Char Polanosky has an interesting discussion going on over at Essential Keystrokes regarding business growth. I’ve been in Char’s situation a few times, so I know what a struggle it can be. As I began writing out a long comment, I decided it would be much better as a post.
When it comes to growing and expanding your home-based business, there are some important things to consider. I recommend a 2-step assessment approach to help decide if, when, and how to take your home-based business to the next level.
First Step – What Do You Really Want?
I’m still surprised to find that many home-based entrepreneurs think they have to grow their business to some huge entity. Or, they think they need to stay small and solo forever. Not only is there a middle path, it’s important to consider where you see your business going.
- Do you want to grow big or stay small?
- Do you want to have a staff or stay solo?
- What do you want your role to be (more in step 2)?
- What is your long term or ultimate goal for your business?
These questions take some serious soul searching to answer. It’s important to make your plans clear, and not just let your business grow blindly, letting things fall as they will.
Second Step – What’s Your Role?
Where do you personally fit into the future of your company? Will you be selling and walking away, staying completely involved, or somewhere in the middle? Here’s what to consider as you begin exploring outsourcing, staff, and joint ventures:
- What you are good at vs. what you are not.
- What you like to do vs. what you don’t.
- What your customers expect from you personally vs. what goes on behind the scenes.
- What makes you money doing vs. what costs you money to do.
This will help determine what you need to hand off to others. For example, unless you are a lawyer, or a recovering one, outsourcing your legal stuff to an attorney is a good idea (if you can afford it). The same with your accounting.
Another example is Webhosting. You may be quite capable of doing it yourself, but if it’s taking away billable time, and not bringing you in any money, it might be time to find a host.
Don’t Be Afraid of the “E-Word”
So many of the home-based entrepreneurs I’ve known and worked with are terrified of hiring employees. One guy I knew wouldn’t even say the word “employee,” always saying, “don’t even mention the e-word.”
Getting help doesn’t have to mean hiring employees. In my opinion – you should consider these options first:
Work with contractors. There are lots of differences between employees and contractors, but to me this is the most important – when I say “contractors” I mean “experts.” I am referring to independent professionals that you can give work to and not have to direct. For example, freelance programmers, designers, or writers that are self-employed and can complete the work you give to them without you having to hold their hand every step of the way. Freelancers who consider themselves a business and are self-directed are going to be much more beneficial to your business than an employee that you’re trying to pass off as a 1099 for tax purposes. That is just a nightmare in so many ways.
Outsource to experts those things that require expert advice – lawyer, accountant or tax advisor, etc.
Look for opportunities for joint ventures with other professionals in the same or similar fields to help with your workload.
To Grow or Not to Grow…
As a home-based entrepreneur, much of what you’re selling is you and your expertise. Finding ways to sell more of that expertise, while offloading the burden of other stuff, can be both profitable and rewarding.
Consider your options, and think through what you want your business to become. Think back to why you started it in the first place, and where you saw it going.
What it all comes down to is what you envision for you and your business. Chances are, you know the best bet for you. It may just take some time and reflection to uncover it.