A remote business is an easy and accessible way to achieve financial freedom and flexibility. No matter where you are in the world, a remote business offers the ability to generate a steady income on your own terms and in your own time.
In the past few years, the ability to work remotely has become more than a possibility; it’s become a necessity. According to the Office for National Statistics, businesses are likely to increase remote work in the future, with 81% of the current population working remotely. Starting any kind of new business can be an intimidating endeavour, but it’s clear that remote businesses have a great deal of potential to thrive in today’s market. Anyone interested in starting a remote-only business can certainly be successful if they are willing to put in some hard work and perseverance.
What is a remote business?
A business that is fully remote operates without any physical office space. Employees of such a business typically work from home, shared co-working spaces, or anywhere with a stable internet connection. Employees can typically work from anywhere in the world, as long as they have internet access to perform their duties. With the rise of video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, any meetings or face-to-face discussions that would have otherwise taken place in person can now take place online over a call. Statista indicates that in April 2020, there were approximately 300 million daily meeting participants worldwide ‒ numbers that have only increased since then.
What are the benefits of running a remote business?
The current landscape of business certainly supports remote businesses. As technology continues to evolve, running a remote business will become easier and more convenient with more and more flexibility and efficiency. Remote businesses are not only possible, but they also come along with several benefits:
- You have a wider pool of talent to hire from – Since your company has no physical headquarters, you’re not limited to hiring from a single location. Without geographical borders, you can interview a diverse range of candidates and hire the best person for the job from anywhere in the world.
- Increased employee satisfaction – There is evidence to suggest that employees who work remotely have higher morale and are more productive than those who go into regular offices. According to Global Workspace Analytics, remote workers produce at a rate that is 43% higher than their counterparts. This could be due to several factors, including employees’ ability to better balance their work and personal lives, working in a convenient space, and no commuting. The lack of commute typically means that these employees get more sleep and are more prepared for their workday as they are better rested. With these kinds of benefits available to them, employees are happier and are more likely to be loyal to the remote business. Additionally, a PGI survey reported that remote workers had an absenteeism rate that was 69% lower than employees who worked in a physical office.
- Lower overheads and startup costs – When you start a remote business, there is no need for the expense of setting up an office space for employees to work in. Office rentals and utilities can be costly on their own without factoring in setting up phones and Wi-Fi, furniture and such. Remote businesses don’t have the ongoing expenses of rent, utilities, refreshments, office supplies, etc.
- Businesses scale faster – With significantly lower overheads, and first-class employees that are enthusiastic about their work and their employers, remote businesses are able two grow more quickly and achieve success.
Tips on how to start a remote-only business
Remote businesses are certainly looking to be the future of the workspace as the world and technology continue to transform. When starting a remote business, there are some key points to keep in mind for a better chance of success.
Putting together a well thought out, thoroughly researched business plan is a crucial step in any new business ‒ remote businesses are no exception. Business plans are documents that provide detailed information about your business, including objectives, strategies, financial forecasts, and much more. The purpose of a business plan is to help you clarify your idea for your business and to identify potential problems early on. By setting goals for your business, you can measure its progress as it grows. There are numerous sources of business plan templates, including a free template available through the Prince’s Trust. A business plan for a remote business should include the same important information as any other business plan, including:
- About you (the business owner)
- An executive summary
- A background of the owner
- Details about your services
- Market research
- Financial details
There is more to a business plan than listed above, so it is worth taking the time to thoroughly research what is expected, how to write one and possibly use a template. The more attention you devote to drafting a good plan, the more clear your road to success will be.
2.Virtual business address
Businesses require a registered address to receive business mail, set up a business bank account, merchant accounts, register a domain name and more. Usually, businesses will use their office space as their work address, which is obviously not an option for remote businesses. Virtual business addresses exist to address this problem.
A virtual business address is a physical, registered office address that remote businesses can lease for a fee. This physical location usually receives any mail on your behalf and sends that mail on to you. The exact details of these services differ between providers, but they satisfy the legal requirements of having a business address without the expense and nuisance of having an actual office space.
3. Register your business
Every business in the UK must be registered with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in order to be sure that they are paying the right taxes and national insurance. Remote-only businesses are no different. With your business name and virtual address on hand, you can decide on a business structure that best suits your needs before registering with HMRC. Such business structures include:
- Sole trader
- Limited liability partnership
- Limited company
To understand what kind of business structure would best suit your remote business, it may be worth consulting with an attorney or a business accountant. Choosing the right kind of business structure is vital as this will affect your taxes, liability, financing options, and more.
While it’s true that your startup costs and overheads will be considerably lower, there are still expenses to consider, including staff, supplies, equipment, a website, marketing and advertising, software, etc. It’s important to decide how you’re going to plan for these expenses.
It’s possible to save up until you have enough money to launch your business, but that might take more time than you are willing to invest. There are many finance options available to entrepreneurs, including investors and bank loans. There are even some government-backed start-up loans that you may be eligible for. Before you enter into any loan agreement, carefully review the contract and read the fine print to ensure that the repayments and interest are factored into the costs of running your business.
5. Work policies
Remote businesses have the benefit of flexibility. However, it’s important to have policies in place that set out exactly what you expect from your employees with regards to availability, communication and responsiveness. Depending on the type of business you are opening, there may be specific regulations and laws in place that you may need to follow. It could be worth consulting with a Human Resources professional to ensure that your policies do not conflict with any legislation. Gov.uk is a good source to look up such policies. It’s also important to take into account that your remote work policy should cover any rules pertaining to data security, legal considerations, restraints of trade, travel requirements, home office setups and such.
6. Hire remote employees
A strong remote business requires a strong workforce of remote team members. As previously mentioned, remote businesses have the benefit of flexibility and access to a global pool of talent than their geographically limited counterparts. When starting the hiring process, consider the following:
- What positions need to be filled? – Take the time to identify the roles in your remote business that need to be filled for it to work well. Take into account your immediate needs as well as how much your budget will allow for these workers’ salaries.
- Create a list of essential skills and qualities that your employees must possess
Before posting vacancies, put together a list of skills and qualities to accompany the job descriptions. This list should take into account the needs and values of your business as well as general qualities that are essential for remote workers.
According to Forbes, some of the essential qualities of successful remote employees include:
- Personal accountability
- Collaborative nature
- Time management
- Personal leadership
- Post job adverts – After writing job descriptions that thoroughly describe the role, duties and responsibilities expected of the successful candidate as well as the essential qualities and attributes they should possess, you can start posting vacancies online. Some options for posting adverts include:
- Job portals
- Social media
- Virtual hiring events
- Remote work opportunity boards
- Obtain referrals from within your network
- Interview – The hiring process for a remote position is understandably different. It is most likely to take place online, typically over a video call. It’s important to ask the right kind of questions during an online interview and be sure that the types of questions you ask are relevant to remote work. The Harvard Business Review offers the following tips for conducting an excellent remote job interview:
- Prioritise on emotional intelligence
- Be honest about the challenges faced due to the pandemic
- Be aware of the candidate’s reactions to any distractions
- Don’t schedule back-to-back interviews
- Be aware that the candidate is trying to get a feel for the company during this interview — you’re being interviewed too
Some questions you may ask during this interview include:
- Do you have any experience working remotely?
- What are some challenges you have faced with remote work?
- Why does working remotely interest you?
- What do you do to make sure you stay motivated when not working in a traditional work environment?
- Do you have experience working with a team that is scattered around the globe?
- What remote tools and software have you used previously?
- How do you go about prioritising and organising tasks?
- How do you go about your workday at home? Do you have any tools to deal with distractions?
- How do you keep up to date with emails and messages?
- Do you have any strategies for communicating clearly in emails, messages, etc.? How would you deal with miscommunications?
- Do you have a dedicated workspace?
- How would you rate your technology skills?
- How do you draw the line when working remotely? How do you keep a good work/life balance?
Of course, these interview questions are just examples and should be tailored to suit your business and the company culture you wish to create. They should also be in addition to your standard interview and industry-specific questions.
7. Manage your remote team
Having a team that works remotely certainly has unique benefits but also presents some challenges. For instance, there is never the opportunity for a quick interaction to check in on a task; you would need to schedule a call. There are some points to keep in mind, courtesy of Forbes, that will help you successfully lead and manage a remote team:
- Schedule daily check-ins
- Keep communicating
- Use the technology and platforms available to you (such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams)
- Set clear rules and expectations
- Provide as many resources as possible
- Be flexible and empathetic with your team
- Encourage remote social events and interactions
- Be a mentor
Putting in a bit of work to be the best leader and manager will go a long way to building a team that works well together and for your remote business.