How to set up and run a small business

Leaderboard – Run – Premises

You are here: Home » Run a Business » Premises » Present a professional image while running your new business from home

Present a professional image while running your new business from home

October 10, 2015

One of the best things about starting a business in the internet age is that it’s perfectly acceptable, and easy to start up from home.

In fact, running a new business from a spare room in your own home removes a whole layer of cost and risk, and makes it a lot more likely that your new venture will properly get off the ground.

But the real challenge of working from home is how you present a professional image. A potential client may not be impressed if they rang you during the day and one of your children answered the phone, or your discussions where constantly interrupted by a screaming baby!

Luckily, thanks to modern technology and a growth in services to help people starting a business from home, you can present a professional image without a great deal of effort. Here are the main areas to consider along with some effective solutions;

Phones

When you start your own home business, don’t advertise your home number.

Apart from the fact you make it easier for clients to call you in the evenings, you also lose control over your business phones. If a member of your family is having a good gossip on the line, you might miss an important call enquiring about your services.

You have several options when it comes to your ‘business line’. You could either have a second, traditional landline installed, use a mobile number or set up a phone line uses VoIP.

Second fixed phone line

In years gone by, most would have opted to have a second fixed line installed. The cost of connecting second line has fallen in recent years and it should be less than £50, however the main drawback is that you might have to wait a few weeks for it to be connected.

Mobile

In some instances, you’ll be able to use a mobile number for your business line. For example, if you’re a tradesman your customers won’t expect you to have an office so a mobile is fine.

But if you’re starting a professional services business, your clients are unlikely to be impressed if you don’t have a dedicated ‘office’ number.

VoIP phone line

Technology means that there is now another option. Using what is known as, ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’, or ‘VoIP’, it’s possible to use your broadband connection to give you a second, dedicated phone line.
Virtual office
Your phone works just like a normal landline, the only difference is that instead of being plugged into the normal phone socket in the wall, your phone is connected to your broadband modem or router.

The set-up costs for a VoIP line is usually lower than a fixed line and you should be up and running in a few days.

Using a VoIP line also offers a few extra advantages. One is that you can choose to have any dialling code you like for your business number.

So, for example, if you are based in Brighton but feel your customers would prefer to see a London phone number, you could choose a London dialling code for your business line.

Another benefit is that your business line is portable. If you have access to a broadband connection and a phone, you can take your adapter with you, connect it up and you’ve got your business line with you.

Address

The best address to use is your home one. As a freelancer, people will expect you to be based at home. However you may prefer clients not to have your home address; especially if you don’t want them to “pop round”.

PO Box

One option is to get a PO Box and have the mail delivered to your home. There are several downsides to this. People are more circumspect of a PO Box nowadays and there is also a delay in the time it takes your post to reach you.

Additional drawbacks are; if you move house, PO Boxes cannot be diverted and Royal Mail will give out the real address behind a PO Box.

Virtual Office or Business Address

A much better solution for a start-up would be a ‘virtual office’, or a ‘business address’ that will give you a professional address to hide behind.

A myriad of commercial virtual office or business address providers, from large multi-nationals to local business support centres, offer these services.

For a fee, you will be able to use the providers’ business address as your own, and any correspondence will be forwarded to you. While post will still be delayed, you will not be so easily traced.

Office support – telephone answering

The thing that will determine how professional your business is considered to be is the way you handle communications. Answering phone calls quickly and promptly paints a much better picture than an answerphone message, so consider using a professional telephone answering service or a virtual PA, as they are sometimes called.

If you go for this option, your provider will give you a dedicated phone number. Calls to this number will be answered, in your company name, by one of its receptionists who will then put the call through to you. If you aren’t available details of the call are usually forwarded to you by SMS, email or fax.

Having your phone answered in your name and messages texted to you feels more professional and can work out very cost effective at just a few pounds a day.

Pick your supplier carefully; if callers feel they are getting through to a call centre the illusion will be shattered.

Emails

If you don’t already have smartphone that allows you to send and receive emails get one. It’s so cheap and easy to handle email on the move that it’s become the norm.

People expect to get a reply to emails quickly no matter where you are or what you are doing. You can’t fight this expectation, so you should equip yourself to handle emails from home, train or client’s premises. Professional people communicate regularly and clearly with clients.

Meetings

When you work from home, that’s the last place you should have meetings with clients and prospects. No matter how clean and tidy your home, there’s something very unprofessional about having a business meeting at a kitchen table.

The most common solution these days is to find a nearby quality coffee shop or hotel lobby where you can hold your meetings.

If that’s not suitable, there are many business centres, hotels and serviced offices that hire meeting rooms by the hour. They may even offer a discount if you are looking to use a private meeting room on a regular basis.

Keep business and home life apart

Presenting a professional image means acting in a professional way. That means maintaining a clear split between your business and home life in your house.

Try to keep work in one room and make it out of bounds to the rest of the family. This should make it easier for you to maintain a focus on work during the day, and help you to leave work behind and switch off in the evenings.

More help on offices

For more on working from home and business premises, try some of our other guides;

Working from Home

Offices

More on starting and running your own business

ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of starting and running a small business. Check out some of our most popular guides;

Starting Up

Funding your business

Promoting your business

Tax & Accounts

Hiring and managing employees

Legal issues