Monday, 30 March 2015

Are you ready to work from home? The Jozi WAHM's Guide to Getting Started

In this day and age, with all kinds of technology making it easy to stay connected without physically being at the office, the decision to work from home may be an alluring one for many. Being able to spend time with family, spending less time in traffic, determining your own working hours and saving on rental and petrol costs may be motivating factors for such a decision. With proper planning, the decision to stay at home may be a rewarding one. However, before deciding to do so, there are many aspects that need to be considered.

Making the decision to work from home was one of the biggest decisions of my adult life and took many months of deliberation and planning. Even so there are some things that took me off guard. 

If you are considering working from home, here are some things that require some serious thought while compiling your business plan. Note: This is just a broad checklist and specific aspects of the issues below will be covered in future posts.

  • Firstly, do you have the right personality type for this? Extreme extroverts might miss the daily interaction with others at the office and may feel isolated if there is not enough interaction with others. Conversely, extreme introverts might find it difficult to engage in the conversations needed to get the ball rolling and interact with clients. You will also need to seriously assess whether you are self-motivated enough to actually get down to working when there is nobody policing whether or not you actually do so.
  • Then, obviously, you need to consider what type of business it is which you wish to pursue. Your skill set, personality type, education and the market demand in your area will all help in determining this. Adequate market research will be required to determine whether your business idea is a viable one and this is often one of the primary determinants of whether a business can thrive. You will need to determine who your target market are, whether they will buy into your product.You also need to figure out if the service you are offering is one that people will be willing to pay for, how much they are willing to pay and whether this will be lucrative for you.
  • Be wary of business areas which have already reached saturation point. At the same time, if you are considering a business type that not many others are doing, this could either mean that your business is novel and unique or that it is a bad idea and that others know better- you need to figure out which!
  • You will need to calculate what the start up costs for your business will be and consider how these will be funded. Will you need to apply for any credit facilities and how will these be repaid? Bear in mind that it is likely that you will not see a profit for at least the first year of operation, so you need to consider how your expenses will be covered during this period.
  • The type of business enterprise needs consideration. While a sole proprietorship may be the simplest way to operate, the possibility of a company, trust or other enterprise may be considered in order to limit personal liability. However, the consequences and responsibility that comes along with these vehicles need to be understood and it would be prudent to consult with an attorney to consider the pro's and cons of each potential option. In addition, your attorney can help you to establish whether any registrations or licenses are required and any regulatory and compliance aspects your business will have to adhere to going forward. 
  • You will need to consider your property- where at home you will work from and whether the way your home is set up will practically allow for you to work from home. Certain business types may require that your property is zoned for business and you will need to check whether this is the case. If you are selling goods rather than offering services, you need to consider whether you will have to keep physical stock and whether you have the space for this. Regardless of the business type, a dedicated work space is ideal, preferably one which is in some way separated from the rest of the home. 
  • You obviously need to ensure that you have all the relevant tools of trade, which will be determined by the business type. Most businesses will require fast and reliable internet connectivity and you will have to research what the best option for this is in your area. 
  • If you have the type of business that will involve have clients in and out of your home, you need to consider whether your family's privacy will be infringed and even more importantly, security. Do you have parking space for potential clients and will this be disruptive to your neighbours?
  • If you are planning to work from home with children around, a whole extra level of complexity will be added to your business planning. Will you work with your children present or will you have assistance? Even with a nanny to help with my one year old and with my four year old at pre-school in the mornings, this aspect is far tougher than I had anticipated. Given that spending time with my family was my primary motivator for leaving my office job, I find it difficult to banish myself into isolation and usually end up allowing the constant disruptions from my children. As a work at home mother, you will need to figure out for yourself how to balance this aspect (for a few tips on this aspect, please see my previous blog post on the topic here). You also need to set boundaries against disruptions from the beginning so that extended family and friends are aware that just because you are not physically at the office, you are working. 

If you have all the answers to the above questions, then working from home may well be the way forward for you.