Success Tips – Home Based Businesses
Build a Successful Custom Apparel Business from your own Home
People run their businesses from home all the time. So today we want to talk about success tips in custom t shirts, embroidery and bling in that home-based business. How are you going to set yourself up for success? How are you going to facilitate this great environment in your home, where you can run a professional business that’s not just a hobby.
There’s a lot of potential for doing a home-based business, in custom apparel in particular. There’s a couple tips we can share to help you do it more easily, more smoothly, and avoid some mistakes we’ve seen.
If you look at the Coldesi Success Stories page, Botkin Designs retired and started their business from home. Benson Designs runs his business from his basement, with the DTG printer. Crystal Creek Designs runs an embroidery and bling business from home. There are a lot of people actually use a spare bedroom, a basement our an outbuilding to run their business, or they started there.
We don’t see many custom apparel businesses that start out as with a retail location. Most of the time what we see is a business starting out at home, and then getting so much interest that they need to look into a larger retail location where they can expand and continue to grow. The decision you have to make in the beginning is how you’re going to position your business. Are you going to position yourself to the public as a home-based business? Is being a home-based business part of your persona? Or are you undercover, because you want to seem bigger? Is making it known that you’re a home based business going to benefit you, based on the clientele you’re going after? You can let customers know that you’re a home-based business to help keep your overhead low. Or if you’re mainly selling to local companies and sports teams, being a local home-based business can benefit you. It can make your clientele more comfortable doing business with you.
On the other hand if you’re going to start a business and you’re going to do corporate wear, university wear, etc. you may not want to let your customers know you’re doing it from your house. You’ll want to tell them you’re a commercial business and you want to be their commercial supplier. They’re not going come by your house to pick up their order, you’re going to drop it off personally or have it shipped to them. It’s a different personality. Even if you do run your business from home, it’s a separate question as to whether you advertise you’re a home-based business.
You can always change it later, but when you start out, you have to figure out what your persona is, which one do you want to be.
The other thing you want to figure out is is the home-based business track for you? Are you going to work? Are you going to be able to do it? You can do, but you have to make the decision, and take all the tips we’re going to lay out for you. It’s work, it’s income, it’s a business. We talked about this on our podcast about the starting too small – is this just a hobby or a business?
Is it legal to do the kind of business you want to do from home?
Based on your state/county/city laws, can you have the type of equipment running from your house? Are you allowed to run a business? Or is there anything you need to be concerned about.
There are city/county regulations all over the country, and every single one of them is different. There may also be community rules. As an example your townhouse associate may have rules against running a business out of your home. In some places you may not be able to run a traditional screen printing business from a residential area, because of the type of chemicals you use. Or if you are able to, there may be rules about disposal of those chemicals – you can’t put them in the regular garbage.
You don’t want to get freaked out about the rules, but you do want to make sure that you’re not going to put yourself into a situation where you’re up and running, and you then get into trouble.
Where you want to start looking for information:
- Search for “What does it take to get into business in the state of Florida?”
- Look at the specific county information – you may need to get a license
- Look at the city you’re in
- If you live in a neighborhood with an association, check that as well
Get whatever information you can in writing. If you call someone on the phone, and they say “Yeah that’s fine” ask for that in writing or for a link to where you can find that online. If you want to pay a little bit of money you can also talk to an attorney. This probably isn’t necessary if you’re going to have a single-head embroidery machine. But if you’re going to invest in $50,000 in multi-head machines, it may be worth it to spend a few hundred dollars to talk to an attorney, if you’re concerned. If you’re going to make this your livelihood, do the right stuff upfront.
Do a little bit of homework before you invest a lot of money.
What are the physical requirements of the equipment you want to use?
- How much space is it going to take up?
You need room for your equipment, counter/work space, storage space, room for your computer, a place to sit.
- Do you need a specific outlet or breaker?
A lot of commercial heat transfer systems draw a lot of power, so you might need to run a dedicated line.
- Is your space ventilated?
A heat press machine kicks out a lot of heat when it’s running. So you want to make sure the room itself can be cool enough so that your heat transfers peel properly. Or you might find your place is quite humid, and it’ll affect your DTG printing.
- Will the equipment fit through the door?
You may have to make some changes to get a 6 or 12-head embroidery machine through your doors.
All of these are solvable problems, they are just easier to solve, before you get your equipment. The worst case scenario in all of this is that you have to get an electrician to come out and set up a new electric line somewhere. For temperature control you may be able to just use a window AC unit, humidifiers, space heaters.
Work, personal, and home life focus
As an example if you have a school-aged child who likes to burst through the door when they get home from school, you have to schedule that in to your calendar so that you’re not on the phone with clients at that time, or doing anything else that requires focus. Because you are going to be interrupted and there may be nothing you can do about it.
If you’re single, it may not be so much the interruptions you need to worry about, it’s your own personal focus. When do you need to start your day? If you choose to start your day at 9am, you need to make sure you’re up at eight. Just because you work from home, doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want and not have a schedule. You want accomplish everything you want to do that way.
We have a “no laundry rule”. The work-life focus is all about when you’re doing business (business hours), then that’s what you’re doing. You can’t do laundry or other chores during those hours. You can’t run out to the grocery store. All these things may seem very convenient to you because you work from home. But these things aren’t going to be what makes your business successful.
The things you need to do to build your business – contacting prospects, sending invoices, packing and shipping product, maintaining your equipment – you’re not going to enjoy these things all the time. So what happens is that instead of doing these things, you’ll find other household things to do, instead of the things that keep your business running that you don’t enjoy.
You can give your self a lunch hour, 15-minute breaks, and if you need to do laundry you do it during that time. Or let’s say you’re a stay-at-home parent, and your kids are home from school at 3pm. You can take a two-three hour break from 3-5/6 to help your kids with homework, play with them, make them supper. Then you get back to work for another hour or two in the evening. If you don’t make up those 2 hours each day, by the end of the week you’ve missed a day and half worth of labor. So now it becomes a part-time job, instead of a full-time business.
Make your schedule and log your hours. You might look back at your day and realize you only actually worked for a couple of hours.
Another thing to make sure you’re taking into consideration, is having a dedicated work computer. If you have kids, you don’t want that to be the same computer that they use to do their homework on and play games. It’s not just time, it’s also a security issue. Your kid may download a game that messes with your digitizing software, or someone may delete something by mistake, or be logged into your business social media accounts.
Customer contact procedures
You’ve got to decide how you and your customers are going to interface with each other. Where that’s going to happen, and what it’s going to look and sound like.
Example, if you’re a home-based business are your customers going to come to your house? How is that going to work in your situation? Perhaps you don’t want to have customers coming to your house at all. If you live in a community with a gate and a guard, you may have to call people in ahead of time. Is that convenient for you and your customers?
You then need to organize your meeting places. Perhaps you meet with customers in a coffee shop or you have access to a physical office space, that you can schedule meetings in. There are spaces where you can rent a desk, an office, or a conference room in for a couple hours.
What are you going to do about the phone? Are you using your home phone, or your cell phone? If it’s the one you use personally and you’re trying to portray yourself as a bigger business, are you going to answer every call as “Hi this is Mary, from Mary’s Embroidery. How can I help you?” Do you need something more than that? Some people will get a third party phone service, like Ring Central, Grasshopper, 8x8, or one of the many others. Then you can have a phone number that is just for the business and you can get an app for your phone, so that when your customer dials your business number, your app will ring on your phone, so you know it’s a customer calling instead of a personal call.
You could also hire a receptionist service if you want a live personal to answer the phone, and then they’ll call your cell phone, let you know who’s calling, etc. and so you’re prepared to address thee call before you speak with the customers. Or they can take a message for you. Even if you’re not trying to come across as a bigger business, this kind of service can help you organize your day, because you’re not always being interrupted by calls.
On the other side, going back to the idea of whether you want to advertise that you’re a home-based business, perhaps it’s awesome that your kids answer your phone. Creating that community feel.
A P.O. box is a great idea, and a lot of businesses have them, however UPS and FedEx won’t deliver to a mail box. So instead you need a physical person they can hand the package to, and this is something you can set up with FedEx or UPS. Another great thing about the P.O box service from FedEx or UPS is that you can call them and ask if you have any packages, instead of going there.
Even if you work from home, you might not always be there, and so you can’t sign for a package. Or you don’t want those packages just left at your door.
You can then put that UPS or FedEx address on all your contact information so that if anyone mails you anything it’ll go to that address.
Are you going to have employees (other than your spouse and kids)? And how’s that going to look?
You might have 3 or 4 people that come and help you with production on a regular basis.
- They come into a business environment, but are you comfortable with that?
- Do you have little kids around all the time?
- Are you going to hire friends, but if it doesn’t work out and you have to fire them, how are you managing that relationship?
- Are you going to have people clock in and out when they come to your house?
- Are you going to be able to keep track of their hours?
- Will you let them use your fridge/kitchen?
Not only do you have to think about your comfort level, but your employees as well. Are they going to be comfortable working in a home-based business? Do you have animals that they may be allergic to? Do they like kids? Do they feel like they’re intruding on your home? The hiring someone stage, may have to be part of your moving out of the home-based business stage.
There is a variety of ways to do this. “Work from home” means something different to everyone, and it is in no way a barrier to you making money.
Have a good business!
- Join us on Facebook: Custom Apparel Startups
- Listen to more postcasts: caspodcast.com
- Watch some sales and business webinars: caswebinars.com
- Learn more about Rhinestone Machines, Embroidery machines, Direct to Garment Printing and more at http://coldesi.wpengine.com
Like what you see?
Choose to subscribe below and we’ll keep you up to date with Success Stories, Business Tips especially for apparel decorators and our special pricing deals.