As the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world, many experienced workers started to have growing concerns on their job stability. Businesses have been forced to go digital rapidly, and the concept of renting a commercial office has lost its charm — even the most traditional of leaders have warmed up to the idea of remote working. Many professionals began steering their careers in a wholly different direction, embracing entrepreneurship as technology greatly lowered the barriers in starting a home-based business. If you are looking to set up a home-based office for your business, here are the six top tips to get yourself business-ready:
1. Apply for Relevant Permits and Licenses
Under the Home-Based Small Scale Business Scheme, certain businesses such as freelance writing, baking, sewing, hairdressing, and private tuition (up to three students at one time) are allowed to be carried out and does not require HDB’s approval. Such businesses should only function as an add-on to your income. No person outside the household may be employed.
For ACRA-registered firms providing services such as design, consultancy, technology-based / knowledge-intensive businesses and more, you may register to set up a home office in your private home or HDB flat as part of the Home Office Scheme. You will need to apply for a license under this scheme and may employ up to two non-resident employees (those who do not live at the address). Other criteria apply — for instance, you must continue to use the residential unit as your place of residence, and all business activities should be confined wholly within the premises.
Before you proceed, check here for the list of permissible and non-permissible businesses under the Home Office Scheme. If your business falls under the non-permissible category (such as any form of the retail business), your flat can only be used for business administrative purpose. In addition, customers are not allowed to visit your home office.
For businesses under both schemes above, there are a few guidelines to be followed:
• No physical and paid advertisements should be done
• No external business signboard is to be displayed
• No extraneous traffic is introduced to the place
• No noise, smoke, smell and other disturbances or danger caused to neighboring residents
• No loading and unloading of goods using vans and trucks
• All activities must comply with the regulations of other authorities (e.g. Singapore Food Agency)
Other than a general business license and home office permit, you may also need to apply for certain industry-specific business licenses. For example, some types of businesses will require a professional or trade licenses (e.g. Estate Agent License for buying or selling real estate).
If this is your first home-based business, you may choose to work with a local corporate service provider to ensure that your company meets all company compliance requirements in Singapore.
2. Prepare Your Work Space
Now that you’ve committed to doing effective work from home, start by setting up some ground rules and keeping yourself disciplined. Get your office supplies ready (think: stationery, writing pads, file organisers, a comfy chair, wrist support if you’re constantly on a laptop etc.) so you wouldn’t have to scramble to gather such resources when the need arises.
Keep things organised, and have a clear distinction between work and personal space. If you want to maximise productivity, you need to make sure that you can fully focus without succumbing to temptations like your bed, or getting distracted by endless entertainment options.
If space allows, set up your workspace somewhere other than your bedroom. Otherwise, demarcate a specific area in your room for your work desk — once you’re there, commit to completing your business objectives each day before “clocking out” and taking a good break.
3. Have a Clear Working Schedule
Communicate with your family and/or housemates on your business hours and work arrangements to avoid getting your business operations disrupted. Develop a structured routine and plan the bulk of your work during your most productive hours. By establishing the right expectations with others who co-share a space with you, you’ll be able to minimise any interference which can break your flow in completing fruitful and creative work.
Inform your clients and customers of your operating hours on your website, social media and any other communications. Let them know what to expect when it comes to communications outside of your working hours — you may also consider setting up auto-responders past business hours with information on when you can get back to them (e,g. within two business days) and how they can reach you on urgent matters if necessary.
4. Write Down Your Business Plan
Having a concrete action plan in black and white helps to maintain clarity of thought when day-to-day responsibilities hit you like a whirlwind. Decide on the purpose of your business, the persona of your ideal customers, and how exactly your business will generate income for you. Some key details to include are:
• Executive Summary: Your company’s core business activities and organisational structure
• Company Overview: The vision, mission, core values and scope of your business
• Products and Services: What you offer and whom they are catered for
• Market Analysis and Strategy: Your target audience and how you can build a competitive edge over others
• Financial Overview: Budgets, forecasts, profit-and-loss analysis, and sales assumptions
This plan will serve as your guiding compass and roadmap for success, helping you to prioritise crucial business tasks and ensure that you are on track to achieve your business objectives within your projected timeframe.
5. Stay Connected Professionally
As more operate their businesses from home, some may tend to focus on internal business activities and lose touch on current business trends. To stay relevant and competitive, it is recommended to join business associations that organise virtual conferences and events to keep you updated on emerging challenges and the latest solutions and tools for your industry.
Maintaining a steady stream of income and clients may also be a concern for some home-based entrepreneurs, thus building a strong online presence (such as with a LinkedIn profile or Facebook page) will help to expand your network and introduce new prospects to your services without needing to step outside to solicit business.
6. Stay Connected Professionally
To ensure your business is sustainable in the long run, it is key to stay on top of your profits & losses, loan repayments, and other financial matters. Most income received or earned from trade, business, profession and/or vocation in Singapore are subjected to income tax.
Be sure to set up a separate bank account and credit card for your business and keep it separate from your personal expenses. Having a clear record of all business transactions and activities keeps your company compliant, should an audit be required for your home-based business. Use an IRAS-compliant accounting system to keep track of your business expenses and income, or employ a corporate services provider familiar with the business environment in Singapore to advise and/or manage your business accounts.
Mighty Glory Corporate Solutions is a virtual accounting practice that provides company incorporation, nominee directorship, corporate secretarial, bookkeeping, GST reporting, payroll management, business administration, financial reporting, corporate and individual tax services.
Check out our blog for more tips on running a business based in Singapore, or contact us here for comprehensive business support services.
As a gift to encourage / welcome new entrepreneurs, all new clients who connect with us and quote “HBB77” shall get a 15% discount on the first service package.