Each year millions of Americans are converting their living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms,, guest bedrooms, etc. into areas that can function as workspace as well. Latest statistics show us that about 45 million people operate a home based business, full-time, part-time and through telecommuting. This is roughly 33% of the work force; by the year 2010, it is estimated that number will jump to 60%.
This is not just a group of people with elaborate hobbies or fleeting avocations. These are bona fide businesses producing billions of dollars in goods and services annually. They represent not only a very large range of established businesses, but new ones that have been developed with their creativity, their energy and their interminable desire to control their own lives.
A woman in New York just had a baby. She didn't want to quit her job because she loved what she did and the people she worked for; they in return, didn't want to lose her either; so they built her a studio in her home and she now broadcasts her daily program from her spare bedroom. Merrill Lynch created a Work-At-Home program for several of their agents. A major advertising agency has "Virtual Offices" for their work at home employees. Outside of Toronto, Canada, a small town has been zone, developed, built and marketed for people with homebased businesses. The list goes on and on.
Another list is multiplying even faster. Now that the homebased business professional has emerged and developed into a major player, companies and corporations are falling over each other as they rush to market their products to them. Homebased business owners have become target markets. Telephone companies have created equipment and services promising high-level technology in the middle of suburbia; some are even publishing homebased business telephone directories. Real estate developers are building homes with an extra room - or suite of rooms in a basement or attic - specifically for homebased offices.
Homebased Business Associations and Networking groups have mushroomed in every community, as well as regionally and nationally. Lobbying groups in Washington and in state capitals monitor the laws that affect us and make sure that our voice is heard. The local Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations are courting businesses operated from home. Consultants, seminar leaders, interior decorators, etc. now specialize in home offices and how to best make them work. Books and software programs abound. All of the above, and more, are our allies.
There is no doubt that this is the fastest growing industry business has seen in a very long time; there is also no doubt that it is not for everybody. The idea of a 3-minute commute from bedroom to office, or no office politics is very seductive. So is being your own boss, waiting for your kids to come home from school, or as in my case, sleeping in on Monday mornings while everyone else is sitting in traffic. The reality is that working from your home takes discipline, perseverance, flexibility and the ability to manage your time. Not everybody has those skills. Some people know that and they stay within the comforts of their talents by working for some one else. Others take the plunge only to discover that it is not what they expected. And then, there are those who can feel the thrill of running the show in their veins and take off without ever looking back. Whatever category you find yourself in, do your home work before you work at home.
Start with "what am I really good at doing and can I make a living at it?" Research the market and find out who the competition is. Don't lull yourself by thinking there is none - there is always competition! Survey the marketplace and see if people are actually buying, on an ongoing basis and not just once in a blue moon.
At the same time, you will need to organize your information on the legal aspects of running a business in your home. First, check with the zoning department. Some areas are more lenient that others; some allow certain types of businesses, but not all. Make sure you know the zoning rules before you get started and it's always a good idea to have them in writing.
Next stop is at the City Clerk's office to obtain a Business License (or Permit). You pay a onetime fee when you apply; then an annual business fee at the end of each calendar year. At the County Clerk's office you file your Fictitious Name Statement (DBA - Doing Business As) followed by the publication of it in a recognized periodical. These are the basics.
Marketing a home-based business starts with the incentive to get out of the home. If it's raining or if you're having a bad hair day, or if you just don't feel like it, the rationalization is made that there is too much paperwork on your desk and simply can't get away! We are our own worst enemy. The answer to the growth potential of your home-based business lies in the ability to network. It has been proven to be the single best vehicle to increasing your client base. Join the Chamber of Commerce, Trade Associations, Leads clubs, the Rotary and become active on a committee or two. Bowl with your church group and play bingo at the community center. Get to know people on a personal, one-to-one basis. People usually buy from people they know and trust. Wouldn't you rather visit a doctor, a florist, a locksmith that came recommended than one you pointed at in the phone book? Once you get their card, call them and set up a lunch date - or a simple coffee break would do if that’s all you have time for that week.
On a final note, pay attention to your image. Don't be apologetic about running your business out of your home. Maintain a professional attitude at all time by the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you carry yourself. Your stationary, flyers, brochures sell your business long after you have left the building. Shouldn't they carry a positive message about you?
Keep in mind that you are part of a group that is the backbone of America today - an entrepreneur. America was built by people who took risks and envisioned a better way to live life. The American people have come full circle and we - the home-based business owner - are now the new, modern pioneers.
Helene K. Liatsos
Home Office Management Experts
Helene has operated her Home-Based Business for over 20 years. Her company specializes in helping others start and operate their own home-based business. Teaching, training, coachings are part of the services she offers, as well as on online, nationwide course and DVD on How To Start and Operate Your Own Home-Based Business - visit her website thehome-office.com for complete details.