One of the biggest lessons I learned during this past year of running my home-based business was that to see the growth I wanted to see, I needed to treat my work like an actual business, rather than just something I do in my spare time while I’m hanging out at home with my kids.
Unless I created dedicated work hours, set goals, and pushed through deadlines, my business was never going to make it. If I want to see the rewards and benefits of an actual, profitable business, then I can’t expect to treat my work like a hobby.
With a new year comes new lessons though, and new goals that I have set for myself and for Lost & Found.
But what about you?
Have you thought through ways you can grow your home-based business this year?
Or maybe changes you want to make in how you run you business?
The start of a new year provides a great opportunity to set goals, make plans, and try new things with your home-based business. I have ten ideas to share today that you may want to try out this year in your own home-based business.
1. Learn a New Skill
Is there a weak area you would like to grow in this year? Or maybe just a new skill you want to try?
This past year I wanted to learn more about DIY woodworking, trim, and molding, so I read lots of online articles with all the how-to’s and spent some time browsing Pinterest for ideas.
Learning a new skill could lead you into new areas of work and income that you may have never expected.
2. Keep Better Records
Since I run my business out of my home, all of my business paperwork gets mixed in with my personal papers. It’s a real mess honestly.
One of my goals this year is to get a better filing system for all of my work receipts and to be more on top of keeping track of my income.
If you don’t have a record keeping system, this is the year to put one in place. It can be digital, on paper, or as simple as a box where all your business things wind up.
What matters most though is that it works for you and that you stick with it. Better records means easier tax time, and probably more money in your pocket.
3. Find a Way to Cut Your Costs
This is related to #2, and really relies on #2 being done well. If you don’t keep good records, you may have no idea actually how much money you spend running your home-based business.
When I added up all of my expenses for 2014, I was amazed and just how much money I spent on paint and paint supplies.
One of my goals last year was to trim my paint costs, and once I did, my profit margin went up.
Most likely there are places where you are spending money that you don’t have to spend. Maybe you’re paying too much for your internet, or you are constantly having to replace supplies because you don’t take care of them.
Make a point this year to cut out extra costs and find ways to make better use of the tools and supplies you have.
4. Make a New Business Connection
If you’re plugging away at home on your business, odds are you are doing it alone.
Connecting with other, like-minded business owners in your field can be a huge source of encouragement! It can also be a way to learn new tips and tricks of your field.
I have learned that if I am helpful and kind to other business owners, doing what I can to promote their work, typically they return the favor.
I don’t believe connecting with other business owners in your field will take away from your business’s profit, but rather grow and expand your knowledge and business reach as you team up with like-minded people.
5. Attend a Conference
One of the best ways to accomplish #4 is to attend a conference in your field. There are trainings and conferences for just about anything you can imagine–I even met a young lady once who is a personal Yoga Trainer and attends Yoga Training conferences!
This past July I attended the Haven Conference, which is a conference for DIY and Home Bloggers.
I met lots of other women in my field and many of them have continued to be great sources of encouragement as the year has gone on. I’ve also had the chance to work together with a few of them on projects here and there, which has helped expose Lost & Found to new audiences.
Find a conference in your field and give it a go. It think you will find it worth the investment.
6. Involve your Family or Friends in your Business More
I realize this may sound like the opposite of treating your business like a business, but it doesn’t have to be. As a mom of three little boys, free time is a rare thing in my schedule. If I waited to do “business work” until I was 100% free from any other my other life duties, I would never get anything done.
Rather than always segmenting my time into work and personal, sometimes I try to bring my family along with me in my work, especially my boys.
When I find things they can help me with, I offer them the “job” and pay them a small wage when they finish.
They’ve helped me unpack and inventory paint, stain drawer fronts, and pull my cart at flea markets. I want to teach my kids the value of hard work, and bringing them along with me is a great way for them to see work in action.
And did you know that having your kids help with your home-based business can be a tax benefit? You can legally hire your children and pay them a wage, as long as they do legitimate work.
Those wages can then be deducted from your overall business income as business expenses, which may work to lower your tax bracket.
Maybe you can start a small savings account or college fund for your kiddos as they help you stuff envelopes, or count inventory . . . Why not?
Read more about the legalities of hiring your kids for your business here.
7. Find a New Way to Connect With and Serve Your Customers
I am super-passionate about customer service. I have always said in another life I would love to create my own customer-service training business, where I help large companies teach their employees how to treat their clientele well.
How is your business customer service?
Are you prompt in your email replies?
Do you make sure you have sufficient supplies always in stock?
Do you supply your customers with all the information they need to have the best experience with your product?
As my online sales of Fusion Mineral Paint have grown, I have had to grow in my customer service skills. I am always looking for new ways to make sure my online customers get the products they need in the quickest time possible.
I also continually brainstorming ideas for how I can connect with my customers more, like offering an online review service or hosting free Fusion Paint Seminars where customers can ask me all their paint questions.
Maybe this year you can come up with a creative way to offer your customers a bonus, or supply them with better information. The better you serve your customers, the more they will come back.
8. Make Time to Recapture Your Creativity
Right before Christmas I posted about a last-minute custom work project I took on. While taking on the project was a hassle for my schedule, it helped me remember why I started this business in the first place.
If your business runs on your own creative energy, you have to take time to recharge that battery. Creativity can only flow for so long, then the well runs dry.
A good goal this year for you may be to find ways to regularly refuel your creative tank. It could be subscribing to magazines that get your creative juices flowing, reading books, or working on a project for yourself rather than for your business.
However you are recharged, make sure this year you don’t let yourself run dry.
9. Take a Risk by Trying Something New
Both ventures were a big risk, and both worked out really well. I learned a lot from trying out the market scene, and was able to make contacts with customers that I probably would have never encountered on my own.
I also took the big step of expanding to a second location this year, but unlike the markets and becoming a Fusion Merchant, that step didn’t work out.
I learned two locations was just too much for me at this stage of my life, and that I was spread too thin. I also learned about how to evaluate a new location for my business when the time does come to try and expand again.
Customer markets change and your capabilities change, so it makes sense to try something a little different every now and then. Some new ventures will work, some won’t. But all new things you try will help you grow as a business owner.
10. Commit to Learn from Your Mistakes
This is the follow-up to #9. If you try something new and it doesn’t work out, don’t waste that experience. Make this the year that you take stock of all of your trials and errors, making note of the things that work and the things that don’t.
Keeping a business journal is a good way to record your plans and your business outcomes.
If a new opportunity comes your way that is similar to something you have tried before, being able to go back and look at your notes from past projects and experiences will be a great resource.
If something failed the first time, maybe you should think twice before trying it again. Or maybe you will be able to see a few areas of your plan that need to be changed in order for you to succeed the second time around.
Nobody has a perfect memory, and it can be easy to forget the details of past business plans and projects. Try this year writing them down and build for yourself a great resource for years to come.
So which of these ideas do you want to try this year as a way to develop your home-based business?
I would love to hear from you and hear if you have any further ideas of your own. I wish you a great year of success in your home-based business!