For Noel D’Souza, a financial planner with Money Coaches Canada in Toronto, working from home has been good for business.

“I used to offer in-person and online meetings,” he says. “We would have one in-person meeting and, after that, clients would say, ‘I’m good with doing this online’.”

Among the benefits of advising clients remotely while working from home, D’Souza cites zero time spent commuting, cost efficiency (less money spent on gas and business clothing expenses) and the ability to serve clients outside of his immediate area.

“A lot of my clients come from outside Toronto, [in areas] where there isn’t as much choice regarding financial planners — especially fee-only financial planners,” D’Souza says.

D’Souza, who speaks with clients over the phone while using screen-sharing software, says working remotely hasn’t dampened the relationship-building aspect of his business.

“Some clients are actually more comfortable by the fact that we’re not meeting face to face,” D’Souza says, referring to clients who may feel embarrassed about their poor money habits. “They don’t have that same degree of guilt or shame when we’re talking.”

The key to dealing with clients from your home office, either in person or remotely, D’Souza says, is setting boundaries and keeping business matters separate from your home life.

Setting boundaries
Whether you meet with your clients online or in person, you must have a separate office space in your home that other family members can’t access.

“Any sensitive or confidential information should be secured or locked up, and your computer password protected,” D’Souza says. You must have a computer that’s used exclusively for business, he adds

Educate yourself on cybersecurity best practices. “You are essentially responsible for your IT infrastructure,” he says, “so, you should get help if needed.”

You should consider hiring an IT consultant to assess whether your home network is secure and your computer and other devices have the latest antivirus and malware protection.

Address and phone
Use a dedicated business phone line that is separate from your personal cellphone or home-phone line. A separate phone line will make it much easier to keep your personal life and professional life distinct. One benefit is that you can set your work phone to voicemail after business hours, D’Souza says.

For privacy and security reasons, you also should use a separate business mailing address from your home address. “You don’t necessarily want clients dropping by your home any time they feel like it,” D’Souza says.

You can rent a post office box from Canada Post, and companies such as UPS offer mailbox rental.

Another important factor in creating boundaries is establishing set business hours.

“You have to be clear as to what type of business you’re running,” D’Souza says, “and whether you want to entertain evening meetings or weekend meetings.”

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