Working from home has a lot of advantages and that’s especially true if you’re starting your own business. There’s no commute, you have complete control over your hours, and you cut down on some of the major property rental costs that can make it much harder to get profitable. But home businesses do have their own pitfalls, too. In particular, what happens when you start winning clients that you need to hold meetings with more often? Do you ever invite them to your home? Should you? Let’s look at a few points to decide whether or not it’s a good idea.
Is there parking space?
This is a huge deal. If your home doesn’t have convenient parking space available directly outside it, then it’s not a suitable location. Forcing clients to explore unfamiliar environments just so they can find your home to meet you there does not make you look like a very accommodating business partner. If you can’t arrange easy parking for a client, think about alternate locations to meet them, such as a nearby café or restaurant. Bear in mind not only how you use the space outside your home, but how others use it, too. If you have street parking and it’s consistently used by others, then don’t take a chance with it.
Does it look like you take care of it?
First impressions matter. Even if your client is well aware that you work from home and want to meet them in your home office, if they’re understanding, it should have no impact on how professional they consider your business. If they turn up to find a poorly maintained building with rusty gates, overgrown lawns, and a state of general dilapidation, they are going to have reasonable doubts. With services like Atkins Building Services, it’s a lot easier to get your property routinely cared for even if you can’t do it. A little curb appeal goes a long way, so think of it as an investment into the business.
Do you have an office suitable for them?
Is your office going to fit them, to begin with? Most people don’t want to meet in your kitchen or your lounge because it might feel a little too informal to them. They want to feel like they’re in a space that’s genuinely professional so that means any option besides an office in the home should be considered a no-go. If you do have a home office, make sure in advance that it has space to comfortably seat at least two people. Make sure they’re real seats, too. Your clients aren’t going to want to talk to you if either of you happens to be sitting in a beanbag chair.
Is it safe and accessible?
Consider both the general route to your home, as well as the route to the interior from wherever they happen to park. If you live in an area that is or generally feels unsafe, then your client is going to feel uncomfortable there no matter how neat and appropriate the actual home is. Make sure that the meeting place within the home is close and easy to reach from the front door, too. Your client won’t want to and shouldn’t have to climb a flight of stairs and take the last turn down a long hallway. Similarly, make sure that the home is tidy and free of obstructions. No toys littering the floor for them to trip on. Ensure you have business insurance for the home, just in case.
Does it smell like a home?
Speaking of discomfort, there’s nothing that causes it quite like a house full of house smells. Your clients may accept that you work from home, but lingering scents in the air can be extremely distracting and off-putting, even if they’re not smells that you particularly mind or take notice of. To a client guest, the smell of last night’s meal in the kitchen can be just as much of a barrier as the smell of a wet dog’s hair all throughout the home. Make sure you use tools like Sensory Decisions Reed Diffusers to get rid of any odors hanging in the air and create an environment that feels a lot cleaner to breathe. Having a houseplant in the home office can help with that a lot, as well.
Is the décor (and your appearance) presentable?
Take a closer look at your home office. Is it truly appropriate to invite a perfect stranger into? Everyone has different boundaries, but you should always play it safe when guessing a client’s. Having a pinup poster in your office might seem perfectly innocent to you, but it could give entirely the wrong impression to the person you’re trying to work with. The same goes for your own appearance. It’s easy to take an “anything goes” approach to your dress sense when working from home. If you’re meeting someone, however, dress a little for the occasion. A full four-piece suit can be just as off-putting, so follow the Firmex Business Casual dress guide for tips on how to play it professionally, but not too formal.
Is it quiet?
When you’re deep in conversation with a client, then a lot of background and environmental noise can be an obvious distraction. If you live with anyone else, then make sure as best you can that they’re not in the home or that they at least know how to keep quiet. But what about the sounds of traffic, roadworks, lawnmowers, and so on within the area? You are going to want to soundproof your home office as best as possible. If that does little to dampen the noise, then you are better off meeting somewhere else after all.
Do you have a clean bathroom?
The whole home should be as clean as possible, providing you have the time to keep it in spotless condition. If you don’t, then you’re going to want to focus solely on the places you know your client will see. The hallway and the home office are obvious. But bear in mind that your client may very well want to use the restroom at some point during the meeting. Prepare for that possibility by taking a deep clean approach to the bathroom. If you have regular clients, then clean it as efficiently and effectively as possible so that your workday isn’t constantly taken up by long bathroom cleaning efforts.
Will there be other guests?
Who do you share your home with? Is there a possibility they might intrude on the meeting? In most cases, you have to worry about family members or other residents of the home poking their head in. This can be extremely uncomfortable for clients who aren’t expecting it. Make sure you set clear boundaries about the home and the office with the other people who live with you. Set clear boundaries. If they have shown a disregard for those boundaries in the past, then have the meeting elsewhere. But also think about any pets you might own and whether you can close them out of the house for the duration of the meeting. You might luck out and have a dog-lover for a client, but it’s not safe to operate under that assumption.
Is it potentially mutual?
This isn’t something you should ask the client. However, if there is any evidence that they’re willing to have meetings with you in their own home or if you have actually visited their home in the past, then you should rest assured that they’re very unlikely to have a dim view of the fact that you are also hosting meetings in the home. However, deciding whether or not you should actually go to their home is another matter entirely. If you do, make sure that you follow moxi works guidelines on etiquette for visiting a client’s home, such as bringing a small gift and taking your shoes off when you enter the home unless indicated otherwise.
Are you worried about revealing you work from home?
If you have gotten to the stage where you’re considering inviting a client to your home, then this shouldn’t be an issue. However, some people aren’t entirely up-front about where they work from. Some use services like Regus Virtual Offices to help give their business an air of legitimacy and establishment that they’re worried their home office would contradict. If you haven’t revealed to your client that you work from home, then either make it clear or find somewhere else to meet. If they know your work from home, then make it 100% clear that it’s where you intend to have the meeting. If you give them an address without context, they may get very confused when they pull up to a residence.
If your clients are aware of it and comfortable with it, you present it properly, and you have suitable space, meeting clients from home can work out just fine. Just carefully consider whether or not you fit all the criteria mentioned above. Even one small error can alter how your client sees your whole business for the worse.