venture.
Yet these business owners are doing something right. Research conducted by Vonage UK, in collaboration with the Centre for Economic Business Research, showed that the sector is now worth £94 billion to the UK economy, and continues to grow.
For many successful home-based entrepreneurs, sustaining growth and scaling their business can be one of the greatest challenges. By following some simple guidelines, they can get on top of their workload, win new business, and maybe even expand beyond their kitchen tables.
Guard your time
Being your own boss allows you to be nimble and to respond quickly to opportunities as they emerge. As Jo Hockley, founder of Toddlebike, put it: “My skill set is amazingly broad now – I am the CEO, accountant, receptionist and cleaner, all rolled into one.”
But, it also means that time not well spent hurts your pocket directly. If you own a small business, make sure you are using technology to streamline your time and automate any repetitive processes. Use email rules to file emails for review later for all but your most urgent contacts. Try to allot specific times to respond to these emails to avoid constant interruptions throughout the day.
Technology can also be used to streamline calls. Moving to the cloud, for example, enables a home-based business to avoid costly upfront costs on their business line and to avail of services like cloud recording for compliance and training. This means big company features without big company prices, and allows professional record keeping at a fraction of the cost.
This means you can be on call 24 hours a day, with access to all the information you need to maintain a consistent business presence and provide an “always on” experience for customers – not quite as bad as it sounds when you’re able to get out of the office whenever you want!
While you won’t be able to compete with the media buying power of bigger brands, home businesses can beat them hands down on local knowledge. If you run a community business, then look at using social channels like Twitter to congratulate sports teams, offer deals to wedding parties and comment on local issues, such as road works or bad weather.
Find two or three social platforms that you are familiar with and post regularly. Let your personality shine through and use plenty of images and short videos to tell your company’s story. Track engagement and conversion rates from social channels to gauge what’s making the most impact.
Use technology to save money
Many home-based business owners are happy to work from their kitchen table in order to put food on it. But others will be bitten by the entrepreneurship bug and will want to continue to scale their business.
While increasing the size of your business will mean an increase in overhead costs, technology can help ease this transition and save you money in the long run. With no hardware or equipment to purchase, streamlining communications with a switch to a cloud-based system comes at a fraction of the cost of traditional phone systems and can make it easier to scale, adding or removing phone lines as necessary. Smaller businesses with a limited budget can also take on a big business feel with additional features like virtual receptionist, call groups and routing to increase call-taking efficiency, helping to serve as many callers as possible – good for both customers and the bottom line.
With home-based businesses, the most important thing is to preserve the freedom and choice that comes with being your own boss. The growth in home businesses means the sector remains a boom for the UK economy and source of enormous personal pride for entrepreneurs.
By Simon Burckhardt, managing director, Vonage UK