The first step in deciding whether to start a business is to ask yourself this important question: "Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?"
Studying the characteristics of successful business owners will help you to tell whether your personality traits, experiences, and values are similar to those who have succeeded. And assessing your experience, skills, and life goals will also help you decide if you want to invest the energy, time, and resources that successful entrepreneurship requires.
Are You Ready, Willing, and Able?
Now that you have studied the characteristics of others who have succeeded in a home based business, survey your reasons for wanting a home-based business. Are you dissatisfied with your current job? What are your skills? What is your business experience, especially in the business you want to start? What are your life goals? What resources do you have that might help? ?
Answering these questions will provide reality testing for ideas that can sound incredibly glamorous when chatting with friends or seductively attractive when you are irritated or bored by your present job.
Answer the questions and discuss your reactions with friends and family. Have you underestimated your abilities? Overestimated them? Sometimes an evaluation by a friend is more useful than a self-evaluation.
How does your family react to the idea of a home business? Will you expect them to help out? What changes would your business use of the house mean for them? Will you have to remodel to create a usable business space?
What resources are available to you? Will you start by keeping your job and "moonlighting" for a while? Do you have a small nest egg, inheritance, or retirement income to live on until you get the business going? Do you already own tools or machines that will help (for instance, a computer and programs for a secretarial business or professional cameras and a darkroom for a commercial photography business)? Are you able to go back to school for training if necessary? Have you built up a network of contacts and possible customers through your previous lines of work or will you be starting from scratch?
Answering these questions honestly and completely will help you assess not only your chances for success but also which type of home-based business to choose. For instance, if your past professional life and contacts are all in the educational, teaching, child-oriented school area, then you should have powerful reasons for leaving that and opening a mail-order seed business. Possibly a tutoring business or a tot exercise franchise would use more of your resources and networks. On the other hand, if your assessment of your life goals and preferences helps you realize that you are burned out from working with kids, then perhaps a business planning birthday parties could later be built into a general party planning and catering business. You would be using your old contacts to build a long-range business plan that focuses on a service business for adults.
Why have millions of people chosen to work and live in the same place? Why are cottage industries sprouting faster than we can count them? Some home-based businesses start by accident rather than by conscious design. Secretarial services, day-care centers, craft ventures, and the like may start out as weekend activities in the recreation room. After a while their owners are surprised to see how profitable or enjoyable the venture has become. The glimpse of a healthy market lures them into a full-time venture. This low-risk, low-overhead, gradual kind of start-up is very attractive to new business people.
Many work at home business people cite decreased commuting time and other lessened business expenses as advantages for working at home. If your place of work is just 30 minutes away, that's five hours a week in commuting time, many dollars in gasoline and car maintenance or transit fares, and untold stress fighting traffic. Getting out of the high-fashion rat race is a plus for many who dislike having to dress up and continually buy new clothes to feel comfortable in settings outside the home.
Homemakers--mostly women but also an increasing number of men--are choosing a home-based business in order to have a more flexible lifestyle and to be closer to family. A parent who has a home office can eat lunch with the children or more easily attend special school or sports events. The home-based business person has more control over work hours than someone with a 9 to 5 job. Night owls who like to work until 3 a.m. can then sleep late (remembering, of course, to turn on the answering machine and let customers know the business hours). On the other hand, early birds can work without the usual disturbance from the telephones.
The tax advantages of operating a business from home are numerous but sometimes complicated. Wise business owners keep careful records and work with accountants, attorneys, and financial planners to make sure they are filing for the legal maximum write-offs and benefits. Free work at home based business tips.
If you were hard at work in an office downtown, it is unlikely that three children would come storming in to ask for snacks or that you would end up using the ironing board for a bookshelf or have to think twice about hiring others because they might resent working at your kitchen table. These are just a few of the problems that make the glamour of working at home fade fast. Some disadvantages of working at home can be minimized by self-discipline, by setting clear limits with family and friends, and by projecting a professional image. Other disadvantages "come with the turf" and just have to be lived with. If a delivery man comes to the door, you will probably be the one to interrupt your work and sign for the package. Home business work.
It takes time and discipline to establish steady, at-home work patterns. Often it seems easier to water the plants or do the laundry than to call a
client, design a new brochure, or prepare bills for customers whose work you've completed. Without the deadlines imposed by supervisors or peers, it can be hard to do the least appealing jobs on your list. To make matters worse, others may not take you seriously. Neighbors may stop by to chat or friends may call your business number knowing you will answer. Without supervisors or managers, you are the one who must set limits and plan your time. There also is the problem of isolation. While you are now your own boss, you won't have the chats, the parties, the companionship of fellow workers. Losing such social contact requires adjustments.
As the business grows and changes, the home entrepreneur has to put up with cramped or inappropriate space. No more simply putting in a request for a bigger file cabinet or a new copy machine; now you must visit showrooms or garage sales, evaluate features, compare prices, and probably pick the item up yourself.
Your teenager may resent having to keep the stereo low because you're meeting with a client in the next room. Your spouse may be irritated by having to fry that freshly caught trout on the backyard grill so your
office won't smell of fish. Your son may not want to give up the recreation room pool table so you can cut out 100 doll patterns this weekend. Neighbors may comment on the extra traffic your customers create on their quiet street. Family privacy and lifestyle patterns may be disturbed. And you will probably find yourself wrestling with laws and regulations you never dreamed could exist before you went into business.
Your Next Steps
Now that you have reflected on the characteristics of successful entrepreneurship and assessed your skills, experience, and life goals, it's time to plan your next steps. Ask yourself: Given the disadvantages of
working out of my home, do I still want to? Now that I know more about what's involved in starting a business, is it still for me? Do I need further training or experience? Should I begin part-time in order to test the waters, check out market potential, or refine my product or service? Do I need more time to research possible products or services? Have I decided on a particular business?
Others Have Succeeded--Why Not You?
A former teacher tells how she started her own tutoring business:
I taught languages in high school for seven years. Whenever I needed a little extra money, or during summer vacations, I tutored individual students. As my reputation grew, people began to ask me if I could recommend tutors in other subjects.
As my enthusiasm for teaching in public schools waned, I began to research the possibility of a tutoring business. I started one summer by turning my second bedroom into an office and having stationery printed. Summer is a peak time because parents hire tutors to help their kids catch up on subjects. By the end of that summer I was managing 48 tutors in 23
different subjects or grade levels all over the metropolitan area. I hired a part-time assistant who worked at the kitchen table. We added other
services, such as classes to help high-school students prepare for national exams. Operating from home was perfect for me since I needed to keep my overhead low and keep a good cash flow to be able to pay my tutors.
A computer programmer tells his story:
I longed to get enough work doing computer programming so that I could avoid the long commute to work and be closer to my two young boys as they grew up. I started working in an office I built in the basement doing small jobs and working for friends in the business who were up against tight deadlines. When I got my first big contract, I took the leap and gave notice. Now, two years later I've established a good track record with clients and have hired two others who work at terminals in my recreation
room. I like being able to work late at night after the family is asleep.
And I enjoy being around when the kids get home from school. I don't need a fancy downtown office. If I meet with a client. I make sure it's at his office, not mine.
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