Self-Employed

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Now Hiring

Monday, September 01, 2008
By Sally Bell

What’s the fastest way to double the size of your home-based business? Hire your first employee.

But while you’ll now have additional help, you can also double your headaches if you don’t hire the right person for your home office. And the hiring process starts well before the initial job interview.

For starters, you need policies to prevent misunderstandings. What are the work hours? What benefits can you provide? What attire is acceptable? Develop a short professional employee handbook for all job applicants. Accompany it with a detailed job description.

But hiring for a home office requires thinking about personal matters, too. What rooms are off-limits to the employee? Is there a bathroom just for the office space? Is your family OK with the employee’s office being out of bounds?

Get the future employee’s work space ready ahead of time so you can show it at its best. Clear away household items, then scour the area. Make it warm and inviting, but professional.

It’s also smart to get liability and workers’ compensation insurance in advance. If the employee slips on something your child carelessly left on the stairs, you could lose your business and a lot more.

Only now are you ready to start hiring.

Clarify in your help-wanted ad that the person will work from your home office — and reiterate it in your first phone conversation so applicants know what to expect.

It’s your home, yes, but that doesn’t mean being sloppy. Show your professionalism to give applicants confidence that you know what you’re doing. Dress neatly for the interview, straighten both the house and office space, provide a formal job application for each prospect to fill out, and, darling as they are, keep the dog and the kids away.

Along with your regular interview questions, ask bluntly how each applicant feels about working from your home and pay attention to misgivings. You love it, but not everyone does.

Listen to your gut. Compatibility is vital in a home-based business. You can teach your business, but not personality. If you don’t get along, you both will be unhappy and the business will suffer, no matter how competent the employee.

Part of compatibility, of course, is matching personal habits. If you have pets, for example, ask about pet allergies, even if Fido or Fluffy won’t be in your work space.

A rigorous background check is all the more important when hiring for your home office. After all, opportunities abound to steal not just business assets such as computers, but also prized personal possessions like jewelry or golf clubs. Even the suspicion of theft will sour a business relationship.

Lastly, don’t expect your shiny new employee to lessen your own workload, at least for a while. Now you must generate enough work for two people, handle more paperwork, plus deal with the sometimes daunting reality that you are responsible for someone else’s livelihood.

But when your first hire works, your business is on its way. You can take on new challenges, share your glories and disappointments, exchange ideas — and hopefully, make more money.

 




Writer Sally Bell works from a home office in Boulder, Colo.

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