How to Succeed in Your Home-Based Business

Although no one can guarantee that your home-based business will bring you the fame and fortune you hope it will, if you work hard, price your products and services right, and keep your customers satisfied, you stand a good chance of doing just that. The results you get out of your business are a direct result of the work you put into it.

Do what you love

To do what you love, you first have to know what kind of work you really want to do. This requires intense introspection and an understanding of which kinds of work get your creative juices flowing and which kinds dry them up. Doing what you love also sometimes requires that you ignore what other people want you to do for a living. You may decide, for example, that you'd really like to start a recording studio in your home, but your spouse or best friend may think something more practical, such as buying into a fast-food franchise, makes more sense. Ultimately, you must decide what you're going to do for a living — even if it means you can't work at home.

Treat your business like a business

If you want your business to be a business — an organization that generates the kind of money you need to become financially independent — you have to treat it like one, not like a hobby or a momentary fling. Here are some ideas:

  • Set aside a real home office — not just a closet or a shelf — exclusively for your business.
  • Make an investment in business equipment and supplies: a decent computer, extra phone lines, a fax machine, and whatever else you decide you need to run your operation.
  • Create a marketing plan and marketing materials.
  • Publicize your company's products and services to a wide audience of potential customers and clients.
  • Build a strong customer base and make plans for future growth.

Become an expert

People respect those who know more than they do. By specializing, you assume the role of a presumed expert, even if you've just started your business. It makes good business sense for your clients to hire an expert instead of someone less experienced. By avoiding the mistakes and dead ends that someone with less experience may make, your clients could end up spending less money by hiring you — even if your hourly rates are higher.

Charge what you're worth

Here's an instant going-out-of-business plan, no matter how hard you work: Charge your customers less than you're worth. Why would you do that? Well, some people charge less than they're worth because they don't realize exactly how much they are worth. Others charge less than they're worth because they are embarrassed or afraid to ask for an amount that reflects their true worth. Whatever the reason, if you don't get paid what you're worth, you are putting your business at risk.

If you don't know what you're worth, find out what other companies charge for similar products or services by researching catalogs, price lists, stores, and e-commerce and auction Web sites. From there, develop a pricing or fee structure that will help you attain your personal goals.

Manage your cash flow

Cash, or the lack of it, is one of the key indicators of a company's success over the long run. If you have cash, you can buy and stock new products for your customers, develop innovative new services for your clients, pay for your day-to-day operations, and expand your operations. If you don't have cash, your business will certainly suffer, and so will your customers and clients.

It's not enough to simply watch your cash flow — the money going in and out of your business — you've also got to manage it. This means looking to the future, planning and scheduling your projected cash inflows and outflows, billing quickly, staying on top of money owed you, and paying attention to the money that goes in and out of your business.

Build a solid customer base

Building a solid customer base is much easier said than done. At the heart of the process is creating an organization that values its current customers and goes out of its way to ensure their satisfaction and happiness. Customers are smart — they can tell whether they are high or low on a company's list of priorities. If they sense that you don't care much about whether they do business with you, they'll likely jump ship as soon as another company that really does care about them comes along.

Ask for referrals

Word-of-mouth referrals are probably the least expensive and the most effective way of getting new business. This makes referrals the most important way for home-based businesses to market themselves. Here are several of the best ways of earning great referrals from customers:

  • Do great work: When you do great work, your clients are happy to give you great referrals. Do less-than-great work, and you'll be lucky to get any referrals.
  • Do your work on time and within budget: If you consistently deliver on your promises, you'll soon have more business than you could ever imagine possible. And you'll earn your clients' referrals.
  • Keep your clients well informed: When clients spend their money on you, they want to be kept apprised of your progress, not only to stay in touch with the project, but also to keep a watchful eye out for problems before they get out of hand. Do your clients a favor, and keep them informed about your project's progress. Whether the news is good or bad, your clients and customers will appreciate your forthrightness and candor.
  • Be dependable: If anything, you should always keep your word — even when it hurts. If you promise to do something, do everything in your power to keep your promise, no matter what it takes to follow through on it.
  • Be flexible: Customers and clients appreciate vendors who are flexible and willing to meet their needs, no matter what those needs are. Not only that, but also, they will pay more for that flexibility. Think what you can do in your business to better meet your customers' needs.
  • Thank your clients for their referrals: Everyone likes to be appreciated for what they do. Your customers are no different. Be sure to thank them for their referrals with a hand-signed card or small gift.
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