Is Your Business “Homeless”? You’re Not Alone

It was this tweet from Rand Fishkin that got me thinking. Our business, Flourish Media, is a small startup agency that doesn’t have a physical address. We meet with clients at their businesses, or in coffee shops or other meeting locations. And some of our clients don’t have physical business locations, either. Are we being shut out of the benefits gained by businesses that have a presence on Google Maps?

One benefit of starting a small business nowadays is that you don’t need to rent or purchase expensive real estate to get started. Anyone can build a web site or open a social media account for free. As long as you have a phone, you’re good to go. That’s what Chris and I did when we started Flourish Media. Since we specialize in social media management, everything we do is online.

But anyone who’s filled out business profiles on social media will know that these forms tend to be designed for more traditional businesses. Facebook wants to know the hours our business is open. LinkedIn wants to know our street address. We have one client who doesn’t want to limit herself to just our region of the country when looking for customers, and got frustrated with these forms trying to confine her business to a single zip code.

I began to wonder how common it is to have a “homeless” business. A little research showed me that we’re in good company: the Small Business Administration reported that in 2018, 50% of all small businesses were home-based. Presumably, some of these businesses use their home address as a physical address, but the fact that fully half of small businesses don’t have a commercial real estate presence blows my mind. What’s more, 69% of small businesses start at home.

Just this week, there was a controversy over fake businesses popping up on Google Maps. Even the appearance of a physical presence may not hold the same weight it used to. With a robust online presence and a post office box for shipping, a small business can still have credibility. And, of course, you don’t need a shop or office to go to in-person networking events in your local community.

A couple weeks ago, we had the opportunity to sub-lease a small studio space. We ended up turning it down, deciding it wasn’t the right move for our business right now. It looks like our digital marketing agency is in good company, with the many other “homeless” small businesses. We’ll continue building our brand online and in person, and do the same for our clients.

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