I have set up a consultancy from home but am reticent to invite clients over to sit in my messy spare room for meetings. Are home-based businesses viewed negatively by people in the corporate world? If so, should I hide the fact I operate from home?
Oh dear, the messy spare room simply will not do! You’ve probably put a lot of thought into your branding, business name and website design before you bring your clients into your dingy, messy home office. We home-based business operators are often seen as the poor cousin of big business and the thing you do when you want some home time out of the big corporate world.
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Any prospective clients – who will be evaluating whether to do business with you or not – seeing that mess in the spare room will be convinced to take their business to your competitors in a flash! We already have the difficulty that some clients will pick a larger, more established business over a home-based business because they believe we are not up to scratch, have no back up and are unreliable.
Your reticence in this case is worthwhile. Your messy home office is okay for a back office, papers everywhere, work-in-progress environment. This goes down well with your colleagues, family and business supporters, but not a good look for presenting a professional business face to your clients.
Not that I’d recommend hiding your home based business origins. The more enlightened city office worker has often heard that running a home-based business is alive and well outside of the CBD.
Be aware of the client relationship you are managing. Some clients are simply more comfortable in their corporate world, working in an open-plan office with their colleagues, CBD location, meeting and boardrooms.
But truth be told, trust in business is vital for on-going repeat business and long-term relationships with your clients, so I’d recommend being open and up-front about your working from home arrangements.
If you are going to invite clients to your house have a dedicated professional space with a meeting room type feel. Clean up the areas of the house your clients will walk through and use.
Or consider other options, which I know many consultants who run their business from home do:
1. Find a well located coffee shop or hotel eatery that is not too noisy so you can discuss business and not too busy so that people can’t listen in on your discussion.
2. Hire a serviced office meeting room for occasional use.
3. Join a city-based club with a business centre, meeting rooms and business support.
4. Ask you accountant or solicitor if you can meet on their premises and use their boardroom – for a nominal fee, of course.
5. If your clients are from interstate you can always use the club rooms at the airport.
Never be afraid to tell people about running your business from home and you may even find they can relate to it or are doing it themselves.