Can You Run a Business from Home?

By Kate Loyola | Last Updated: November 17, 2017

Running a home business can be one of the most rewarding decisions you can make. Whether as a side hustle or a replacement for your day job, a home-based business grants you flexibility, control over your time, and the potential to earn much more than regular wages. You get to be your own boss, with all the freedom that entails.

As Spider-Man likes to say, though, with great power comes great responsibility.

You don’t need superpowers to start a home business, thanks to the tools and conveniences of modern technology. However, it takes more than a domain name and a planner app to run a successful business from home. Like Peter Parker, you’ll need to dig deep and cultivate certain skills and qualities to earn the mantle of hero — or, in this case, boss.

Do you have what it takes to run a business from home?

Time/Task Management

When you work from home, you swap the 9-to-5 clock with one of your own making. That can be both a blessing and a curse. You can carve up the day any way you want, so it’s doubly important that you prioritize tasks and allocate the hours needed to get everything done. Otherwise, you could find yourself scrambling to sustain your business’ day to day operations.

Building a system is key. That might sound odd, if not off-putting, especially if you view a home business as a way to quit the grind of a day job. Like I mentioned earlier though, a home business doesn’t do away with your work hours altogether; it simply gives you the freedom to arrange those hours in the way that works best with your lifestyle. Your solution doesn’t need to be an elaborate timesheet or rigid calendar; it can be as simple as working on tasks in pre-set chunks of 30 minutes. What’s important is that it’s one you can live with, and one that you can tweak as your circumstances change.

Breaking your goals down into concrete tasks also makes it easier to keep track of your business’ progress. That goes beyond checking items off a to-do list: a clear rundown of what needs to get done helps you identify related key performance indicators like monthly revenue and unique visitors.

Greg Wacks, head of Snapchat’s Creative Strategy team in the US, emphasized the importance of having a system at a brunchwork talk earlier this year. “You need to have it structured,” he said. “You can’t just have the idea in your head for three, four or five years.”

Communication Skills

It can be easy to feel distant or removed if you work from home. Unlike a traditional office environment, a home business often means you’re not sharing the same working spaces as many of your staff and colleagues (if you even have any!), let alone your customers.

Technology gives us email, real-time communication channels like video chat or messaging apps, and even good ol’ text messages and phone calls, but sometimes the lack of regular face-to-face interaction can still be a hindrance. Non-verbal cues make up a big part of interpersonal communication, and the loss of those cues can hobble your attempts to establish good relationships with business partners and customers alike.

Communication skills have always been crucial, but more so for home-based businesses. Your success rests on your ability to capture your customer’s attention and convey the right messages. When you’re working from home, you won’t always have the chance to correct misunderstandings or elaborate on your point. Honing your ability to craft effective blurbs, troubleshoot a customer problem over the phone, issue clear marching orders to remote staff, and so on, can save you and your customers a lot of  trouble.

Boundary-Setting

On a related note, you need to know how to establish boundaries. Today’s always-on communications and a full plate of tasks can add up to a hectic–and endless–work day. Our go-getter world might have you convinced that pushing forward 24/7 is the only correct answer. If you’re not careful, you could end up hurtling into the jaws of burnout.

Marking a clear line between your business and personal life can give you much-needed space to breathe. In a way, this is your time and task management skill writ large: how do you fit your business into the broader scheme of your life? If your business’ operations are the micro, consider this the macro question.

Your ability to set, maintain, and occasionally break (we’ll get to that in a bit!) personal limits reflects your judgment and resolve. It’s the most concrete demonstration of how far you’re willing to go to succeed, and how smart you are about getting there.

Running a business from home isn’t easy. Entrepreneurship entails hard work and sacrifices. That can be as straightforward as losing hours of sleep to fix a crashed website server or as difficult as reducing your pay for a few months to give your business more funds for expansion. But the ability to make those sacrifices is just one half of this skill; the ability to decide which sacrifices are worth making is equally important.

The key is to figure out your core motivators:

  • What do you want out of your business?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • What short-term goals will get you there?

Then, it’s a matter of translating your answers into a clear set of boundaries: the lines that delineate what sacrifices you can and should make.

Grit

As the folks over at Entrepreneur put it, “When you start a business, you wake up every day not knowing what you’re about to do.” Nobody will hand you a list of deliverables or nag you about the tasks you should’ve finished last week, especially if you’re working solo (i.e., you don’t have staff or business partners). You’ll need to motivate yourself to do what your business requires, day in and day out.

However, grit is more than just motivation. Remember, a business isn’t a one-time effort; you don’t just sit back and watch the money roll in after you’ve set up shop. Instead, it’s an ongoing push that needs to be sustained even on days when you don’t feel like it. You can pump yourself up with inspirational quotes or the thrill of a completed goal, but when the quotes fail and your goals seem farther than ever, you have to be prepared to hustle and do better regardless.

The Bottom Line

Have you been bitten by the home-based business bug? The good news is that you don’t need a radioactive ability boost to set up your side hustle or become a full-time entrepreneur. However, a home-based business comes with its own demands and challenges, and you’ll need to dig deep and find ways to rise to the occasion every day.

Luckily, like any budding superhero, you can learn as you go along. Over time, you’ll strengthen qualities like the ones outlined above, and you’ll have the skills to swing to greater and greater heights. How’s that for a rewarding experience?