Finding the space
As a first step list all the activities involved in getting your business to the point where it has something to sell. If you’re going to run a bookkeeping service this could be quite a short list. You need a computer, some software and perhaps a leaflet setting out your prices and the range of services on offer. But if you’re going to repair musical instruments, say, then you may need much more space including perhaps a workshop.
Using the garage
The most obvious discreet space that’s separate from the house and likely to be free of family traffic is your garage (if you have one). You can move cars onto the drive or a neighboring street, subject to your insurance company being happy with that arrangement. According to the RAC Foundation, although 71 per cent of motorists have a garage, only 41 per cent use it to park their car. Most people use it as storage for junk or are too lazy to open the garage doors.
Parking in the parking space
This area and any private drive could be used for a caravan-based office, although you need to keep in mind that visitors, suppliers and of course you and your family still need to get access to your home.
Planting yourself in the garden
You can install a shed up to 4 square meters without planning consent under certain circumstances. The exact rules are a little complicated; for example the shed can’t be bigger than 50 per cent of your garden, you can’t erect one in a conservation area and your title deeds can’t expressly prohibit you.
Climbing into an attic
Converting an attic to usable space is likely to be an expensive option and something to consider later after your business is up and running: £10,000 is the entry level price including a ladder and a window; double that if you want to include a WC, plastered walls and a power supply.
Doubling up in the spare room
If you do have a spare or under-utilized room then your search for office space is probably over. It will have heat, light and power and may also be out of the way of general family traffic. If it’s currently a bedroom you could get the best of both worlds by putting in a sofa bed and desk with locked drawers. In that way occasional guests can still use the room and you can have it for most of the time. Though far from ideal this can be a low cost option that you can implement quickly.
Checking out the rules
Whatever business you plan to run from home and whether the space you use is inside or outside of your property you need to check out a number of important rules and regulations before you start up.
Planning consent and building regulations
The extent to which the use of your home and the land it stands on changes determines whether or not you need planning consent or to consider building regulations. You may need permission for any structural alterations, increase in traffic, noise, smells or anything such as operating unreasonable hours or any disturbance that could affect your neighbors.
Your home insurance policy won’t cover any business activity so you must inform your insurer what you plan to do from home. You can find out more about whether or not what you plan to do fromhome needs special insurance cover and where to find an insurance company on the Business.
Managing the mortgage
Unless you own fully the freehold your property some other party such as a mortgage lender, landlord or freeholder may need to give their permission for you to run a business from home. Even as a freeholder you could find that a covenant has been included into your title deeds to prevent you operating certain activities from your home.
Business founders are frequently characterized as people who are bursting with new ideas, highly enthusiastic, hyperactive and insatiably curious. But the more you try to create a clear picture of the typical small business founder, the fuzzier that picture becomes. In reality, the most reliable indicator that a person is likely to start a business is that he has a parent or sibling who runs a business – such people are highly likely to start businesses themselves.