I’ve been a home-based business owner for over 7 years now. And I am still often surprised by other home-based (and sometimes not home-based) business owners who are making simple, yet critical business mistakes that could put them out of business before they are even in business!

Today’s blog post is a little different, as I am going to share 11 hot tips for home-based business owners – but I promise you that gratitude will find a way in there too. These tips are all based on things that have really happened, so please feel free to share with your network and business associates who could benefit from a little help.

1. Have a phone for business. This means giving out your cell phone number instead of your home number or adding a second phone number to your home phone line. I have a cell phone which is my only phone, but I treat it as a business phone. It also means that my husband never answers my cell phone (or kids etc.).

2. Speaking of phones, please record a personalized message letting us know that this phone number does belong to you and that you are in business. When I call a number and there is no voicemail or the voicemail has not be set up to be personalized, it is very unprofessional. The extra cost of a few dollars a month can be worth thousands if you lose a potential client this way.

3. Last phone tip: Make sure you have a long distance plan that at the very least allows you to call across Canada (or US if you are in the US). Many companies also have great international plans now, or you can also use Skype (low rates) for international calling. Most mobile phones have Skype apps now so you can use it when you’re not in front of a laptop or computer. There are also many great apps like FaceTime that allow you to talk person to person from a mobile device or tablet for free.

The good news is that all of these additions to your phone are also legal business write-offs, so technically you’re saving money while investing in your business.

4. Carry a business card. Everywhere you go. You have an opportunity to meet people in unexpected place that may be in need of your services or could be a great referral partner. Give them a way to connect with you. If you are having professional cards designed and are waiting for them to arrive, order some from VistaPrint or print out your own with business cards from Staples in the meantime. And most importantly, do not arrive at a networking function without a way for people to get a hold of you. If you’ve made a connection with someone, they will automatically ask you for a business card.

5. On your business card, make sure you have at least the following information: your name, your phone number, email and website.  Include your business name if it’s different from yours. The information must be accurate, if something has changed, throw them out and start again.

6. Don’t have a website? It is no longer acceptable to not have a website if you’re in business. Many home-based businesses have a stock website you can personalize for free (mine is julieboyer.usana.com). Even better, purchase your domain name (i.e. julieboyer.com) using a service like Netfirms or Host Gator and point your company’s free website to your domain.  So instead of www.stephaniesmith.pamperedchef.com it’s simply www.stephaniesmith.com. The same information shows up when you enter the link, but it’s easier to remember.

7. Stay in touch with your clients, especially your repeat clients. Many home-based businesses offer a monthly order or subscription. Are you taking the time to connect with customers you’ve had for months or maybe even years? Send them a thank-you note for their ongoing business. Check in with an email or phone call every quarter and let them know you’re grateful for their silent, but regular orders. My friend Melissa Barlock uses this service for her clients to show her gratitude.

8. Be on social media. As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it ‘it’s 2014, what are you waiting for?’ No more excuses. You’ve got to have a Facebook page for your business and a twitter account at the very least. Both have to be used on a daily basis. That means posting and interacting with people. February’s Success Magazine has a great audio by Gary V about how to interact on social. I highly recommend getting a copy of his new book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook if you want to learn how to do social media well. I also recommend checking out Scott Stratten and UnMarketing for more on how to be effective in the social media world. Businesses can be ruined with improper social media strategies, so take a bit of time to do this one properly.

9. Respect people’s email addresses. The regulations around adding someone’s email to a list without permission have been clear for years and starting July 1st, 2014 in Canada, the rules will be stricter and violations more costly. Your list IS your business. Let me repeat that. Your list IS your business. If you do not respect people’s email addresses and add them without their permission or an opt-in, you are violating the can-spam regulations. Please do not take my card and add my email to your list without asking me first or confirming by email. Use an email service provider, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact to make sure you are staying compliant. Be grateful every time someone does allow you to add their name to your list. It means that they believe you have something of value. Want to be on my list? You can sign up for my monthly (yes, only once a month) Gratitude Newsletter or my daily gratitude reminders (yes, a different daily gratitude reminder every single day).

10. Be kind and courteous. Take the time to return phone calls and emails in a timely fashion. Email can be a challenge for so many of us these days as we are receiving hundreds of emails daily. I am grateful for Google’s new sorting system on Gmail, so my primary inbox stays much clearer. As for phone calls and texts, my rule of thumb is to reply to a text within 24 hours and a phone call within a few days. If it’s new business or a prospective client, guaranteed I will answer asap. Sometimes my friends may wait a bit longer for a reply. Our world is so fast paced that by not returning a call or message in a timely fashion, the business may have already been lost.

11. The fastest way to build your net worth is to build your network (to paraphrase Robert Kyosaki). Take the time to cultivate relationships with people who may never buy your product or service because you never know who they may refer you to. I recently had the opportunity to refer a new friend I had met through networking and I had not used her services before. It ended up being a great fit for the person who needed her service and now everyone is happy!

Although some of these tips seem obvious to many, there are still many home-based entrepreneurs who are missing a few on this checklist. Take an inventory for your own business and fess up below! Tell us what you’ll be changing over the next 7 days in your business. Thank you for sharing this with others! Use the buttons to tweet the article or like it on Facebook. Let’s help more entrepreneurs to be successful right from the start.  With gratitude, JulieB

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