Make Your Home-Based Business Appear Bigger
Next time you travel past apartments and homes in the city and suburbs, note the number of lights on from early morning to late at night.
More than ever, they may signal an entrepreneur running a business from her home, says Hedy Ratner, co-director of the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC).
"Studies show that 25 to 35 million self— employed work at home, and just under half of those are women. While technology — such as computers and fax machines — has made the shift to home-based businesses easier, entrepreneurs who compete with corporate rivals may still need help creating their credibility, projecting confidence and looking larger than they are,” she said.
If you’re among those wanting to appear bigger and more professional, here are suggestions from WBDC experts:
- Invest in a separate business telephone line and answer it with your company name. A business line will also get you listed in the yellow pages, alongside others in your field.
- Use voice mail, an answering machine, or an answering service to field calls when you’re out of the office. Don’t rely on relatives to take messaes, or your home answering machine to carry it off.
- If your home address sings out “residential,” consider renting a mailbox from a local print shop or postal service chain, or post office box that is located in a business district.
- Another option Is to link up with an executive suite company or a business incubator that offers business and support services to entrepreneurs. The office can provide you with a building directory listing, receptionist service, use of a conference room, and voice mail. The WBDC can provide referrals to incubators.
- Develop informal partnerships with professionals whose services complement yours. Writers and graphic designers make good unofficial teams, and frequently join together to develop proposals that can compete on both product and price with bigger companies.
- Be Creative when it comes to arranging meetings with clients. If your home is too cozy or toy-cluttered, consider a luncheon meeting at a restaurant or arrange for a conference room at a shared space.
- Think big. If you truly want to convey an image of professionalism, be aware of how you tell others about yourself. “Just a freelancer…” or “president of my own business?” Which conveys the image you want?
Ratner said that in the 11 years the WBDC has been in operation, the idea of working from home has become much more widely accepted by owners and customers alike. “Originally, people though if you operated out of your home, it was a step down, but today, it’s a veer viable option.”
According to studies, the type of home-based work and profile of the typical worker has changed over the years. Once retail sales accounted for the majority of home-based businesses, but now that figure has dropped to 11.8 percent.
Crafts manufacture makes up 4.4 percent of home-based businesses; financial services, computer-related services and consulting account for about 30 percent; and construction, health care, real estate, wholesaling, and educational and legal services are the remainder.
“The erroneous home-based business stereotype of the hosewife seeking extra pin money has been replaced by the reality of baby-boomers in their 40s who seek independence, flexibility and an opportuinty to translate their corporate expertise to profit making ventures for themselves,” Rather added.