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Launching a remote business is a simple and accessible path to freedom. It allows professionals to earn a steady income with a flexible schedule. Remote businesses offer the possibility to make a good living from anywhere in the world.
For some, the idea of starting any business is intimidating. 20% of new businesses fail in the first two years, and only 25% last more than 15 years. At the same time, remote business is more popular and lucrative than ever before. With some focused attention and investment in the steps below, just about anyone can make it work.
Why Opening a Remote Business Is Worth It
What if life was more than looking forward to the next vacation? What if that amazing spot on the map was somewhere you spent a few months instead of just a few days? What if your meetings could build around what’s most important instead of what the boss says? These are just a few of the questions entrepreneurs ask themselves before starting a remote business.
Remote work is a hot topic, but there hasn’t been much attention paid to the most interesting story about working remotely–the number of people starting their own remote businesses. Over 804,000 new businesses were registered in the U.S. in 2020, and many of these were launched online. People are opening remote companies at a fast pace, and it’s easy to see why.
Here are four reasons that starting a remote business is worth the risk and investment.
A remote business is less expensive to operate than a brick-and-mortar.
A remote business doesn’t need a physical office or to woo new employees with office gyms, private meeting rooms, or coffee shops. It’s easier for any business to save money when there are no bills for rent, utilities, building maintenance, or office furniture. You simply don’t need the most expensive parts of physical offices.
A remote business can operate on flexible hours.
This is great for business growth because customers don’t have to wait until employees are in the office to get a response. It’s also great for remote teams because running the business doesn’t rely on where your team is. You can operate your business anytime and from anywhere.
Remote businesses have more hiring options.
The prospective employee pool doesn’t rely on local talent with a remote business. 96% of people in a recent FlexJobs survey want to work remotely. Work-life balance is crucial for employees. When you start a remote company, you’re creating opportunities for people who’re excited and ready to help you grow your business who wouldn’t have the chance if you could only hire local employees.
Improved quality of life
The number one reason people start their own business is to be their own boss and what’s great about being your own boss is the freedom.
Here’s one example– 50% of workers polled in 2019 said their commute was stressful, and 45% said their commute was too long. By eliminating not only your commute but that of any employees, you’re more likely to enjoy your work and be more productive.
A remote business offers a flexible schedule that can help you make the most of your life.
The Investment Needed To Start an Online Business
What is your time worth? Most people haven’t spent much time calculating their worth. Many of us accept the average hourly rate for the job we’re doing where we live. But when you start a remote business, this question is vital.
Most people think you need a lot of money upfront to open a new business, but starting a remote business isn’t about finding startup capital. The budget to launch a business online is incredibly affordable. The following is a short outline of what you need to consider for your initial budget:
- Legal Fees
You may also need capital for inventory, but many remote businesses sell services and/or digital tools or save on inventory by dropshipping.
The most significant expenditure when you start a remote business is time. Prepare to spend many hours preparing, researching, and planning. If you’re someone who usually looks for fast results, get ready to think about the value of your time long-term. It takes a comprehensive and detailed plan of action to launch a remote business. These details are crucial because of the unique challenges of working remotely.
The time it will take to start a remote business will also depend on the business idea. If you don’t already have an idea about what kind of remote business you want to start, these resources are an excellent place to begin:
- How to Start a Business for Less Than $100
- 9 Business Ideas Under $1,000 You Can Run From Anywhere
- 13 Home Business Ideas That Let You Work From Home
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries
There’s something else to consider when you plan to invest your time in your new business. Burnout is a frequent issue for remote businesses. Boundaries and schedules can be tough to maintain without outside enforcement, and remote work requires more self-management than other work methods. Develop healthy habits early and stick to them no matter what. Maintaining high standards for your clients and customers will be challenging if you or your team works too much.
It’s also important to build friendships and relationships outside of the business. Many think it’s a great idea to start a business with people you care about but consider this example. My friend’s business began as a passion project with her husband. After ten years in business, they found that it was difficult to get away from the business. They often put off conversations about their home, health, and future, sometimes for years, because of the urgent needs of their business. This was challenging for their marriage and affected the success of their business.
Set clear boundaries early and carefully maintain those boundaries for lasting success.
4 Steps to Starting a Remote Business
Now that we’ve reviewed the incredible benefits and challenges of remote businesses, it’s time to get started. It is easy and inexpensive to launch a remote business with these simple steps. What will be difficult is making big decisions early on that will grow the business this year and for the long haul.
1. Write a business plan
A business plan can be quick and simple or long and detailed. What kind of business plan you’ll need depends on where you are with your business idea. Every business plan should include the following:
A vision for the future
This section will outline the vision of your plans for your business. Start with a vision statement. Write down all your hopes and dreams for the business, then narrow that vision into a tight and precise pitch.
Ask yourself why you want to start a remote business. If your reasons are primarily personal, consider your business idea and how working remotely could impact your success. If the reason you’re making your business remote is financial returns, take a close look at your lifestyle and personal obligations to ensure it’s a right fit.
Opening a remote business is cost-effective, but it’s essential to weigh the other impacts in your vision for the future of your business.
The structure of your remote business
This section is the logistics of the new remote business and should include basic information about business structure, including the products and services offered, key personnel, and business location.
This section should also cover all relevant information about business operations, including:
- Inventory, shipping, and fulfillment, if it applies to your business
Before writing this section, be sure to learn about the tax and other monetary considerations you’ll need to consider and get ready to dig into the details. For example, local tax laws are complicated, but international tax laws are a much bigger challenge.
If you’re planning to sell globally online, the business plan should cover your plans to address privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA, whether you plan to offer help documents and support in different languages, and how the various time zones of your future employees will affect your business operations.
A financial plan
Every startup has ups and downs, and the business plan should include clear KPIs and benchmarks. Determine how to measure success from the beginning. These goals will help you prioritize when many urgent issues are competing for your attention. As the business grows, they will also help remind the team to celebrate small wins.
This section will outline the financial investment and goals for the business. This section should include:
- Sales or profit targets
- Startup costs and funding sources, if applicable
- An initial balance sheet and cash flow statement
2. Develop a marketing plan
35% of startups that fail are unsuccessful because their product doesn’t have an audience. The best business ideas solve a problem a specific audience already has and offer a quick and easy-to-understand solution. This means that you will find the most success with marketing in an industry or niche you’re already familiar with. Use that knowledge as a starting point to build a strong marketing plan that adds to your existing thought leadership.
Once you have a clear sense of product and market fit, develop a comprehensive marketing plan. Your plan should outline your target audience and how you will connect with them at each stage of your buyer journey and sales funnel.
These are some great resources for building a marketing plan:
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy That Converts
- The 5 Best Digital Marketing Strategies for Beginners
Another point to consider with the market fit is that remote businesses have to move quickly to keep up with customer expectations. Often this means proactively anticipating customer needs and pushing to meet requests rapidly.
3. Assemble your team and create a communication plan
Many remote businesses start as individual endeavors, often called microbusinesses. Even if the plan is to go it alone, it’s important to figure out who will support the new remote business when sales start to pick up.
While there are many decisions a leader can make in the moment, a clear communication and hiring plan for your remote business team will ensure that everyone in the business feels comfortable and confident supporting the company at all times, which will promote growth. The Complete Guide to Remote Employees can offer a clear picture of what most remote employees are looking for.
This is important because a remote business can be challenging to scale. It’s tough to create the all-in mentality of top businesses when a team is remote and distributed.
Communication with a remote team takes more time and effort, especially when the team is working in different countries, cultures, and time zones. Conflict resolution is also different remotely, and so is what the hiring team is looking for.
The next step is to create a clear plan to engage your team. It is easy to empathize with busy co-workers when we see them rushing through the office each day. It’s harder to sense and respond accordingly when our remote CFO is late for a meeting because their newborn didn’t sleep last night. Remote businesses also require team members to operate more independently than they may be comfortable with.
As you create a remote communication plan, answer the following questions.
- Do you want a daily check-in call?
- Does your team understand communication better visually or in writing?
- When you can’t walk down the hall to someone’s desk, how do you communicate urgency?
- What can you do to anticipate and address the misunderstandings that can come up over chat or email?
- How much are you comfortable sharing about your plans to run your business?
Transparency is at the top of most remote workers’ wish lists. Create a culture of accountability for yourself and your team from the start. Things can move very quickly when you’re starting a remote business. Setting clear expectations from the start will ensure that your employees understand what their role is in the big picture.
Make time for your team, and remember that they’re looking to you for leadership, guidance, and support. Plan to incorporate check-in points and benchmarks for each person on the team.
Working remotely can be isolating, and this has an impact on motivation. As you build your communication plan, highlight small moments and big wins to celebrate and outline regular check-ins to keep motivation high.
4. Start with the right tech stack
Finding the right tools for your remote business from the start is crucial. Many online companies start slow and then pick up speed very quickly, making it difficult to learn and adopt new tech tools later. As you begin to sort through the many options, focus on the process first. Don’t let your tech stack guide your remote business processes and policies. The benefits and limitations of each tool are important, but these tools should serve the business, not the other way around.
For example, sometimes remote meetings can feel less interactive than in-person meetings, so instead of randomly selecting a video conferencing tool, figure out how you want to add interactivity to each meeting and choose the best tool for that purpose.
Before selecting tools, think about:
- What do you want a typical business day to look and feel like for you and your employees?
- What do you want to happen during meetings?
- What do you want problem-solving to look like on a daily basis?
- What is your process for making big decisions?
- Do the tools you are considering work well together?
We’d like to call out a couple of extra urgent areas when you’re building your tech stack:
Digital security tools
Many businesses experience cyberattacks and other security challenges, so invest early in the right tools and security. Create a careful plan to maintain and update your security resources and policies to ensure your protection aligns with the latest technology.
Connecting your team
There are many subtle ways that people connect in the office. While happy hours and chats about the latest shows have nothing to do with work, these connections can help business operations run more smoothly because they make people more willing to experiment, collaborate, and compromise.
Find ways to encourage these connections remotely from the start. Build a shared culture and make time to nurture that culture. For example, playing a fun game together on Slack or Zoom every few months isn’t enough to build the mutual respect and connection a remote team needs to thrive. But a virtual book or walking club that meets regularly could be a great asset to the team.
Also, remote businesses don’t have to be global. Consider limiting the remote locations where your team will hire to ensure that it’s in your budget to have in-person team retreats.
Now that you’ve laid the foundation for your remote business to get started, your next step is to plan for growth. For most remote businesses, when sales start to pick up, it’s time to think about growing your team, which means creating an onboarding and employee monitoring plan.
Continue to expand your tech stack to improve communication and operations, and automate wherever you can for lasting success.