Running a business from your home has its advantages. Not having to commute to an office results in less time travelling and more time with family and friends. You can also save a lot of money by not having to rent an office and pay extra office utility bills.
However, running a business from home can have its drawbacks. Without clear boundaries between your personal life and business life, the two lives can interfere with each other. Bringing too much of your business life into your personal life could put a strain on relationships and prevent you from being able to relax. Bringing too much of your personal life into your business could have a negative impact on your professionalism and disrupt your productivity.
This is why it’s important to still create boundaries between your work life and personal life. Below are just a few tips for successfully separating your work and personal life when running a home business.
Establishing designated office space
You need to work in an environment where you can get into the zone and where you won’t be constantly interrupted. Working from your sofa in the living room while the kids are playing or your partner is watching TV is not recommended as there are likely to be too many distractions. You could find yourself unable to concentrate when doing tasks like bookkeeping or composing emails and you won’t be able to hold private phone conversations.
Even if no one is at home while you are working, it may not be wise to work in a space that you use for relaxing; you may find it hard to mentally get into ‘work mode’. Alternatively, you may start to associate your living room with work when you’re not working.
Ideally, you should try to set up a designated office space within your home. This is a space in your home that you solely use for working. You may be lucky enough to have a space room that you can convert into an office. Having a separate office room with a door will allow you to physically shut off any distractions. If you haven’t got a spare room, consider turning part of a room into an office.
Try to make this a room that other people won’t be using during the day. For example, you could turn the corner of your bedroom into an office or turn the corner of a dining room into an office.
Buy yourself a desk and office chair that you can work from. Try to only use this desk and chair when working. This will help you to get into work mode.
Creating a routine work schedule
You should try to create some kind of work schedule that you can follow on a weekly basis. This allows you to more easily separate work time and home time. For instance, having a cut-off period in the evenings and keeping weekends free could help you to spend quality time with family and relax.
During these times, you can turn off all work notifications and make a pledge not to make business phone calls or send business emails. Your friends and family will also know when you are working so that they don’t disturb you during these hours.
Your work schedule doesn’t have to be 9—5 on weekdays. You can find a schedule that works best for you and your needs. This may allow you to work around family commitments such as school runs. Make sure that your schedule also suits your customers.
Allow some flexibility into your schedule. This is one of the perks of running a business from home after all. For instance, if your child has a sports day or an international client can only call you in the evening, it may be essential to work around this. The key is to avoid making too many weekly exceptions to the point that you barely have a schedule. You shouldn’t be adjusting your schedule to make late-night business calls every day.
Using a separate email address, phone number and postal address
When considering your means of contact, consider whether it’s worth having separate personal contact details and separate business contact details. This can be important for your professionalism and for helping you to stick to your work schedule.
A separate work email address could allow you to look at your personal emails in your free time without being tempted to answer your work emails. You can also create a more professional email address and set up a work-friendly ‘out of office’ message.
A separate phone number could prevent you from having to give out your personal phone number to clients. You can then keep track of phone calls that are purely for work. It could also allow you to set up a work answer machine message.
You can also set up a separate postal address for business mail. This involves renting a more professional-looking mailing address from another company. Your mail is sent to this address and then redirected to you. This can prevent you from giving out your personal address to customers and it can also make your company seem more professional by being able to give out a commercial address instead of a residential address.
Considering separate devices
To help you further separate your work life and personal life when running a business from home, you could consider buying separate devices for personal use and work use. This could include a separate work phone and a separate work computer.
This allows you to keep all your work-related apps and contacts on your work devices. At the end of the working day, you can switch off these devices so that you’re not able to answer calls or click on work apps. While using your work devices, you also won’t be distracted by personal social media notifications or games that you may have on your personal devices.
Buying extra devices is an extra cost so bear this in mind. It could be worth shopping around for business phone contracts, which may have perks beyond standard personal phone contracts.
Buying a separate business vehicle
There are some cases where using a personal vehicle for work may not be practical. Having two separate vehicles could allow you to choose separate vehicles with different purposes. For instance, you may want something small and sporty for personal use and something spacious and professional for business use (such as a van). Having two vehicles allows you to do this, instead of having to compromise.
You may also find it easier to keep your business vehicle clean and presentable, plus you’ll still have a car if your personal vehicle develops a mechanical problem.
An extra vehicle is of course an extra cost. You’ll have to pay extra insurance and you’ll have to keep track of when its MOT is. Make sure to spend time shopping around. Leasing a vehicle may be more practical for some people. If you think it’s going to be too much of a stretch on your budget, try to stick to one vehicle.
Setting up a business bank account
It’s a good idea to set up a separate business bank account when launching a business. You can then put money into this account that is purely to be used for business purposes. This can allow you to more easily create a company budget.
There could be other benefits such as being able to easily track business expenses for accounting purposes, as well as being able to apply more easily for business loans. Many of these accounts also allow you to receive credit card payments, process transactions in foreign currencies and run credit checks on suppliers.
Spend time shopping around to find the best account. It’s possible to set up a free business bank account – while some accounts have fees, there are accounts that don’t. Make sure to solely use your business bank account for business use and to only use your personal bank account for personal use – there’s no point having separate accounts if you’re going to use funds from both for the same purpose.
Forming a limited company
When separating your business and personal finances, it’s also important to consider your company’s legal structure. The type of legal structure you opt for can affect your liability when you get into debt. As a ‘sole proprietor’ you are still liable to pay any company debts using personal funds and assets.
This means that if your company gets into debt and debt collectors are called, they can seize personal items from your home to pay off the debts.
Switching from sole proprietorship to a limited company can help to legally separate your company finances and assets. If your company gets into debt, only funds and assets belonging to your business can be used to pay off the debt.
There are various perks and drawbacks to setting up a limited company that are worth looking into before making the change. A solicitor that specialises in business law can help you to switch to a limited company.