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The Future Of SOHO

What forces are shaping tomorrow's homebased entrepreneur?

Take a look in the home office of Kevin Karten. Six years ago, the former investment banker ditched the steady paycheck, camaraderie and relative stability of the corporate hive to go it alone, starting a homebased general contracting business in Hollywood, Florida.

Today, his home office has 10 lines for phones, faxes and modems, flexible hours plied from a custom workspace, and more than enough business to keep his income higher than the average national homebased business household figure of $63,000 a year. Kevin's wife, Alisa, left her post with an international public relations firm to launch her own consulting firm and watch their two children from home. Even their bookkeeper quit her job with a Big Six accounting firm to go freelance.

"I happen to love what I do. I enjoy working with clients, and I enjoy doing the family trips [that being homebased allows us to take]," Kevin says. "I'm able to touch something, complete it and bring it to fruition."

The Kartens aren't alone in their desire to build a business from home. Homebased entrepreneurs are among the fastest-growing segments of the New Economy. Driving this style of entrepreneurship are lifestyle choices, work styles driven by advances in technology, changes in government policy and an entrepreneurial spirit revived in the American worker's psyche.

Though individualistic in nature, homebased entrepreneurs have several unifying characteristics, like the use of technology, the desire to establish credibility for their micro-businesses, and the need to grow. While that won't change over time, the numbers of like-minded individuals and the tools at hand will-which will likely help shape the face of the homebased entrepreneur, says Beverley Williams, president of the American Association of Home-Based Businesses Inc. "They are becoming a larger, stronger force, but they are individualistic," she says.

What will the tools and attitudes of tomorrow be? We've talked with some of the experts in technology, government, research and home office trends to sketch an image of today's-and tomorrow's-homebased business owner.

Journalist and author Jeff Zbar has worked from home since the 1980s. He writes about home business, teleworking, marketing, communications and other SOHO issues.

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