Many country dwellers, for whatever reason, whether financial, commuting convenience or simply a desire to be closer to their family, have made the decision to work from their own home. If you have decided to join the thousands of home business entrepreneurs who have successfully combined working from home with a happy family life you will need to be aware of some of the pitfalls as well as the many bonuses and freedoms of running a business from your own personal space.

While working at home has a plethora of advantages, if you are not careful it can at the same time completely take over every aspect of your home life. 

If you decide that you want to work from home always consult your family first, they have a right to decide whether it is in fact ideal for you and your family to be confined together at home. You need to ask yourself honestly exactly how it will affect the dynamics of the household. For example will you have enough physical and mental space to work effectively at your business? Will everyone feel better because they know you are available to them or will they feel that they mustn’t disturb you?

It is important to create your office space so that you set up a filing system, keep confidential documents safe, talk on the phone without interruption and generally feel that you are in a proper working environment. The other reason for creating a dedicated working space is so that you can ‘shut the door’ on it when you want some proper family time away from the office. This is where a proper home office has a distinct advantage over working from the kitchen table.

You can always extend your house to accommodate a growing business, but make sure you check out the planning laws first with your local authority. To make the best of any available space consult an architect.

Don’t just rely on your local builder, architects know how to utilise space, whilst builders usually only know how to build.

While loft conversions and extensions may not necessarily need planning permission they will need to follow building regulations. A garden office is often a good compromise and may not need planning permission or building regulations. Bear in mind though that if you extend, convert or build an office outbuilding without the correct permissions you may not be able to sell your house in the future.

Although the government is in favour of people working from home, planning permission may be a hurdle you have to cross for certain types of business. There are certainly some occupations that require planning permission, even if you are not extending or altering your home. Fortunately people working alone on computers or in the advisory sector are unlikely to need planning permission, unless your business creates lots of noticeable extra traffic to and from your home.

It is usually neighbours that alert the planning authorities so don’t upset those around you! If in any doubt check with your local planning dept before you set up any new venture.

Working from home means that you will have to plan your time carefully. Never assume that just because you are working in your own home, that you will automatically have more time and that working will be more fun and much easier. This is just not so you will need to structure your day more carefully than ever before. Plan your holidays and days off first, and then work around them, otherwise they will never happen.

Above all make it very clear to family and friends that you are unavailable during working hours. A casual caller looking for a cup of coffee and a cosy chat could cost you real money and lost business opportunities.

Insurance policies are advisable when working from home, the minimum requirement being a ‘working at home’ policy which covers your home, business contents and public liability. If you employ other people, within or outside your home, you will certainly need employer’s liability insurance.

If you really need to employ others in your own home (have a long hard think before you do so) you should definitely consider a separate office in the garden; otherwise your home will no longer be your own. If likewise you have frequent meetings with clients you will require either an office in the garden or an extension with it’s own front door to appear professional.

Working from home is definitely more cost effective than renting an office, even if you spend money on extending your home or building an office in the garden. Business equipment can of course be an additional expense but if you can afford dedicated machinery such as separate phone lines and computers, this really helps to keep your home and working space well apart from each other – which is an important factor in running a successful and enjoyable business from your own home.