Pondering what to write today and thinking maybe I could write something useful for people starting out in home based business – or maybe wanting to re-boot an existing home based business – I gave myself an exercise.

And the exercise I gave myself was this: “If someone was just setting up a home based business, what – based on my own more than 20 years of being a home based business owner – would be five tips I would give them?”

The idea was not to come up with the “top 5”; more like “5 off the top of my head”.

All my own thoughts

25 June:Working at home by Sladey via FlickrI chose not to consult my library, where I have some really useful books on the topic, or other blogs, some of which I know are full of wisdom and practical advice, or to point to some of the excellent, free guides on government-sponsored web sites in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and no doubt other countries.

And I certainly chose not to suggest focusing on what I focused on when I set up my own home based business all those years ago, like

  • spending hours working out what configuration of computer, printer, fax machine I should get
  • spending an inordinate amount of time working on stationery design, especially what my business card should look like
  • wondering about office furniture

Those concerns have their place but there are more fundamental things I would love to have had someone point out – forcefully – to me. Mainly about the realities of business, as distinct from the tools and trappings.

So for this exercise I would draw on just my thoughts, here and now February 2011, based on my experience, and not aiming to win a competition for the “best” or “wisest” or “potentially most profitable” tips.

Here’s what I wrote down (the pic of the handwritten version shows why I did not win prizes at school for handwriting!).

5 Tips for Starting a Home Based Business5 Tips for Someone Starting a Home Based Business

  1. Know your market worth
  2. Build an order book
  3. Develop new networks
  4. Ask for help
  5. Love the business you are in

Briefly about each:

1. Know your market worth

As background, statement of the bleeding obvious: everyone comes from somewhere.

Explanation. It’s probably a reasonable statement that for most of us setting up a professional services business from home, we come from having a role, a status, probably even a title, in our previous place of business or work. They helped identify our worth to our employer or other prospective employers. Now we need to work out a fresh valuation of our worth in the market. Which in turn or as a pre-requisite requires us to work out who our market is.

2. Build an order book

I learned this from a wise, very experienced business leader, who would say – and told me that as a CEO he would say it to his team  – “don’t tell me about the business we have now. Tell me what’s in your order book for six months from now.”

This one needs strategy, planning, discipline. And it requires us to be thinking ahead and “marketing ahead”. But it’s how we can build a sustainable business.

3. Develop new networks

As my handwritten scrawl shows, the first version of this was “Build your networks”. The trouble is, while the networks we have now might sustain us for a while, our new business focus may demand, not that we trash our existing networks, but that we complement it with new networks relevant to our marketing strategy.

If you are starting your business now or giving it a re-boot, social media offers you literally unprecedented opportunities to build amazing new, and amazingly profitable, networks.

4. Ask for help

Assuming you are good at what you do (or just good at what you are good at), you should assume that your friends and former work colleagues will want to help you get business. They may not have contracts for you themselves (don’t crowd them or embarrass them by begging or cajoling) but if you can make it very clear to them what you are focused on and the sort of people you want to connect with, they will surely want to give you introductions and recommendations. Ask them! The worst they can do is say no.

5. Love the business you are in

You might, channeling Tina Turner, ask ‘What’s love got to do with it?”. My answer: A Lot! You might have started your business because you got retrenched  or just couldn’t stand where you were working. But now you’ve started it, you’d better make sure you love it, or learn to love it. Or start a different business. Or look for a job again.

Believe me, if you don’t love it, if it doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning eager to get into it, being thrilled to help your clients, you will stand a fair chance of getting bored, disillusioned and cranky enough that it will show and people will not want to do business with you. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

But wait, there’s more!

It has been a challenge, with these five tips, to restrict myself to making a brief observation on/explanation of each.

With each of them there is more that I want to share and each of them leads into other, related topics. So I’m thinking of doing a separate post on each of the five tips.

I’m also interested to know what others might offer as their 5 Tips.

So.

What are 5 tips you would give to someone starting or re-booting a home based business?

Image credit:: “25 June: Working at home” by Sladey, via Flickr (CC BY -ND 2.0)

The series: 5 Tips for Starting a Home Based Business

Tip 1: Know Your Market Worth : Starting a Home Based Business Series

Tip 2: Build an Order Book: Starting a Home Based Business Series

Tip 3: Build New Networks: 5 Tips for Starting a Home Based Business

Tip 4: Ask for Help: 5 Tips for Starting a Home Based Business

Tip 5: Love the Business You Are In: 5 Tips for Starting a Home Based Business

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