So you want to start a business, but you don't have the funds for an office or a storefront? Don't worry. You might be surprised at how easy it is to run a business out of your home without your customers being any the wiser. Here are five entrepreneurs who've made a successful go of working from home and found a measure of work-life balance in the process.
Kelly Albert estimates she saves thousands of dollars a year in rent and utilities by running her company, which makes wedding card boxes, out of her home. It also gives her the flexibility to achieve a level of work-life balance she wouldn't be able to have if she ran the company from somewhere else.
"With four kids very active in school and athletics it was very convenient to be in the office, head down stairs to throw a load of wash in," Albert said. "With the flexibility of my schedule it has been very nice for dropping off and picking up from sporting events that always happen during a work day."
Albert admits that one of the drawbacks of running a business from home is that you never really get away from work, but she thinks the pros outweigh the cons.
She says working from home gives her the best of everything and lets her devote time to both her family and her business.
"People work more than 40 hours a week anyway so you might as well do it in your home," she said.
A Plus Home Tutors Inc.
Brian Cheek said he once considered getting an outside office for his tutoring business, but decided it just wasn't worth the cost.
"I have looked into getting an office, but for our current situation, the benefits of being at home outweigh the benefits of moving to an office," Cheek said.
In all, he estimates that running the company from home, which matches students with tutors, saves the business between $1,200 and $2,100 per month.
He said it's also helped his company become profitable more quickly.
"I made a small profit immediately (within a few months) as an individual tutor, and the profits have continued to grow. Since I had no overhead in the beginning, it was easy to earn a profit. All I needed was a cellphone, a computer, an Internet connection and a car."
Cheek said the hardest part of running his business from home is disciplining himself to keep from working all the time.
"It wasn't as hard to discipline myself to work and be efficient, it was harder for me to know when to stop," he said. "It all comes down to figuring out what your personal balance should be. It isn't easy, especially now that I have a family."
Even so, he said, he will definitely keep running his business from home.
"I like the flexibility, and although it can be tough to set boundaries at home when work is there, too, I think the benefits and lifestyle far outweigh the complications and frustrations that come up."
Spats Skate Armour
Lawrence Parrott has good reason to try to save money by running his business from home. He invests the savings in developing his product.
Parrott estimates that his company, which makes foot protection for hockey skates to protect players’ feet from breaks, fractures and bruises, saves approximately $10,000 to $15,000 per year by being run from home.
He uses that money to develop a better product.
"Cost savings were a major benefit, so we could invest more into product design, testing and manufacturing," he said.
Parrott said technology has made it possible for him to operate a professional organization without having to have a professional location.
"Many of my processes are automated and the bulk of our sales are online so I can certainly monitor the business and stay on top of things when I'm away from the office," he said. "The Internet has been invaluable tool for my business. Such tasks as sourcing and purchasing materials, researching products and processes, would take weeks if not months to accomplish. Communication through email is instantaneous as well, a huge timesaver."
Parrott said that having a home office that is separate from your living space is a good way to create boundaries between home and work.
"Having a home office that you go to during work hours is a good idea, so that you can turn off the business when you leave that room," he said.
With just a good laptop, a few software programs, a scanner and printer, Laurie Mapp started her business, which provides virtual paralegal and administrative support to lawyers, from home.
Because she had such low startup costs, she was able to make a profit within six months of starting a business.
"The hardest part was learning to do everything myself," she said. "I knew how to be a paralegal, but doing my own marketing, learning how to work a website, taking on my own basic bookkeeping, those skills were things I really had to develop."
Technology, she said, is what has made it all possible.
"Technology is a cornerstone of what I do," Mapp said. "I can conduct phone calls, send emails and have a professional looking site. No one thinks about the fact I do this without a 'real' office."
Mapp said she would never give up running her business from home.
"The freedom of working for myself and the ability to be more involved with my children is so amazing," she said.
Kelly Daugherty, whose company sells golf and tennis apparel for women, says she would not have started a business of her own if she couldn't run it from home.
"I can have a conference call in the morning and rush out for preschool pickup by lunch. I can ship orders, while getting laundry done. These sound like little things. But being able to make your child's Halloween party and still get all your conference calls in, really helps your quality of life," she said.
Daugherty, who has been working on the product line since 2009, officially launched the company in March of this year.
She estimates she's saving about $75,000 a year by working out of her home.
"We looked at some office space with attached small warehouses and their leases were running about $50,000 a year in our area," she said. "Add utilities, computers, Internet, cleaning, furnishings, etc."
To give her business a professional presence, the company has a post office box.
"We ship from home via UPS. We use Square for payment at shows. We use many different apps for email marketing, file-sharing and general organization. Answering emails via iPhones. It actually is extremely easy to look like the big guys all from home."
She believes that running her business from home gives her the ability to compete with other companies in her field.
"The financial benefits are too important in this economy," she said. "Your overhead needs to be as low as possible to compete. Working from home is the future. And for small businesses trying to break into markets, the future is now."