The rules of home-based businesses that nobody tells you

Make sure that your business stays legit and lucrative with these four practices.
By aha insurance - Jul 6, 2020

At aha insurance we continually explore ways to stay in control of all aspects of life – because we know life is about more than insurance. In our Work Matters series we talk about staying in control of your life and reaching your #careergoals. Control feels great!

Many Canadians dream of working for themselves from a home office, but living the dream of operating a home-based enterprise requires a great deal of hard work and commitment. Running a home-based company often presents unique challenges that aren’t immediately apparent when you start your entrepreneurial journey.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development: In 2019, 8.2% of Canadians were self-employed. Have you recently started thinking about working for yourself, or are you looking to improve the operations of an established home-based business? These tips will help you chart a course for greater success.

Keep and organize all receipts

Keeping track of your receipts will help you save time and money come tax time and help you out in the event of a tax audit. Maintaining these types of records is also part of your legal obligations as a business owner

  • Avoid cash transactions if you can. Having the cash to pay for your business expenses is great (and should still be recorded through receipts). Nevertheless, it can be much easier to match your physical receipts to the automated transaction data recorded by your debit or credit card.
  • Separate your personal and business expenses. The easiest way to do this is to open and stick to using a business account and credit card exclusively for everything you purchase for your business. Separating business and personal financial products makes it easier to claim the expenses associated with business products when you file your business tax return.
  • In addition to your account and credit card transaction records, you need to keep what the Canada Revenue Agency calls “source documents” (aka itemized receipts) for up to six years. It’s beneficial to keep both your physical receipts and digital copies. Still, either version will do if you need to reference receipts during an audit. also recommends reviewing your business receipts once a month, which can also help you manage your budget and organize your receipts into categories. For example, 50% of business-related food and entertainment expenses may be deductible when you file your taxes. 

Don’t want to fuss around with homemade expense tracking spreadsheets or storing photos of receipts in your phone’s camera roll? Many apps can help simplify the process of managing your business’ finances. Business owners can use free apps like or more advanced bookkeeping services like QuickBooks to track their receipts and prepare for tax time.

Keep a dedicated space

Whether you own a business or work for a company remotely, overcoming the challenges of working from home can be difficult. One of the best ways to quickly get into work mode at the beginning of the day and unplug when your business hours are over is to create a dedicated workspace in your home. Even if the only tool you need to operate your business is a laptop, set up that laptop in the part of your home that’s the most distraction-free. The goal is to divide spaces in your home to maximize your productivity

  • Technological considerations for your dedicated office space include purchasing the highest speed internet possible and a dedicated office phone line.
  • If clients visit your office (or even get a glimpse through video chats), make sure it looks professional. What constitutes a professional-looking office will mean different things for different types of professionals. However, an element as simple as natural light can improve your workspace’s appearance and have a positive effect on your productivity and well-being.
  • For video calls, try to keep the primary light source in your office, like the window, in front of your computer, so that your colleagues can literally see you in the best possible light. Also, standing during conference calls can help you ease tension and feel like you’re presenting to your clients in person.
  • Give yourself more than one sitting option while you work. While non-traditional, purchasing a standing desk with an adjustable height is an excellent way to keep your blood and creative juices flowing throughout the day. It’s also helpful to have other seating options available like a comfy couch (preferably not the one in front of your TV in your living room) or a traditional ergonomic office chair. Even an exercise ball can serve as an office chair if you feel like strengthening your core while checking your emails.
  • Blake Stockton from Fit Small Business recommends never sitting with your back to your office door. Facing your office entrance while you work can ease subconscious stress and make you look more in control when clients (and family members) enter your office space. For more tips on setting up the perfect home office space to suit your needs, check out Stockton’s article outlining 16 Home Office Setup Ideas.

Maintaining a dedicated office space helps keep you focused. Moreover, it can also help you when you file taxes for your business expenses. You may be able to deduct a portion of your home maintenance costs like heating, electricity, and insurance, based on the percentage of your home that your business occupies. 

Separate work and family time rigidly

While setting up a dedicated office space is the first step in keeping a strict, physical divide between your work and family time. There are additional techniques you can use to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Running a home-based business can be especially challenging when you need to balance parenting with operating your business.

  • Create an office hour schedule and post it on the office door for your housemates to see. Some parents even opt to use a stop sign or image of a traffic light as a visual reminder when kids shouldn’t disrupt you unless it’s an emergency.
  • If your partner is working from home, too, make sure they also have a dedicated workspace because everyone needs a quiet place to focus on work or take a call. This can also help the two of you when you’re trading shifts being the on-call parent for all of your children’s needs.
  • Are you parenting a teen who you need to keep busy? Try these suggestions for keeping teenagers occupied at home.
  • For more advice on working from home with children, try these sanity-saving strategies for working at home with your kids

Make sure you also manage the expectations of other people in your life (including clients) when setting strict boundaries between your home and work life. This could mean asking friends and family not to call or text you until after 5 pm each day, or having a policy of never answering work emails or calls on your days off. 

One of the most celebrated highlights of owning your own business or telecommuting is the ability to work flexible hours. Use this flexibility to experiment with creating a routine that works for you and your family. Likely a significant amount of trial and error will be involved, but be compassionate with yourself. Once you’ve found the daily and weekly routines that work best for your circumstances, stick to them so that everyone you work and live with can enjoy the benefits of your consistent, organized and productive schedule.

Video conferencing is crucial

Whether you’re having an urgent meeting with an investor or negotiating with a vendor, video conferencing is a vital element of all modern businesses. Video conferencing is particularly essential for a home-based business, especially if your business model requires that you regularly meet with clients remotely. If you often find yourself leaving home (your office) to enjoy the ambiance on your favourite coffee shop’s patio, you’ll also want the best software to help you connect with clients while on the go. 

Many self-employed individuals can make their business work with video chat apps like FaceTime or Skype. However, sending your meeting participants an invite to a video conference host dedicated to offering business collaboration services can make you appear more professional. Some services like and even allow you to add your company’s branding to your video conferencing interface. 

Zoom is the option that we’ve all been hearing a lot about these days. Still, there’s a wealth of video conferencing services available to businesses of all sizes and budgets, so you’re sure to find one that fits your unique needs. 

We recommend opting for a free trial of some of these video conference hosts, to decide which service integrates best with the way you like to operate your business: 

For more information on these conference providers’ services and plans, please take a look at our in-depth review of these video conference alternatives.

If your home is both your castle and your place of business, we salute your drive and passion for your work as well as your commitment to improvement. Adding home-based business insurance coverage to your home insurance policy is another crucial aspect of operating your business. Check out our insurance policy guide for entrepreneurs and freelancers

aha insurance is Canada’s first car and home insurance brokerage to offer a fully online customer experience. Customers can purchase and manage their car and home insurance online in minutes from the convenience of wherever they are. This puts customers in complete control, and control feels great.