This West Island lady is definitely living a life by design!

According to Statistics Canada, there are more than 1.8 million home-based businesses in Canada. With the price of gas going up every day it seems, and the indisputable benefits of owning your own time, more and more people are opting to throw out the punch clock and be their own boss.

Of course it has to be said, starting your own home-based business could very well lead you to working for the toughest boss of your career! If you’re thinking of taking the plunge with your own home-based business, you’ll want to read NetComp Designs owner, Sharon Belley’s insights as she shares her business experience being home-based with us.

What kind of home based business do you run?

I have a custom website development company, Netcomp Designs, with clients in Quebec, British Columbia, California, Florida, and New York. This site is one of my websites.

Is this a full time or part time operation?

Definitely full time, seven days a week...so much for that balanced lifestyle!

When did you start it?

Well, as a custom website developer in late 2002 or early 2003 in British Columbia...but not as a home based business. My son and I expanded his existing IT business, NetComp Solutions, to include website design and development. We had a nice suite of offices in the downtown sector of Victoria BC.

What was the deciding factor for you when you were thinking about launching your home based business?

Moving back to Montreal around Christmas time in 2006 and you may recall, there wasn't enough snow to even count flakes, and the intention was to open a suite of offices in the West Island as we had in Victoria BC as soon as we got settled in. Working from home was only a transition situation... until the real snow came!

What are some of the challenges that you face that are unique to the home based business environment?

Company expansion is probably the most difficult to accomplish due of course to limited working facilities. Having employees in a normal office environment is great....having them working from your home 8 hours a day is another. I hire out freelance work that can be accomplished from that person's home base, but there are some positions that require supervision or ongoing training that in a home office space can  become problematic.

How do you meet these challenges?

For this situation I have come to the acceptance that this is a limitation that I cannot actually overcome unless I decide to move into rented office space. I have decided that the benefits of being home based outweigh this one major challenge....at least for now. If I was at a different time in my life,  my ambition would drive me to expand and have employees.

What are some of the pros for you?

Without a doubt, for me it is being able to work either in the middle of the night or starting at 4:30 or 5 in the morning...because I do a lot of designing, I find that after a few hours of sleep (much to my own surprise), I can actually do a project in about half the amount of time it takes me during normal working hours....bonus!

I also find that I am actually more devoted to the individual client's best interest than when I worked for larger companies. I don't think that I even felt (with a big company name behind me) that I had to proove myself, whereas I am totally motivated to do so as my own company... I feel this is one of the 'benefits' because it makes me want to do more.

What tools do you use in running your business?

Certainly my computer and my camera, but the business and marketing knowledge acquired in my previous jobs as a newspaper publisher, magazine publisher, graphic artist and many years of sales, would be my most productive 'tools'.

What do you do to promote your business?

I practice what I preach, so to speak, since I work on the internet. I comprehensively optimize my websites for maximum visibility, I use email, direct mail, and networking.

What do you do to get new clients?

The most productive means for me is picking up the phone and calling people. I never leave home without business cards and my promotion cards, and I make a point of always distributing a few somewhere whenever I am out...sort of like mini sales calls...whenever I do this, I ask for the owner's business card...then I know who to call the next time I am phone calling.

If someone were thinking of starting their own home based business, what advice would you give them?

A serious home based business is not without operating costs. Often you have to spend it before you make it... be sure you can! It would be in someone's best interest to sit down and have a qualified professional go over the expected costs of doing business for say a period of a year. Many businesses close after only a few months, some even just a few weeks, because the costs of doing business were not expected or prepared for.