Thursday, May 15, 2008

20 Pointers For Running Your Business Out Of Your Home - What You Need To Know

Running your business from your home, although looks great on the surface - reduced costs, tax benefits, reduced overhead, convenience, no driving to work, etc. - it generally means making a few sacrifices for you and your family. What's the reality? You take the space you are living in and now add a whole new business with all the business "stuff" that goes with it - desks, office equipment, phone lines, cameras, lighting gear, possibly employees etc. - it takes up space.

I don't just mean that figuratively - your business at home takes up space physically in the house reducing the space available for your family members and other personal things. Emotionally it will certainly effect each family member because the family will occasionally feel the pressures of the business in your home. Be sure to consider time into the equation because it could crowd family time activities due to it's intimately close proximity.

That said, let me give you a list of things to consider if you run your studio in your home. Here are 20 pointers of practical advice for running a residential studio (notice the phrasing). Most of these suggestions are based on my own experience of running my own photography business in a residential location for over 30 years. Good Luck!

1. Do you run a George Clooney / Katherine Zeta Jones operation - stylish, classy, polished, professional. Or is it more like a Larry the Cable Guy / Minnie Pearl operation - lacking in style or any other attributes just mentioned.

2. Remember, successful people want to do business with successful people - you have to look the part depending on your market niche.

3. How about the neighborhood and your home. Granted, it doesn't have to be a George Clooney mansion, but it better not even be close to Larry or Minnie's place. Maybe it's time for a little home inspection and time to spruce the place up a bit. Ask a friend, neighbor for honest impressions and input.

4. Set up parts of your home that is strictly business - totally off premises to family operations. Where will you meet clients? What area can be designated for production, office/clerical, shipping...?

5. What are you business hours? You don't need or want to be available 24/7 or you will go crazy. The Zen masters had it right here - you need time to center, refocus, or just plain get away from the business to maintain sanity in a home business environment.

6. Get a separate phone line and be able to turn it to "silent" after business hours. Nothing will turn you against your customers more quickly (not a good thing) than grabbing the business phone on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's Day, etc. when a totally inconsiderate client wants to check on an order.

7. Keep food smells to a minimum. You are not running your business out of the local McDonald's, Taco Bell or KFC.

8. How about your display space. If you don't have much wall space, use easels to show large samples of your work.

9. Pitch out any image under 16x20 inches. Only show the "big stuff" . Remember, you have to show big to sell big. That goes for wedding albums too. It's always about building a client's expectations about what you can do for them. If you show some skinny little albums as your samples, the message sent is that you can't produce enough images to fill a triple volume set.

10. Is everything in place? Albums, frames, brochures, price lists, PR Packets, various examples of your work for your sales presentations to your prospective client? Nothing is more disconcerting for the prospective client that you tripping all over yourself and your studio trying to find something you want to show them. Know where the samples and paperwork are located so you can get to them quickly and easily without breaking the rhythm of the presentation.

11. Always offer all your prospective clients the same seating when visiting your studio. That goes for you too. Why?? Please see #8 above - its about the rhythm of the presentation.

12. Be high-tech in your presentation. Use your computer along with a large screen TV or data projector to show your images. I love my little $1000 Dell projector and my 9 foot electric drop down screen. Better yet.... you get to write them off.

13. Have you considered a remote controlled PowerPoint presentation to feature your products and services effectively. This would certainly be a big differentiator for your studio vs. the competition.

14. Keep the music playing softly in the background. This puts the clients at ease. Just, be able to remotely turn down the volume while making your presentation to your prospective clients.

15. How do you present yourself to your clients? Jeans, tee shirt or maybe oxford cloth shirt. Or is your style a sports coat, shirt and tie? Business suit or business casual? Please refer to #1 and # 2 above.

16. Know the business side of running your business out of your home. Here is a a quick link to "Starting a Business In Your Home" right here that is worth a read.

17. Take an occasional adult education class at a community college - most are modestly priced - to fine tune business skills or anything else that will facilitate and grow your business.

18. Hire an accountant, and I don't mean Uncle Harry. Interview several till you find the right fit. A good account doesn't just do your taxes, they help you with your business plan and really good ones can save you money. They know the tax law better than their competition.

19. Get to know your banker. I would suggest dealing with a small bank in your community. They have more latitude and flexibility when it comes to helping you out with loans, etc. With the bigger banks, there are hoops and more hoops to jump through to get a loan. Motto; "Small banks for Small businesses."

20. Constantly work on improving the "Pizazz" factor of your in home studio. Not just inside but outside too. What about parking? If they park in your drive will it block other family members? Will it limit where your kids can play? Do you have a business entrance separate from the main access entrance for the family? Can family members access important areas, kitchen, family rooms, bedrooms without causing interference to you and your clients? Just remember... and always think like... George and Katherine.

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