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Starting a Business

Should You Tell Clients You Work From Home?

Find out why having a homebased business may not be the liability some think it is.
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I've sometimes asked by fellow homebased business owners if keeping your homebased status a secret is really all that important anymore. Do clients really care? And if they do, what can you do about it?

The chances are, your clients and customers really don't care, as indicated by the fact that a majority of people who work from home now use their home address for both personal and business mail. When Sarah began her counseling practice in our home some years ago, very few psychotherapists worked at home and her colleagues questioned her judgment about working in this unconventional setting. But even then, she discovered clients actually preferred coming to our home than going to a chrome and glass office building. In interviews with people across many businesses, we regularly hear comments like, "My customers have told me they come to me because I'm located in their neighborhood." And with gasoline prices going up and up, we suspect a nearby location will be increasingly important.

Of course, the internet is blind to location, so if you operate a business on the web, whether your business is in an abandoned school building in North Dakota or your apartment in Manhattan makes no matter.

Unfortunately, there are some exceptions when it's preferable to use a separate address for your business. While cities and counties have liberalized their zoning laws to allow most homebased businesses, it's not uncommon for the Covenants, Codes and Restrictions (CC&Rs) of common interest developments--those with homeowners' associations--to forbid home occupations within their walls. So if that applies to you and what you do doesn't involve people coming to your home, noise, or other activities that would irritate and draw attention from neighbors, you may wish to use a different address for your homebased business.

Using a different address for your business also makes sense if you live on a street with a name like "Easy Jacks" or "Slowpoke Lane" and don't like the business image it conveys. And there are certain industries, such as cosmetics, whose suppliers won't sell products to businesses in home locations, so again an outside address would be important.

If, for whatever reason, using your home address for your business isn't desirable, here are two things you can do:

  • Use a mail-receiving service such as those offered by the UPS Stores. This provides you with a street address to use in correspondence or on your website, a decided advantage over using a plain old post office box which automatically creates suspicion about a business's status in some people's minds.
  • Work out an arrangement with a related business to use their address. You can usually do this for a nominal amount of money.

Authors and career coaches Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book isThe Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Contact them at www.workingfromhome.com.

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