The remote entrepreneur: Running a successful business from the middle of nowhere

In this piece, brought to you in association with .co.uk, the number one domain for British business, we explain how utilising your website and working remotely, or employing staff that do, could help improve efficiency and save your business money.

By nature, setting up a business from home as a sole trader is working remotely in today’s business landscape. Nowadays, entrepreneurs working on their big idea and starting up are free to take their work wherever it is needed, utilising Wi-Fi, online conferencing and other technology to connect with customers, suppliers and advisers, wherever their location.

Setting up your business website is one of the most important steps in establishing your business, and is the ultimate tool when it comes to working remotely. It’s the perfect platform for sales and connecting with customers, and crucially can be updated anywhere, anytime, whether you’re posting a blog whilst on the plane, emailing a stockist from your living room, or adding new products to your site while at your desk.

Chris Forscutt, director at e-commerce support agency Full English identifies with this ethos. ‘A well-designed website can be all you need to run a successful business – you can sell your products online or export internationally, promote your brand and have regular dialogue with people without much need for anything else. If you need to meet with someone, there are plenty of alternatives to office meeting rooms, such as mutual ground like a coffee shop, or apps like Skype or Google Hangout.’

A focus on the website

Vanessa Clark, owner of Sweetie Pie Sweets, who has even given up her shop tenancy due to the success of her online business, couldn’t agree more.

‘I opened my sweet shop in 2009 and set up my website, Sweetiepiesweets.co.uk soon after. My website is essential to my business, and it’s proved so successful that in the decline of the British high street, I’ve decided to take my business entirely online.

‘Closing my shop allows me even more time to focus on my website and the flexibility to spend more time with my family, which is one of the reasons I started my business in the first place. My shop has suffered from a dramatic decline in footfall, so it just makes much more sense for me to invest online and move operations to my home.’

But what about employing people working from home too? Forscutt explains how employing remote workers has allowed his company to grow, giving him the ability to offer services that weren’t available before with no additional overheads.

‘We use Skype to communicate quickly and easily, and this also affords us the luxury of choosing from the best talent, sourcing specialist skills from around the country rather than depending on who’s available locally. If we need to, we can use co-working hubs to meet which can be hired by the hour, or video conferencing tools, which is vital for working with our international clients, and helps save money on things like flights and accommodation.’

Forscutt says that using other remote workers is flexible too, and short-term contracts can be agreed rather than risking investment into full-time staff meaning time can be saved on all the paper work that comes with that.

Communication is key

‘A great tip is to communicate regularly with remote workers, even if it’s just to say hello; it strengthens the working relationship, which is especially important if you’ve never met face-to-face,’ he adds.

Key to successful remote working is to always be clear about what you expect from the beginning, and agree regular catch-up times and milestones to ensure projects stay on track and are delivered on time.’

Create is a small business with a team of 17, providing an online service that allows small businesses and individuals to build their own e-commerce stores. The company currently has two remote workers – one in the UK and one international.

CEO Rebecca Kimber says, ‘Naturally you have the challenge of making remote staff covered by the relevant insurance and have the same secure access to your systems as they would in the office but there are also many other considerations around inclusion and communication.

‘We try to FaceTime (a videotelephony service) employees into meetings as much as possible and also make sure we include them on all group staff emails.’

Kimber stresses the importance of updating remote workers on any conversations had within the office regularly so they always know what is going on. She also tries to ensure that important communication, especially in relation to any problems or concerns, are dealt with either by phone or FaceTime, as she says that emails, quick chats and other online communication can sometimes be misconstrued.

She adds, ‘It can be more challenging to manage a remote worker as you might have less of an idea what they are working on at a specific time and it might also be harder to pick up on problems as quickly.

‘Regular communication and a visible work plan are important to try and make remote working as smooth as possible.’

There are not only many aspects to consider for the actual remote worker who might be working from home, but also for the employees who work from the office as they may feel it’s unfair that someone else gets to work remotely while they don’t.

‘We try to communicate the reasons for an employee’s home working as clearly as possible and allow staff to ask questions,’ Kimber says.

Reducing office size

Jason Yeomans, CEO of PMGC Technology Group says the businesses his company talks to are increasingly looking to reduce the size of their office space and enable employees to embrace remote working.

‘PCs don’t always fit into an environment set up for smarter ways of working. The advent of hosted desktop technology, combined with 4G connectivity means that employees can easily use tablet devices to get their work done without worrying about issues such as local storage which is now taken care of by cloud based services.’

It’s not just businesses going mobile either, with a growing number of consumers using tablets and devices to browse and shop online, entrepreneurs and businesses need to make sure they stay ahead of the mobile commerce curve.

‘Retail sales from mobile customers are on the up so there’s an even bigger reason to maximise your online potential.’

Further reading on working patterns

Related Topics

Flexible Working

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