How to start a business from home and minimise risk

Today, people of all ages are able to make money in ways that simply weren’t possible just a few decades ago.

The rise of social media and faster internet means you can start many types of business from the comfort of your sofa. 

Often, another income stream can be created without great tech nous or huge up-front investment – an appealing proposition for many given the coronavirus pandemic. 

During lockdown, many are considering the virtues of starting their own business and are particularly inspired by the likes of Joe Wicks who is worth an estimated £14.5million thanks to his book deals, TV shows and diet plans and his recent PE exercise classes.

Can you make money from home like Joe Wicks? The Body Coach tried his hand at comedy with a hilarious sketch featuring a lazy, pizza ordering PE teacher during the BBC’s charity fundraiser, Big Night In, on Thursday

Some businesses appear easy to set up but there are some real risks to consider as well – things that you may not think of.

We focus on a few ways people are trying to earn money from home, including selling food, creating virtual events and online coaching and unpack some of the barriers to starting such businesses.

Selling food? Avoid fines or imprisonment

Lockdown has unleashed many budding chefs and bakers. After a few successful bakes and a praise from friends and family after sharing your triumphs on social media you may be inspired to start selling cakes or other dishes from your home.

But if you want to start your own food business or take over an existing one you have to register it with your local authority. On it warns to register the business at least 28 days before opening it.

It adds: ‘If you’re already trading and have not registered, you need to do this as soon as possible. 

‘Once registered you may be inspected by your local authority so you can get a food hygiene rating.’

Lisa Nelson, spokesperson for the Foods Standards Agency, says: ‘Local authorities have been advised to defer their planned food hygiene and food standards inspections at the moment to minimise unnecessary visits to businesses and enable local authorities to focus their resource on urgent reactive work.

‘Once a new registration is received, local authorities will consider the information provided and signpost the business to relevant advice and guidance to help them make sure they get things right from the start. 

‘If the information provided by the business raises any concerns about a potential public health risk, then appropriate action will be taken.’

Not registering the business could result in a fine, imprisonment or even both if you run the business without registering.

Our baking business started as a hobby 

James and Lynsey Bleakley's business was formed from a hobby. Now Bumble & Goose sells treats such as brownies across the UK through as it delivers from orders placed on its website

James and Lynsey Bleakley’s business was formed from a hobby. Now Bumble & Goose sells treats such as brownies across the UK through as it delivers from orders placed on its website

James and Lynsey Bleakley are founders of bespoke bakehouse Bumble & Goose, which delivers treats such as brownies, cupcakes, cakes and biscuits.

James says his wife would bake for events and fares, but when Covid-19 hit the UK the business was affected by mass cancellations. Since adapting to online orders, business has ramped up again.

He adds: ‘I was looking at another income source but then the website exploded, now with just one baker it’s a little crazy!’

Lynsey, who is set to launched birthday cake delivery bundle soon, says the couple spoke to environmental health department for their local council in Bangor, Northern Ireland to get approved.

‘They told us what we had to do, and we followed their guidelines for a five-star rating. Now we have 100 per cent five-star reviews, orders all over UK, Northern Ireland, Dubai and parts of Europe.’

‘Businesses are scored 1-5 based on how they find your business. Five is the best you can get and that’s what we got. 

‘We spoke to environmental health before we started the business to find out what we needed from them from the outset and took a proactive approach to ensure our building and even the positioning of sinks was done right.’

Getting the tech right for online events

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of events have been cancelled and as a result many have pivoted their businesses to offer online events.

Andrew Ellis, founder of We Are Like Minds, a global thought leadership platform which provides business development events aimed at entrepreneurs and business leaders had to switch to providing these events online.

His event in Devon in October before the pandemic had 300 attendees but his event that he hosted this month saw 600 attend from all over the world including Portugal, Qatar, Hungary, Switzerland and across the UK. His next event will run between 25 -29 May.

Andrew Ellis created local events for business leaders but now due to Covid-19 has pivoted his business to offer online events

Andrew Ellis created local events for business leaders but now due to Covid-19 has pivoted his business to offer online events

This, he points out, does not come without its challenges. ‘The challenges are mostly technical. 

‘Educating 30 speakers to have the right internet speed, the right background, reminding them to dress appropriately and then walk them through how to sign in and appear virtually is a challenge.

‘Then the audience needs to understand the platform itself so they can navigate all the opportunities like the speed networking area, the ‘booths’ and other areas.

‘And that’s after I’ve had to spend two weeks testing it all myself and learning what’s possible on the platform. 

‘I spent a whole week getting demos of a range of platforms on Zoom from companies in San Francisco and London for example.’

Teaching online – standing out from the crowd

There’s a real need for teachers to create lessons online. From teaching history, to English to teaching exercise classes like Joe Wicks – it’s possible to reach tens of thousands across the world, create a following on platforms like YouTube, Udemy and recently launched Outschool.

The risk of not separating your business from personal banking

Jayesh Gajparia certified accountant at banking app, Amaiz, research conducted by the company show just over 30 per cent of micro-businesses don’t have a business account.

He says: ‘Using your personal account for business makes it difficult to separate out business expenses, adds considerably to your admin and makes it much more likely that you’ll make mistakes that will have tax implications.

‘If you have a separate business account, it is easy to see work expenses, and with many business accounts you don’t even now need to keep the receipts, you’ll be able to upload them all electronically and throw the receipt away.’ 

But Natasha Courtenay-Smith, chief executive of Bolt Digital and author of Stand out Online, £3.99 (Amazon Kindle Edition), warns: ‘The online learning space is very hard, saturated and competitive.

‘It attracts a lot of people as it sounds very easy but it’s very competitive and the level of commitment to build a personal brand and profile to sell online programmes is huge. It looks easy but it’s not.’

Some platforms make it easier to reach an audience than others. 

Outschool, for example, says you can make between £25 and £30 an hour, with some top teachers earning £8,000 a month.

It connects teachers to 140,000 students aged between three and 18 through its platform and allows you to teach any topic you’re passionate about – even if you have no qualifications – once background checks have been conducted.

Teachers must create one live video to start off with but after that Outschool allows you to create recorded series where you can earn a passive income.

But Natasha adds there’s still work to be done even if you can create recorded posts: ‘Many people think it’s a passive income. But if you have customers, there’s customers service and they will have questions.

‘It is flexible and can do it from home. But it’s harder than lots of other business as it has so many parts to it and not everyone is a Joe Wicks.’

Platforms such as Outschool ensure that tutors go through a screening process before being approved to seek work and connect with children. 

Outschool says: ‘This includes background checks and reviews of every class before it’s listed.’

Quality of education is generally monitored and reviewed by the customers themselves. 

Outschool’s spokesperson adds: ‘Rather than attending all the live classes ourselves, we offer a review system so parents can share their experiences and learn from each other.’

We had to adhere to new terms by our insurer to keep our classes running – Invicta Karate Academy

Toby Price (pictured) of Invicta Karate Academy in Kent had to upload terms and conditions for new customers on his website

Toby Price (pictured) of Invicta Karate Academy in Kent had to upload terms and conditions for new customers on his website

Toby Price, who runs and teaches classes at Invicta Karate Academy at Sevenoaks Primary in Kent, says the insurers behind the product offered  as part of the association membership for JKA England were very fast to react.

But the academy had to follow certain conditions for the online classes. 

This included things such as checking the suitability of those participating in classes, ensuring people worked on suitable flooring, that the training area was fit for purpose and that the instructor kept a record and recorded of the sessions.

Toby adds: ‘I also listed a full disclaimer/terms and conditions on the Academy website. 

‘In the event of starting a beginners course, I had to list a full disclaimer so that [it] was covered.’

What about insurance? 

Another challenge for those who want to teach online, especially for those offering exercise classes is being insured appropriately.   

John Woosey, founder and managing director at Insure4Sport, said: ‘Whether you’re a yoga teacher, Zumba instructor or personal trainer, it’s vital to ensure that you have robust professional insurance that covers you for risks such as injuries, accidents or negligence. The same goes whether you’re teaching clients in person or online.

‘Although some policies will cover online sessions, many others will not, so check your paperwork carefully. 

‘We also advise reading the small print for specifics such as how many participants you’re covered to teach at once, which communication platforms you’re permitted to use and whether your clients need to update their health and safety forms. 

‘These details vary and are not always immediately obvious – but they can have a massive impact if it comes to making a claim.’  

Three tips from a business coach 

Gemma Gilbert founder of business coaching business Gemma Gilbert Ltd says it's vital not to take on just any client and to know your worth

Gemma Gilbert founder of business coaching business Gemma Gilbert Ltd says it’s vital not to take on just any client and to know your worth

Gemma Gilbert founder of business coaching business Gemma Gilbert Ltd says there are a number of things you can do to mitigate the risks of starting your business during this time. These include:

1. Knowing it takes time: It’s important to realise that the journey from someone finding out you exist to buying from you is often much longer than you think. 

So on social media, the key is keeping people in your circle for long enough, hearing your message for them to buy from you.

2. Not taking on just any client: In terms of risks of trying to gain leads of social media, I see a lot of people attracting non-ideal clients and freebie-hunters. 

But ultimately, this is down to you and how you show up. If you show up with unwavering confidence in the value you deliver, you’ll attract people who value this.

3. Knowing your worth: You have to price your services to hit your income goals and lots of people undercharge for fear people won’t pay.

The challenge of selling

Multi-level marketing (direct selling) businesses also lend themselves as a potential way to start up a business with support and products already in place.

But as we’ve reported before, there are many challenges starting up such an operation, not least of which is the marketing. 

Many of these types of businesses rely on you creating and hosting parties at home, but due to self-isolation restrictions this can no longer be done.

While the likes of Facebook and other types of social media can help in reaching more customers than ever before it’s not always easy to do, particularly if the MLM you’re affiliated with already sells products directly to customers or your area is already catered for by other consultants that would compete with you.

Mark Hall, director of BusinessWaste, says he’s witnessed firsthand the downside to people not being able to effectively sell or market the products during lockdown.

He warns: ‘At BusinessWaste we see the end result of these ‘businesses’ and it’s us collecting the products from you to dispose of into landfill. Of course, you pay us to take away the waste as well as the product.’

A good time to launch a business?

Even if you don’t quite achieve the fortunes that Joe Wicks has amassed, creating a business now may be an ideal time to launch one.

Some say it can be a way to alleviate anxiety and to ensure there’s some income coming in during and  after lockdown where even more may still lose jobs.

‘In this uncertain and volatile time, creating a side income that can be earned with skills a person already has can be a powerful antidote to the feelings of panic and worry that hound so many people today,’ says Jeff D. Opdyke, of The Savvy Retiree.

Jeff adds: ‘There’s so much we can’t control. Yet, by putting in place an income that a person can earn on their own terms from home—and then have to take with them when this craziness passes—that delivers not only income, but a certain peace of mind.’


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