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Reality Check: The Truth About Starting a Homebased Business

It's your dream, yes, but dreams are rarely wrapped up with a bow and left on your doorstep. You've got some work to do.

How much would I love working at home? Let me count the ways: sleeping in, working at my own pace, and perhaps best of all, a once-grueling commute reduced to the few steps from bed to home office. Sound too good to be true? That's because it is, at least to a degree. Running your business from home may seem like a dream come true, but don't kid yourself-it's still a business, and all the blood, sweat and tears aren't going to disappear just because you're in the comforts of your own home.

Although starting a homebased business should be filled with excitement and optimism, the potential pitfalls of entrepreneurship should also be on your list of concerns as you plan your business. If you haven't thought about what it's really like to work from home, take a look at what some entrepreneurs found out when they started running their homebased businesses-so you can be prepared as you start one of your own.

Dream: Getting away from the office politics and gossip
Reality: Being isolated, with no one to share things with

Aaah, finally some piece and quiet. No gossip to listen to while you get a drink at the water cooler. No distractions to keep you from getting your work done. In actuality, the absence of the usual office interaction may be a shock to those who once detested the daily encounters at the office. After being fired from a radio job, Joanne McCall decided to start her own homebased business in 1995, McCall Public Relations, to generate publicity for business books. Eventually, McCall began to look forward to the stops from UPS, FedEx and the mail carrier. "I knew I had to deal with the isolation issue when I started getting excited about having to run errands," she says. "I remember going to the Post Office and bank and thinking, 'Oh, isn't this fun?' "

"I knew I had to deal with the isolation issue when I started getting excited about having to run errands."

McCall's experience may seem a little humorous at first glance, but isolation is the single biggest problem in running a homebased business, and it's very serious, contends Alice Bredin, co-author of The Home Office Solution: How to Balance Your Professional and Personal Lives While Working at Home . Bredin says that over time, a lack of interaction with other people will take its toll on your energy level: "Other people-along with the sights and sounds-imbue us with energy. If you don't have that, you may not be as creative or good at problem-solving."

To avoid burnout, you need to integrate physical and social activity into your routine. McCall, for instance, takes evening classes in a variety of subjects to enrich herself and be around other adults with similar interests.

To put it another way, you need to go easy on yourself during the start-up stage, because it is indeed stressful, notes Barbara Solomon , a marriage and family therapist in Santa Paula, California. "Be realistic about your needs," she says. "Before, you may have needed some downtime after a day in a populated office, but now you may require some social interaction or a physical outlet to maintain balance."

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