Previously on the blog, we wrote about 11 steps to get your home-based business off the ground. Now we’re taking a closer look at each of those steps, with a post on each one. In this first deep dive of our HostGator Home Business Guide, we find out if you have what it takes to start and run a business.
Starting your own business can be rewarding as long as you’re working with the right people. Because you’ll be both the boss and the employee, it’s important to make sure you’re ready to fill those roles before you commit your time, money, and effort to your new venture.
One way to check? “Interview” yourself before you begin, to get a sense of your strengths and any weaknesses you need to work on. These questions focus on the traits and habits successful small business owners need. The good news is you probably have several of them. The better news is you can train yourself to handle the rest. So, put on your best home-based business interview outfit (yes, sweats are okay) and ask yourself the following…
Do you enjoy learning new things?
When you start a business, not only do you have to learn many new things (what an EIN is, how to make a mobile-responsive website, why to use social media for marketing) but you’ll also learn how much you don’t yet know. If you’re enthusiastic about learning, you’re more likely to succeed.
How persistent are you?
Reaching your business goals takes time, and no two timelines are the same. (In my case, it took nearly five years after I started freelancing full-time until it made tax sense to incorporate, which was my nerdy benchmark for business success.) Can you stick with your business through learning experiences, setbacks, and the time it takes to build a sustainable customer base?
How well do you learn from your experiences?
The flip side of persistence is the ability to change course when you learn a better way to do things. I’ve seen small business owners hamstring themselves by insisting they can’t change their pricing, site design, or production strategies—even when they know why it would help their business grow.
What’s your history with handling responsibility?
You know those people you can always count on to step up when something needs to be done? They make really good home-based business owners because they’re in the habit of identifying what needs to be done and then doing it. If, like many of us, you tend to forget tasks or spend more time planning than doing, simple systems like Zen to Done or Pomodoro can help you focus.
Do you have a healthy attitude toward money?
Not to get too philosophical, but how you think about money can help or hinder your business. It’s possible, and sadly not unheard of, for small business owners to slowly go broke by undercharging customers because they feel too guilty about making money to charge what they’re worth. To have a functioning, profitable business—and to pay your bills and eat—you must be willing to charge the right rates.
Are you comfortable making important decisions?
If the thought of making a mistake paralyzes you, practice reframing mistakes as learning experiences so you don’t create mental gridlock that can hurt your business. You’re going to make mistakes with your business, because everyone does. Accept that and make decisions anyway, preferably with some input from mentors, peers, and customers.
Do you plan carefully before investing time and effort in a new project?
There are business ideas that get you so fired up you can’t wait to start, and then there are business ideas that get you fired up enough to validate them through market research before starting. If you plan and do your research, you’re more likely to refine your ideas into winners.
Do you enjoy connecting with people?
Introverts love home-based businesses because it gives us the peace and quiet we need to do our best work. That doesn’t mean you can dodge all human contact. Making connections is crucial to success, especially if you work alone. Your colleagues, clients, customers, and mentors are the network your business needs to survive and grow.
How well do you handle unstructured time?
Yes, being your own boss means you can set your own schedule, but you still have to set the schedule and follow it. For most people, this takes some practice and adjustments, but it’s a skill you can learn. In addition to using a system like Pomodoro or Zen to Done, you may want to study time-management tips from experts like Laura Vanderkam and Carson Tate.
Are you willing to seek and listen to feedback?
This is so important. Ask for feedback from your customers, professional peers, mentors, and other people in your business whose judgment you trust. Listen with an open mind and you’ll find ways to improve your business. Take feedback personally or reflexively insist that it’s wrong and you won’t learn anything. Get in the habit of listening to feedback without immediately responding, so you have time to think it over and decide how to use it. (Be sure to thank everyone who makes time to share feedback with you.)
Is your main business goal to deliver value to your customers?
Whatever other goals you have for your home-based business—flexible hours, more income, freedom from meetings—the main goal must be providing your customers with something of value. Your business can’t exist without a base of customers who buy from you over and over again and who happily tell other people to buy from you.
This means your core business functions should include learning what your customers want, delivering what they expect, and communicating clearly with them. If you’re ready to do that—if you’re excited about doing that—then you’re probably going to make a good boss (and employee) for your home-based business.
Did you ace the interview? Next, we’ll look at the logistics of running a business at home, from setting up a productive workspace to making a professional impression on clients, enlisting help from family members, and even getting your pets to be quiet when you’re on a call.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.