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Tips for Expanding from a Home Based Business

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There comes a time in the life of many home-based businesses when it seems like it is time to move up and out of the house. But if you have grown accustomed to the place, accustomed to the pace, how do you leave the creature comforts of home and still grow? The answer is, you don’t have to. Here are some simple ways to continue to grow and still work in your slippers when the mood strikes.

Use an Executive Suite
Executive suites are offices that you can rent by the hour, day, week, or month and share with other small businesses. They are fully furnished, have secretaries and receptionists on hand, and offer all the amenities (conference rooms, Internet access, copy machines, and so on) of your own full time, out-of-the-house office but at a fraction of the cost. Most are located in beautiful, modern downtown offices, so you are assured of impressing clients.

Fees vary depending on your needs. For example, you may want to continue to work at home and simply use the address of the suite on your stationery. That works. Most suites offer an affordable virtual office option (a couple hundred dollars a month, tops) that allows you to use their address, have them receive your mail, have them answer your phone (transferring the calls to you at home), and get a few hours of conference room time, too, for meeting with clients. The more office time you need, the more you pay. These are great places to meet clients and make an impression. By utilizing an executive (or professional) suite, you can put a shiny external face on your home-based business if you so desire, and at a very affordable price.

Rent the Space You Need
Many successful home-based businesspeople continue to run their business out of their home while renting the space they need to grow. Barsahrin Travis is a yoga teacher. She used to hold sessions in the quiet living room of her house, but when her classes grew too popular, she decided to rent space at a nearby dance studio. She continues to manage her thriving business from home but uses space outside the house to grow.

It may be that you need warehouse space, a place for inventory, a location for your workshops, space for employees—the reasons for wanting more room are varied. The important thing is not to think of it as an either/or situation. You can continue to work from home and rent space and continue to grow. You do not have to move out of the house to get bigger.

Get Help
When you face the happy dilemma of too much growth and not enough room, another option is to contract with another company or individual to handle the overflow for you. Yes, hiring people as employees or independent contractors to do work that you could do yourself costs money, but that is what businesses do—they segment duties and hire staff to handle jobs. It is a sign that your home-based business has reached a more mature stage of development.

Aside from taking those duties off your hands, the other benefit of hiring help is that it frees you up to concentrate on matters that are more important. Far too many small business people spend far too much time working in their business and not on their business. You have only so much time, and when you spend it stuffing envelopes or filling orders or collecting past-due invoices, you take time away from doing something else—and that something else is usually a better, smarter use of your time. Hiring staff enables you to have more free time to think bigger and plan better.

Go Virtual
If you do not want the expense and responsibility of hiring employees and finding space for them to work, consider hiring a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants are independent contractors who work from their own home or office, handle duties for you, and communicate with you via telephone, fax, e-mail, or messenger service. Virtual assistants have become quite the rage of late.

According to the International Virtual Assistants Association, “A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services. Utilizing advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery, a professional VA assists clients in his/her area of expertise from his/her own office on a contractual basis.”

VAs are especially good at handling pesky administrative duties such as collections, marketing, travel planning, research, and accounting. They might even help create your website, prepare your newsletter, or schedule appointments. VAs are affordable—typically less than $50 an hour. You pay only for the time you use. Best of all, by hiring a VA, you get all the advantages of having an assistant without the associated overhead—no employment costs or taxes, no rent for office space, nada.

VAs can really help your business grow. Good ones are committed to your success, knowing that if they do well, you will do well, and if you do well, they might do even better.

About Steve Strauss

Senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible, Steve is your host here at TheSelfEmployed.com.