It is perfectly legal run a business from your home and the benefits can be irresistible if you’re setting up a new business or starting a side hustle. From cost savings and convenience to no-commute and control over your hours of work, a home run business is a great way to test a business idea or to save money on the costs of a physical office.
Running your business from home allows you to offset some business expanses against the cost of running your home. You can also use your business assets for personal use provided your personal use does not represent a cost to the business. Depending on how you are structured you can even charge your business rent for using your home as an office.
Before embarking on a home business set up, there are some important considerations which we take a look at in this post:
The majority of desk based jobs like consulting or design can be carried out from any location. But some business activities which are capable of being carried our from your home have specific restrictions in place. This means that you’ll need to get permission to carry out these activities and that usually means applying for a licence before you start trading.
By and large, getting permission will depend on whether your home is physically suitable for the operation of the business or whether your background will qualify you to get a licence.
Here is a list of some business activities that you can operate from home but also require additional permissions:
Selling alcohol – you’ll need a liquor licence. In Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners are the relevant regulatory body.
Selling food – you’ll need a licence from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
Entertaining – you may need a theatre licence.
Bookmaker – To operate as a bookmaker or a website that offers gambling you’ll need a gaming licence
Crèche or Childcare service – you’ll need regulatory permission. Start by looking at this website which is managed by the Department of Children.
Before spending funds on getting set up, double check if your business needs special permission or if you need to comply with any specific laws. Talk to someone who already runs a similar type business or search online for professional advise.
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Running a business from home is exempt from planning permission provided that certain conditions are met. So if your home office is just you quietly working at your computer then you will not need planning permission. But if the activities of the business begin to impact on or change the residential use of the property, then you might need to apply for planning permission. In planning terms, this is called a “material change of use”.
Examples of a change of use would include customers visiting the premises on a frequent basis, or couriers / delivery vans coming and going regularly to and from the property, or if advertised your business to “walk in” customers without appointment.
If you feel like your home business is going to stray into the change of use territory then you may need to apply to your local planning department for a change or use. Don’t just assume that nobody will complain if you change the use of your property. Unhappy neighbours can make a formal complaint to their local planning authority if they believe that you are breaking the rules. Its free and a very simple procedure to make a complaint. It can also be done anonymously.
Planning rules will also apply when you want to physically extend your home or build an new outdoor office structure. Generally speaking, extensions of less than 40 Square meters are exempt from the requirement to obtain planning permission as well as are small external home offices. But this is not always the case. Always check the rules before making any changes.
How to Mitigate the downside to running a home business
If you’re thinking about running a business from home it’s important to first consider the disadvantages. Not only will this help you to decide on whether a home business it right for you, it will also get you thinking of ways to minimise any negative impact that might arise when setting up and operating your business from your house.
Disadvantage 1: Your home address address is publicly available
One of the things that can really help your home business to succeed is to ensure that you have a professional business address on your website and your marketing material. Many first time customers will research your address (for example with google street view) before purchasing from you. They will want to see that you have a professional business address before doing business with you.
You’ll also need a postal address for things like bank statements and invoices and general correspondence. When you register your business in the CRO or for with the Revenue Commissioners you’ll be legally obliged to disclose your address. Your home address will then be publicly available which can result in uninvited visitors and customers visiting your home.
Overcome the problem by getting a Virtual Office
It is strongly recommended that you avoid using your home address to register your business. A solution to this problem is to purchase a virtual office address. This comprises of a professional business address that you can publish on your website and business cards. You will also have your postal mail managed for you and can be scanned in or forwarded as you prefer. You can get a Dublin Virtual Office from just €18 + vat /month.
Some Virtual Office providers (ours included) also offer local landline telephone numbers for you to use. The best virtual office providers will also offer on-demand access to office space for client meetings or when you need a day working in a professional environment.
Disadvantage 2: Isolation:
Running a home business can be a lonely experience. You’ll miss the interaction that you get when you attend the office in person. It can also be challenging to separate your work environment from you home environment. These issues can affect both productivity and mental well being. It’s best to have a carefully thought out plan in place to mitigate the downside of operating a business from home.
Overcome the problem by networking
Just because you run your business from home doesn’t mean that you must lock yourself away from other people. There are fantastic online networking groups available on platforms like meetup.com and facebook. With the rise of home working you might also discover neighbours who are also running their business from home. You could seek them out and create your own support network by using tools as simple as a whatsapp group.
You might also consider an inexpensive part time coworking membership in your local coworking space, for example one day a week. This will get you out of the house and connecting with other workers where you can share ideas or just go for lunch. This will help you to stay sane while working from home.
Disadvantage 3: Home Distractions
Running your business from home can give rise to lots of distractions. These range from impromptu visits to the fridge to interruptions from children and other family members. Distractions kill productivity. It’s estimated that after one distraction from deep work it will take up to 30 minutes to refocus and get back to where you left off. Distractions can impact negatively on productivity and ultimately restrict your business from reaching its full potential.
Overcome the problem by becoming a time management pro
To overcome distractions when running your home business, you can sharpen your time management skills.
There are very many online courses, YouTube video tutorials and apps that you can use. Most of them focus on the same strategies of scheduling and time blocking which involve pre-planning your working day and having the discipline to stick to the plan, even in the face of powerful or tempting distractions.
Be upfront with others about when you will be strictly unavailable. During deep work sessions, use the “Do Not Disturb” function on your devices for both calls and notifications. Develop an iron will and resist the urge to waiver from your pre-planned schedule. Use an alarm function to tell you when your next time block for focused work begins and ends. These strategies will help you to get those quick wins when working from home
Disadvantage 4: Staff
If your home business comprises of just you dealing with employees will not be a problem. But once your home based business starts to get busy, you’ll need help.
Brining staff or contractors to work with you in your home can be problematic for several reasons. First, there is the issue of space. A typical home may have a small home office but it will usually be unsuitable for more than one desk.
There is also the issue of health and safety legislation. Employees are legally entitled to a safe and proper place of work that offers proper office furniture, good ventilation and natural light.
You’ll also need insurance to cover you if your employees or contractors have an accident while working in your home.
Overcome the problem with Remote Working
There are hundreds of great quality online platforms where you can find freelances who will work remotely. This means that they can perform tasks for you without the need for them to be physically present in your home.
Some of these platforms that we have come across include Upwork, Flexjobs and PeoplePerHour. Freelancers are rated based on completed jobs. You can also filter based on price and experience. Some platforms allow you to post a job or role and get freelancers to pitch directly to you.
Remote working now has legal standing in many countries so it’s an established and a legitimate way to run a business. Some of the most successful companies in the world operate on a quasi or full remote basis.
Running a business from home is a great idea provided you are prepared to operate within the law and that you are able to cope with all the downsides.
With online transacting on the rise and the ease of availability of virtual assistants there has never been a better time to set up your home business. Use it to test a new business idea with very little risk, start your side hustle journey or fulfil a dream to be your own boss.
One of the most important considerations is to create a professional impression for your future customers and clients. A Virtual Office a great place to start.