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How I started a home-based business

massage

A home-based business can cost as little as £39 per month, so it's no wonder entrepreneurs are increasingly choosing to work from home.

Neville Ford decided to set up a home office for his bookkeeping business so he could enjoy the convenience of being close to his family. However, he was also mindful that being too close to them could be distracting too.

"My office is actually a self-contained granny annex beside my house," he explains. "I have my own space so my work doesn't interfere with my family, but I'm next-door if I want to see them."

Lifestyle

As the business becomes more established, Ford no longer has to work at the weekends. "I'm normally working Monday to Friday from 7:15am till 6pm," he says. "Working from home fits in well with my lifestyle, but I've been working like this for a long time so it seems normal to me; for other people it might not be so easy."

Jill Willis runs a cafe with her husband Richard, and they both split their time equally between working in the shop and from home, "This way we don't step on each other's toes," she explains. "I know that I'm responsible for marketing, HR, the kitchen and the menu, and Richard is responsible for financial control and new business."

Working from home needn't necessarily mean running an online business, and you don't have to chain yourself to the counter to make your cafe successful

This novel approach to running a cafe challenges the assumptions made about home-based businesses, proving that working from home needn't necessarily mean running an online business, and you don't have to chain yourself to the counter to make your cafe successful. "Some cafe owners thrive on standing behind the counter, chatting to customers and making the food," says Willis. "For us being in the cafe two or three days a week is enough to maintain a high level of customer care."

Freelancing is another route to running a home-based business. Make-up artist Andriani Vasiliou might work from home, but her job takes her to a variety of locations so cabin fever is not among her daily challenges. Hours, along with surroundings, vary wildly. "Some days can last up to 16 hours if you're doing a music video," she explains. "On the other hand, I started a job today at 10:30am and was finished by lunch time, it depends on the nature of the job."

Vasiliou normally does her paperwork in the comfort of her living room. The fact she has Hollyoaks on in the background is not a distraction, she insists.

Used to interacting with colleagues and clients on a daily basis, many entrepreneurs find working from home quite lonely. Website owner Maria Osborne offers her advice on how to overcome this isolation.

"Try and develop a routine and be disciplined," says the founder of SomersetTouristGuide.com. "It helps to get out and about, I go to a couple of networking meetings for women in business, it gets you out of the house and you can make some good contacts.

"Try to make it feel like a normal job. I wear my boots when I'm working; you don't want to be slobbing around the house in a tracksuit and slippers. You should be dressed for work even though you're working alone."

Reiki practitioner Amber Agha is in the process of turning her home into a 'healing space' for her clients. "My decision to start a private practice was born out of wanting to have ultimate flexibility with my healing space," she says. "Working from home means I can see last-minute clients, I can do very early morning appointments and after work ones too."

There are dangers. "I am tentative because as a woman there is always the fear of being alone in a space with a male client," she admits. "I have never been attacked but I have had male clients confuse the therapeutic relationship with something more romantic. It is easier to maintain boundaries when there is a receptionist outside and a time you have to be out of the room by."

Agha continues: "I still need to consider the legal implications of working from home, as well as the safety issues, insurance and how this change may impact on my business."

From alternative therapy to taking a skate ramp to festivals, a home-based business covers many sectors. Andrew Willis and professional skater Pete King have been running their skate-hire company for four years.

"Being involved with some great events, seeing how they're run, and enjoying them too," is what Willis enjoys most. "Sunday night at Glastonbury was my highlight, watching a man play two guitars, sitting with a good mate!" For the skating enthusiasts King Ramps is a hobby as well as a job.

That said, there is a serious side, as with any business. The administrative side has "been a massive learning curve," Willis admits. "I sat next to the company director at my old job and learnt a lot from him. But I didn't really realise how daunting it is when you're doing it all yourself, and I have been running most of that side of things."

Ex-marine Jerry Ranger more or less lived in his garage, such was his dedication to the cause. "When you're running a business it's a 24 hours a day job," says Ranger, whose business, Power Traveller, designs, manufactures and sells portable chargers for mobile electronic devices. "You eat, sleep, talk and dream about it!

"I cut my garage in half, used half for the office and the other half stored the lawnmower and motorbike. I worked there for nine months because I believed in the business so much."

Now the venture is a worldwide distributor and Ranger "can see the company growing to a turnover of £20m within the next three years."


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