1. Location

Your home office should offer privacy and enough elbow room to house the equipment and furniture you require to effectively conduct your business. If you plan on holding client meetings in your home office, look for a room or rooms that are removed from your family surroundings. Maintain as much of a professional atmosphere as possible.

2. Budget

Run numbers. Determine how much you can comfortably afford to spend outfitting your home office with equipment and furniture. Don’t forget to budget for additional phone lines, electrical wiring, carpentry, and supplies for the office. Before you go and spend a nickel, look around your home. Do you own items such as pens, paper, scissors, extra phones, tables, chairs, and desks that you can use in your home office?

3. Building Permits

You will need a variance if you intend to run a business from your home in a residential area that is not zoned for business. Approval of a variance usually requires approval by the local zoning board, usually preceded by a public hearing that the zoning board invites abutters to attend. Your local building and zoning department, typically located in your town or city hall, should be able to provide you with the necessary applications and advise you on all local zoning restrictions. You will also need permits for any construction, including any wiring or plumbing work.

4. Insurance

Homeowners insurance usually provides a rider that can be attached to cover computers and other office equipment and furniture. Check out the latest pricing on the equipment you own and select coverage limits that will protect your investment. You may also need insurance for vehicles used in your business and liability coverage for accidents related to the use of your product or service.

5. Image

Today more than ever, a first impression is more likely to be determined not by your office but by other factors. Your website or social media or some other advertisement may be your first contact with customers. Maybe it’s even your business card.

Look professional. Create a logo. Be consistent in your design. Carry the logo and color schemes throughout all of your business. Build a website, even if it is very simple but looks professional.

How you answer your phone is important, too. You usually won’t want to spend the money for a live receptionist, and today people don’t expect it, but how you answer your phone makes a difference. “Hello” doesn’t cut it. Instead, start with “Bob’s Rent-A-Bike, how may I help you?”

Similarly, on your voice mail leave a professional-sounding message. “Thanks for calling Bob’s Rent-A-Bike. We are briefly unavailable, so please leave a message and we will call you back shortly.”

6. Self-Discipline

Focus on running your business. Avoid distractions such as children, neighbors, and friends. Let your friends and family know that you are serious about your work—tell them that they just can’t pop into your office whenever they feel like it.

Don’t wander into your kitchen for a piece of pie. Don’t answer your personal phone if it can be delayed until after work. Don’t check on the dog. These diversions will hamper your effectiveness in managing and growing your business. Remember, you are at work—and not really at home!