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Home Business Dos and Don'ts

Avoid painful mistakes by following these tips from successful entrepreneurs.

A growing trend in America today is the desire to work from home. What could be better than getting up in the morning, pouring yourself a cup of coffee and walking to your home office in your pajamas? Many women consider this a great opportunity to stay home with their children and still contribute financially to the family. Others are fed up with the long commute to the office and want less hassle in their lives. There are advantages to working from home. However, there are things to consider before jumping into potentially perilous waters.

"Don't wear all the hats," says Robin Zell, CTA of Just Girl Trips, emphasizing the need to outsource some of the responsibilities of running a home based business. "I often hear of moms starting home based businesses and immediately using their precious capital to pay for occasional child care so they can get things done.

"Why spend five hours doing something when you could pay someone who knows what (he or she is) doing to get it done for you in much less time? Then you can have that time with your children and probably spend a lot less money on the professional service than on child care or babysitting.

"Do the math before you pack your kids up and send them off to an expensive day-care center. Make a list of all of your responsibilities in running your company and rank them in order of your skill level." Those that fall at the bottom of the list should be considered for outsourcing, says Robin.

Don't expect to make a living from your business for at least three years. Be ready for the unknown expenses that can cut your entrepreneurial dream short if you are not well-prepared.

Prepare a well-thought-out business plan before opening, whether or not you plan on obtaining a business loan. Business plans help you look at all angles of your business and the expenses associated with them. Costs for a website, domain, marketing materials, membership fees, phones and office supplies all add up.

Become good at selling yourself. Because you are working out of your home, it is more difficult for people to know about you. So get out and sell your business. Create your one-minute "elevator speech" and share it with everyone you meet. Informal marketing is inexpensive and a great way for people to hear your passion about your company. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Don't mix your work area with your home space. A separate workplace will help you keep your sanity by providing a haven for focusing on your business. You can also shut the door behind you at the end of the day so you can have dedicated family time. There are also key tax advantages, which should be explored with your accountant.

"Set a schedule," recommends Susan Scheid of OptionCart.com. "It doesn't have to be a traditional 9-to-5 schedule. In fact, if you have kids in the house, it probably can't be anything that resembles traditional. Try setting a schedule that fits your needs, and remember that if you work three or four two-hour blocks throughout the day for six days, you can still get 40 hours in."

"Roll with the punches," says Leslie Haywood of Charmed Life Products, LLC. "This ability is a necessary trait for both entrepreneurs and mothers. Mothers master this skill out of necessity because, with our first child, we learn to expect the unexpected. We can't predict what night our newborn will decide to sleep through the night and which night we'll be up 10 times. Our businesses are a lot like our children."

Running a successful business while also raising a happy and healthy family is rewarding. Only you can determine the pros and cons and the impact on you and your family. There are also many resources available to help guide you through the entrepreneurial jungle, among them SBA.com and SCORE.org. Research your business idea, and don't rush into any business endeavor. Then you will be better prepared for future success.

Lesley Spencer Pyle is the founder and president of HomeBasedWorkingMoms.com and HireMyMom.com , and she is the author of The Work-at-Home Workbook: Your Step-by-Step Guide on Selecting and Starting the Perfect Home Business for You. Pyle has been working from home for more than 13 years.

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