Closed September 2017

Don’t Start a Home-Based Business Without Reading This First!

Homeoffice2 As a professional organizer since 2000, over ten years now, I have worked in many homes where there is also a business being run. It may be a consultancy, or someone might be a writer or other type of expert, or it may be that the person is operating a network-marketing business like Mary Kay or Arbonne.

Regardless of the type of business, I have seen a lot of circumstances that could have been planned and accommodated better. So here are some thoughts to consider before starting a home-based business, from an organizer's perspective… considering the space required and other operational pitfalls:

  • Does the business you intend to start involve physical inventory? If so, is there a commitment to regularly order this inventory?  You may have clear goals to be a top salesperson, but what if you're not? If this inventory stacks up, where will it go? Have you built in a profit margin for your products that is large enough to include the cost of outsourcing the order packaging and shipping when it gets too large for you to handle alone? Have a respectful conversation with your spouse/partner about the boundaries that he or she envisions for the inventory space in the garage and closets and spare rooms.
  • What are the storage needs, aside from inventory, that your business will create, such as records retention or other bulky items like books and binders? Think about a plan for records retention with an offsite records management company if the files are really crucial– I have seen a lot of important documents in attics and basements being exposed to extreme temperatures and moisture.
  • Are there systems that colleagues are using, like accounting and sales applications, that already work well in your industry? Don't reinvent the wheel– invest in those systems up front if you are serious. In the case of network-marketing companies, there is often software or an online sales and inventory management service that makes everything work more smoothly– USE THESE right away instead of creating your own system.
  • Do you have a designated workspace for yourself, or are you starting on a kitchen table? Work hard to figure out a separate workspace somewhere and avoid disrupting your family's normal functions with your work clutter. Ideally find a space you can close the doors on to help you keep proper boundaries with your time as well.
  • Does your family have a separate space for their own home office and school work needs? It's better to have duplicate sets of supplies like staplers, scissors, and tape for your business to use vs. the kids borrowing yours all the time. Ideally having a separate computer is also wise– consider buying an older laptop for children to use instead of yours.
  • Have you considered child care needs? Mothers often think they can work easily while the kids nap, but it is harder than you might think. Consider trading child care favors with a friend who also works from home to provide longer windows of uninterrupted work time. Ask yourself what will happen if the business really takes off? If you intend to work part-time only, would full-time ever work for your family if there were an incredible opportunity?
  • Will you be receiving visitors in your home as part of your business? Have you checked with your city and neighborhood association for related ordinances regarding parking and hours? Is there adequate soundproofing and privacy for your business conversations to occur if your family is home? If certain people need to come and go, install a keypad garage door opener instead of distributing keys to your doors.
  • Can you hear the doorbell from your office when deliveries and visitors arrive? Consider a doorbell extender chime, which you can purchase at a hardware store.
  • Lastly– if you already have a home-based business– is it really an active business, or is it dormant? I have seen people keeping a lot of business-related clutter around because they cannot admit to themselves that their business did not succeed. Having the clutter makes it feel like there is still a possibility the business could be revived… Finally admitting that the business is over frees a lot of mental energy and physical space that allows you to step forward into your next venture. Get real with yourself, mourn the loss, get support, and be brave!

Does any of this ring true? I will not soon forget the cosmetic products I have seen taking over homes in every available closet, cubby, and cabinet. Don't let that happen to you! Share your home business experiences in the comments!

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Ah, Lorie, wish I could have read this a few years ago – it might have helped me to say “No” before the deluge of stuff!
Mine was a jewelry business – it was fun for about 2-3 months and then it became an albatross around my neck. Because although I happily gave it up over 3 years ago, I still have boxes of literature and catalogs – I keep thinking someone can use it! And all the jewelry I bought for inventory with the excuse that I like it and I’ll wear it. Guess what, there are some pieces I like, but my negative emotions about how much I invested in all this leaves me feeling defeated and mad at myself.
Hopefully this post will give someone a moment to pause and re-think before committing. If you already have a hard time with managing stuff, do NOT go down this path without giving serious consideration to Lorie’s well made points!
Thx, Lorie, for speaking up about this and encouraging us to be real, mourn the loss, and move on! You’re my support in this process and I thank you. 🙂

John Trosko

I love all those “ads” for those home-based businesses… work in Pajamas. Earn big money, follow your dream, set your own schedule. It’s always some heart-warming image of someone on a beach enjoying a Bahama Breeze. The reality is much different..and what you’ve written above is very true.
John aka OrganizingLA


About 14 years ago I started a “direct sales” business in hopes that I could quit my day job once I had kids, and only work when I wanted to work. I only did it for about a year. Once I was pregnant, and realized how much harder I would have to work on the direct sales to replace my day job income, I quit. I knew that I would never have any time with the baby!
Unfortunately, I had an experience like Liza’s (above). I kept all of the “stuff”, worried that I might be audited. I only threw it away about 3 years ago!! I still have many of the baskets that I bought for display items. I wish I could say I am using them, but they are mainly cluttering up my basement. My husband and I argued frequently about the amount of money I spent on them, and so they remind me of an unhappy time, and a failed enterprise. Furthermore, I don’t know how to get rid of them. I know how much they cost, so I am not comfortable dropping them off at the salvation army–my husband would flip out! I also don’t know how to sell them on ebay–but I should find out! It seems like a complete lose/lose situation.
The only true positive is what I learned about myself. I am not a salesperson, nor do I enjoy selling things. I have been approached several times since about joining other direct sales companies. I only have to say a few words about how negative my past experience was, and they take the hint. I have saved countless dollars this way!–Maybe enough to make up what I spent on the baskets!! Hey, I never looked at it that way before. Maybe I CAN just let them go!

Lizzie Lou

I just finished an organizing job for a client with a successful home based direct sales business. She also struggled with all the paperwork and the inventory. She had a big beautiful office, but it wasn’t functioning very well and she was stressed and thinking about farming out follow up calls.
I took a “process” approach to organizing her office. We sat down and identified all of the processes that she had to accomplish on a regular basis; preparing for home parties, preparing for team meetings, etc. We then labeled a box for each process in her adjoining dining room. We emptied out the entire office into the appropriate “buckets”. Then we looked at the quantity of papers, etc. for each process and noted the requirements for completing it (counter space, computer, etc.)
Then we figured out where each process could be stationed. Finally, we loaded each station with the contents of the buckets. It took two five-hour days, but the results are an efficient, task-oriented, conscious space. I’m looking forward to learning how it affects her bottom line.


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