Running a business from your garage: What you need to know

Running a business from your garage: What you need to know
Dakota Murphey
Dakota MurpheyDakota Murphey

Posted: Fri 21st Jul 2023

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and a garage you're not using, starting a business from it may seem an appealing prospect.

For budding entrepreneurs looking to get started with minimal overheads, running a business from your garage allows you to test an idea at a low cost while also maintaining the flexibility of a home-based business.

However, before you dive in, it's important to understand the legal and practical implications. There are certain steps you need to take to make sure your 'garage business' is legal and set up properly.

Get it right from the start and success is absolutely possible, but make sure you go in fully informed to give your business the best chance to thrive.

Legal requirements

If you plan to run a business from your garage, you must meet all legal obligations from the outset. The first step is to get planning permission for change of use from your council.

Using a residential garage for commercial purposes may be prohibited in your area, so you will need to apply for what is known as a ‘change of use’ to convert it into a workspace. This may involve an application fee and the process can take several months.

You'll also need adequate business insurance to properly cover your needs. Standard home insurance will not cover business activity, assets or liability.

Look into specific policies for home-based enterprises to find one that covers property, equipment, products, public liability and legal expenses. Complying with all legal and tax requirements is essential to operate a legitimate business from your garage.

While the costs associated with registration and planning permission may seem tedious, you could face significant penalties if you don't pay them. It's best to do your research and set things up properly from the beginning.

Converting your garage into a business workspace

Once you have the legal stuff sorted, it's time to convert your garage into a suitable workspace. With a garage conversion, every inch of space counts so make the layout work for your business needs. Will you need room for storage, meeting clients, product displays or more?

  • Make sure you have adequate lighting, heating and ventilation for your needs.

  • You may also need extra power points for equipment and products.

  • Install a separate phone line, broadband connection and security system if necessary.

  • Consider new garage doors to improve access and security. There are many options available for commercial garage doors, including roller shutters, sectional doors or insulated doors.

  • It’s also important to make the space inviting and professional for when customers or clients visit. Give walls and floors a fresh coat of paint and add proper signage to your building exterior so customers can find you.

Benefits of a garage business

There are many advantages to running a small business from your garage. One of the primary benefits is reduced costs.

You can take advantage of residential rates for utilities and the minimal commute means less money spent on fuel. The closeness to home also allows for a better work-life balance with shorter work hours and less stress.

A 'garage business' offers greater flexibility as it also allows you to be agile as your new business forms.

It's easy to start small with a garage and scale up or change your business model as needed. There is also flexibility in the hours you work, which can mean more time to spend with family or pursuing hobbies outside of working hours.

Improved wellbeing is another benefit. Without difficult commutes and long work hours, there will be lower levels of stress and burnout.

It's easier to disconnect from work at the end of the day, while also being able to handle any emergencies quickly due to the close proximity. Separating your work and personal life, even within the same space, is important for both productivity and mental health.

There are also environmental benefits. With no commute and a self-contained workspace, your carbon footprint is reduced and your environmental impact can be lower overall compared to a traditional business premises.

Drawbacks of a garage business

While converting a garage into a business space can be cost-effective, it also comes with several limitations.

As mentioned, you may need planning permission if the change involves structural alterations or if the nature of the business significantly increases traffic or noise levels. Your conversion must comply with standards for insulation, ventilation and fire safety.

Adapting a garage to meet these standards can be expensive. Local councillors will want to assess the impact on residential parking and traffic congestion, both of which might pose significant hurdles.

You might also need to consider the possible effect on your home insurance, which may increase when you use part of the home for commercial purposes. Be sure to inform your insurance provider about the changes, to avoid invalidating your policy.

Lastly, running a business from home can blur the line between personal and work life. As a result, maintaining a work-life balance can become challenging.

Marketing is essential

When running a business from your garage, strategic marketing is crucial to overcome the lack of passing traffic and visibility that a retail or commercial location would provide.

While your overheads may be lower, attracting clients and building your customer base will require investing time, money and effort in effective marketing.

It's also worth remembering that your new garage might not provide the professional image your business requires, which could undermine prospective clients' confidence. The space may also be inadequate for certain types of business that need more room or specialised facilities.

Social media platforms and digital marketing are important for raising awareness and engaging potential customers in this regard.

Build profiles on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to establish your online presence and post regularly about your products, services, business updates or relevant industry news to build your followers. Share high-quality photos, start conversations and build connections in your community.

Get listed on local business directories and review sites. Set up a profile and ask satisfied clients to leave a review of their experience, as good reviews and high ratings will help build your credibility.

Relevant resources

Dakota Murphey
Dakota MurpheyDakota Murphey

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