Legal 101

A quick guide to the homebased legal matters that matter most

Back in 1977, when John Travolta discoed his way through Saturday Night Fever, a homebased business was about as common as a unicorn. Having a home office was code for admitting you were between jobs, desperately stuffing resumes into envelopes and combing the classifieds.

What a difference a millennium makes.

Now 24 million people work from home, according to the American Association of Home-Based Businesses. Unfortunately, many of those millions started out intoxicated by their flight from Dilbertland but ignorant of the legal and regulatory details needed to stay in business, from business licensing and zoning to buying insurance and finding a good attorney.

Facing this mountain of issues is enough to make you fantasize about returning to the cubicle farm. But remember: Launching a homebased business doesn't have to be nightmarish. There's a boatload of resources out there, from Web sites and books to other entrepreneurs willing to share what they've learned. To help you get started, we've compiled a brief introductory course on the red tape you'll have to weave through to create a legal and safe homebased business.

Introduction Business Structure
Business Licensing Insurance
Zoning Questions To Ask A Business Attorney

Joan E. Lisante,'s Legal Expert, is an attorney and freelance writer who lives in the Washington, DC, area. She writes consumer-related legal features for The Washington Post, the Plain Dealer (Cleveland), the Spokane Spokesman-Review and the Toledo Blade (Ohio). She is also a contributing editor to and

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