Many dream of starting their own business to gain flexibility with family and independence from the corporate structure and politics. Today, it's also a financial savings when you're not forking over a fortune to fill the gas tank, buying an expensive wardrobe or paying those high day-care expenses. However, before jumping headfirst into starting a business, it's important to take a reality check and answer a few questions honestly.

Being your own boss takes a lot of discipline. Even though your goal may be to gain flexibility, that might not happen immediately, due to the number of hours required to get the business off the ground combined with the fact that there may be insufficient income to outsource or bring on staff. So ask yourself: Are you able and willing to put in the countless hours it takes to get a business off the ground?

Also, can you afford to lose your current salary and put out extra money for the initial startup costs? It could be one to three years before you start to make a positive return and months before you make any income at all. In addition, if you have health benefits in your current position, do you have another means of obtaining insurance on your own or are you covered by your spouse?

One solution is to work full- or part-time while you start your business. Once you begin bringing in regular income, you can cut back your hours or leave your job.

Here's another question to ask yourself: Do you have a support network to help you get through the low times? Be warned: There will be many. Your network would include your immediate family and/or a group of other entrepreneurs who have experience walking the same path.

Before getting too deeply into the start of your business, check with your insurance agent to see whether you're covered under your homeowner's policy. It might exclude you from having business traffic in your home. Also check with your homeowners association, which may exclude operating a business out of your home. These two factors could end your decision to start a home based business before you invest any more time or money.

If you need guidance selecting or starting your business, you may want to check out these additional resources:

Working for oneself and having the ability to do it from home is a fabulous opportunity for the right person, but not everyone is cut out for it. The most important question to ask yourself is whether you truly love your business idea. If you're doing it because you think it's a good business idea but you don't love what you're doing, it will end up being a miserable endeavor because it will be all-consuming, and you may struggle to make it successful.