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Can you imagine anything better than doing something you enjoy while in the comfort of one of your favourite places – your home – and making money while doing it?
Starting a home-based design business is the dream of many designers. The idea of giving up the daily commute, of no longer sitting through rush hour traffic, and nobody looking over your shoulder while you work sounds desirable. Plus you get to choose your hours, dress however you want and be there for your family whenever they need you. It’s very tempting.
These and many other perks sound very appealing to designers dredging away at their daily 9-5 job. It’s a perfect life. Or is it?
Before you take steps towards setting up your own home-based design business, you should first do a self-assessment of yourself and your situation to determine if the solopreneur life is for you.
Is Self-Employment for you?
When it comes to running a home-based design business, there are three options; casual, part-time and full-time.
A casual business is one where you spend less than 10 hours per month on your venture. Perhaps it’s doing small odd projects for only one or two clients. The income you make while working casually gives you a little bit of extra spending money or helps pay a bill or two as it supplements your other full or part-time income.
A part-time design business is one where you dedicate between 10 to 40 hours per month. You might have a hand full of clients, and the money you earn adds nicely to your overall household income. You can run a part-time business while working another part-time job or even a full-time job if you’re devoted.
Many designers start a part-time business while on maternity or paternity leave. It’s a great way to stay mentally active and socialize with other adults while caring for your new bundle of joy.
A full-time design business requires your full attention daily. You should be spending as much time on your full-time business as you would if you worked 9-5 for someone else.
As your main source of income, you should be working with several clients, and when you’re not designing for clients, you should be devoting your time to acquiring more clients.
Those are your three choices for running a home-based design business.
But before you jump in, you need to determine if you have the self-discipline to work in an unstructured environment. You also need to determine if you are willing to take on the financial and personal risk of starting a venture that may not work out, especially if your new design business is your only source of income.
Things to consider before starting a home-based design business.
Is your family behind you?
If you’re on your own, this might not matter as much. However, if you have a family, you must realize that starting a home-based business is not only a significant adjustment for you but them as well.
You need to speak with your family members about your need to dedicate yourself to starting, growing and eventually succeeding in this venture. If you don’t discuss this with them beforehand, they may believe that since you are at home, you have the time to do extra little tasks around the house.
This “added benefit of working from home” may seem harmless, but these things tend to add up and take time away from your business and impede your success.
Do you have the self-discipline to manage your time and working hours?
Anyone who works from home will tell you that it’s easy to get distracted. The lawn needs mowing; the dishwasher needs emptying, the new season of that great show just dropped on Netflix. Do you have the confidence and self-discipline to devote your time to work in the face of all the distractions you’ll face daily?
Also, if you’re a workaholic, do you have the self-discipline to say “enough’s enough” and stop working? Working day and night may seem like a great way to grow a business, but it’s no way to live your life. It’s great to hustle, but not if it leads to increased stress, health issues and self-neglect.
Do you have a dedicated workspace?
If you’re working casual or part-time, you may be able to get away with working from the kitchen table. But that’s no way to run a full-time business. It’s impossible to concentrate on your work if family members and other distractions are constantly hindering you.
By dedicating a designated work area in your home, you make a statement saying you take your undertaking seriously. A dedicated work area provides the atmosphere needed for you to fully concentrate on your work and have the quiet and privacy necessary for important business calls.
If a dedicated work area isn’t possible, you must explain and make arrangements with your family to not disturb you while you are working. This may mean keeping the volume low on music and the TV or even moving their activities to other areas of your home while you are working.
Does your business fit a home base?
Resourceful Designer is aimed at graphic and web design business, but I also know there are plenty of other types of creative endeavours you may want to start.
If your creativity revolves around other creative arts, such as pottery, sculpting, stain glass creations, sign making, T-shirt printing or vehicle wraps, you may want to consider operating your business in a venue other than your home.
Yes, there will be other things to consider, but not all creative businesses are suited to be home-based businesses.
Will you be meeting with clients?
Most home-based designers I know, myself included, chose to meet clients at their own offices or some other location such as a coffee shop. However, if for some reason you must meet clients in your home office, you need to consider if your home is set up to receive clients.
If your office is in the basement, will the client need to navigate through a cluttered kitchen or areas strewn with children’s toys to reach your work area? It doesn’t create a professional image and could impede your growth.
If meeting in your own home is your only choice, such as for moms or dads on parental leave, try to find a neutral area in your home that you can keep clean and clutter-free to meet with clients.
Do you have room to expand?
A desk in the corner of your bedroom may be all you need for now. But what about a year or two years from now? Do you have the room to grow should you need to add filing cabinets or scanners and printers to your mix?
Will you be happy working from home?
Humans are naturally social creatures. Even introverts need some time around other people. Most people satisfy this itch through their work environment, but not so with people who work from home.
When you run a home-based business, there’s nobody stopping at your desk to chat about their weekend or the new movie that just came out. There’s nobody to take your coffee or lunch breaks with, and nobody organizing after hour staff get-togethers.
If you are the type of person that craves regular social contact, you may quickly find the isolation of working from home too much. If this sounds like you, consider joining social and professional organizations or take part in other social activities outside your home to keep you in touch with other people.
How will you keep up with change?
Something often overlooked when contemplating working from home is the outside world. There’s no gossip or industry news to hear when you’re working by yourself. So how will you stay on top of new tools, resources and developments in the industry?
You need to make an effort on your own to seek these things out. Subscribe to newsletters, magazines, blogs and YouTube channels. Make friends with other designers and keep in contact with past co-workers.
Just because you’re working all by yourself doesn’t mean you need to isolate yourself from the world.
There are so many benefits to starting a home-based design business.
- Low startup costs
- Minimal overhead and monthly expenses.
- No commuting time
- Freedom and flexibility
- and plenty of tax deductions, to name a few.
And although I continuously push this endeavour. I know that it’s not for everyone.
You’re the only person that can answer the question. “Is running a home-based design business for me?”
In Part 2 of this series, I discuss writing a business plan and dive deeper into planning your workspace.
Tip of the week Identify yourself when answering the phone.
If you want to sound professional, you should always answer your business phone by naming your business and then who you are.
For example, you could say: Acme Design Studio, John speaking. This eliminates any potential confusion clients may have as to who they are calling. They may not realize you are a one-person business working from home.
I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.
I want to help you.
Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My Voice-Over Guy.
Resourceful Designer podcast intros are performed by the amazing Wayne Henderson of MediaVoiceOvers.com. Wayne is available to help you with any voice-over work you require.