Staying in the spirit of Halloween this week, I started wondering what home based business owners would list as their number one concern, problem, or nightmare related to operating a home business.
What is the one thing you have experienced that made you rethink working from home or made you seriously consider moving your business to a traditional office space?
There are many traps we can get ourselves into when working from home. I wrote about the worst of these in 7 Ways to Kill Your Home Based Business. These can certainly be a nightmare, and may be at the top of your list.
For me though, it has to be … the unscheduled, after-hours pop in by the client. If you meet your customers at your home office then you have most likely dealt with this.
There’s No Place Like Home
One of the dangers in turning part of your home into a place of business is that you lose the sanctuary that comes with being at home. If a customer misses you during normal office hours at a traditional office they have to wait to see you until the next business day.
That isn’t the case with a home business though. Most of my clients respected my office hours, and if they needed me after business hours they would call first to make sure it was okay to stop by. There were many though who didn’t think twice about interrupting my family’s dinner or weekend.
I posted my business hours outside my front door. I put up a locked night drop box and always kept it well lit. I posted my business telephone number, my fax number, my cell phone number, and my email on my website and stationary.
I talked about business hours during the initial client interview. I even let my clients know that I carried my Blackberry telephone with me at all times so I could get their telephone calls or emails any time, anywhere. Unfortunately, this still did not stop some people.
At least, they were respectful enough to not come by late at night. Well, all except for this one client.
October 15th – The Final Tax Filing Date
It was October the 15th – the final deadline for tax returns to be filed with an approved extension. Unlike most CPA firms, I seldom had a last minute rush of clients filing tax returns on the due date. I scheduled my time well and had a very fast turn around for tax returns.
There were a few clients though that always drug there feet. I had a great series of reminders set up that gently pushed most of them along to file their returns on time. I had made my final phone calls to the couple of clients that had not brought in their information to let them know that I would not be able to finish their returns in time for the deadline.
All of them understood, and it was not a surprise to them. Having checked in with all my clients that had open returns, I decided to attend a chamber of commerce function that night (which they seemed to inevitably schedule on tax deadlines).
There’s a Noise in the Bushes
While leaving the event, I received a phone call from my wife at a little after 9 pm. She frantically informed me that someone had been banging on the front door and now they were in our bushes trying to peer into the windows.
She had hidden in the master closet with our two year old son. I asked her if she had called the police, but she said that all the noise had stopped shortly after calling me. I stayed on the line with her and sped home.
When I approached the front door I noticed a note on the door. It was an irate note from the wife of one of my clients that I had talked to earlier in the day. She was furious that I was “hiding from her” when she knocked on the door.
I went inside to find my wife and son still in the closet. My son was wrapped in a towel because this had started when my wife was giving him his bath. It was at that moment that I knew something would have to change.
The End of My Home Based Business
That night it was just a communication error between my client and his wife. This one incident though was enough to make me rethink operating my CPA firm from my home. It wasn’t worth the potential risk to my family’s safety or even the disruptions it had caused on other nights and on the weekends.
Thinking back on it now, I wonder if it is ever wise to meet clients in your home. There are so many safety issues – especially when you have young children. For me, I have decided it isn’t worth it. Thankfully, my nightmare story was not worse.