QUESTION ON Starting a Home Business and Maintaining Privacy
Hi, I would like to know how to market my new secretarial home business and maintain my privacy? I have the office space and yet I don’t want to entertain clients at my home for safety reasons. Do you have any ideas on how I can pull this off effectively and not look amateurish?
Advice by Isabel Isidro
I can certainly understand your trepidation for bringing clients to your home. It’s tough to balance your need to personally meet with clients while maintaining your privacy and protecting security when running a business from home.
In addition to safety and privacy, there are a number of other reasons why bringing clients in your home may not be a good idea, such as:
1. Lack of a dedicated home office space.
Hosting, meeting and entertaining clients in your home is an issue if you do not have a dedicated home office that is set up to receive guests and conduct meetings. Where can you talk properly in the house? Should you talk business in your family room, dining room or porch? Some home business entrepreneurs set up their home offices in a separate building outside of their main homes (converted garage or cottage). Others build their home office in the main house, but construct it in such a way that the entrance to the home office is separate from the main house. Others use their basement as their home office, often with a separate entrance from the main house. Unfortunately, not everyone have the space or resources to set up their home offices separately from their living areas. If you are concerned that your house may not give your house the right impression.
2. Clutter in the house.
When a client enters your home and see toys, dirty laundry and other stuffs strewn all over the house, you are bound to give a less-than-favorable impression. You don’t want clients tiptoeing over your mess to avoid stepping on your clutter. This is especially true for a secretarial business where you are expected to be organized as it could adversely affect how the clients will perceive you professionally. If your house is not clean and presentable, think twice before bringing the client to your house.
3. Young children.
You should not invite clients to your home office if you have young kids in the house. Kids screaming and running all over the house can be a big turn-off to clients, as their noise and activities could be distracting.
4. Safety considerations.
If your client has an accident in your house — e.g. tripped on your front porch or fell on the stairs — you could be liable and be sued. Having a client come to your house opens you to some personal liability and risks.
Options for the Home-Based Entrepreneur
So as a home-based entrepreneur, what are your options when you need to meet with clients? Here are some ideas:
1. Virtual offices.
At a fraction of the cost of renting your own office, consider virtual offices. Virtual offices provide you with a prestigious business address, mail service, personalized telephone answering, voice mail, clerical support, and use of private meeting rooms – all without renting an office. Read the article Bursting at the Seams: When Your Home Business has Outgrown Your Home Office
2. Use teleconferencing services.
Teleconferencing or conferencing service is a productive, cost-effective alternative to in-person meetings, consultations and presentations. You can work and talk with clients without bringing them to your house for meetings. Read How Flat Rate Conferencing Can Help Grow Your Business
3. Use online collaboration tools such as Webex.
There are a number of robust solutions that goes beyond video conferencing. With tools such as Webex, you can share applications, your desktop, video conference, or scheduling through outlook. This is also a less costly solution for the capabilities it provide you.
4. Meet in a restaurant (not bar).
Invite the client to a restaurant where you can talk business over your meals. Choose a quiet restaurant where you don’t have to scream over the noise or music. Remember, you can deduct part of your Meals/Entertainment expenses in your taxes.
5. Check your Chamber of Commerce.
If you are a member of the local chamber of commerce, they may let you use their board room, or another entity’s board room/community room.
6. Check your public library.
Some public libraries have meeting rooms available for rent. Check the rules with your public library, as some libraries will allow reservations of their meeting rooms for “educational, cultural and informational community meetings and programs.”
Of course, there’s always the option of being upfront to the client and let them know that you work from home. You can always choose to bring them to your home — but if and only if you are comfortable, your home is clean and presentable and will offer a relaxed yet professional atmosphere.
Recommended Resources on Working in a Home Office
- How to Be Invisible: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Personal Privacy, Your Assets, and Your Life (Revised Edition)
- Home-Based Business For Dummies
- Work at Home Now: The No-nonsense Guide to Finding Your Perfect Home-based Job, Avoiding Scams, and Making a Great Living
- Best Home Businesses for People 50+
Article originally published in June 2002. Modified July 22, 2012