House Rules

Head Room

"The rules for running a homebased business are the same as for running any business," says Eftink at the SBA. Even so, there are some psychological differences you'll need to deal with.

Isolation can be a major problem for homebased business owners. If you thrive on solitude, you're likely to love working from home--but if, like most people, you need human interaction, you must either choose a business that puts you in regular contact with customers or find another way to meet that need. For example, joining networking organizations or leads exchange groups can give you a welcome opportunity to socialize and promote your business at the same time.

When you're homebased, it's easy for the distinction between work and home to blur. Business projects tend to spill over into personal times and spaces. To stay sane, Eftink recommends drawing a clear line between your personal and business lives. "Start the day as if you're heading to a traditional office," she says. "Keep your home work separate from your home life."

Some homebased business owners say exercising the discipline to work hard enough is a challenge, but for many more, the problem is just the opposite: They don't know when to stop working. Every start-up business requires long hours, but when your business is always at hand, the temptation to work all the time is harder to resist. Schedule breaks and downtime to stay healthier and more productive in the long run. Remember, the goal is to work at home--not to feel like you live at work.

Remember, too, that being a homebased sole operator doesn't necessarily mean you have to do everything yourself. Look for tasks you can outsource--often to other homebased businesses. These include administrative chores (accounting, record-keeping, word processing); sales and marketing; and even production. When Taliadoros started Main Street Stamps, she did everything herself . . . at first. "I wanted my business to grow, but I couldn't do it alone," she says. Taliadoros contracted with independent representatives to handle sales and hired contract laborers to help with production.

The most important ingredient in success? Take your business as seriously as you want others to. Go through the basic steps that are essential to any successful business--have a plan, know your market and secure adequate funding before you start. Insist that friends and family give your homebased business the same respect they would give it in a commercial location. And why shouldn't they? As a homebased business owner, you're on the leading edge of an exciting wave that's changing the way America works.

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