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Is That Opportunity Legit? Be your own boss, yes, but be smart about how you get there.

By Paul and Sarah Edwards

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: I want to work from home, but the idea of starting abusiness overwhelms me. I get e-mail all the time about making bigmoney at home in just a few hours a week. I've sent in moneyfor a few of these, but I've concluded the only way to makemoney from such opportunities is by convincing other people theycan make money at home. Are there legitimate businesses I canstart?

A: If you're not the kind of person who needs tomarch to the beat of your own drum, you may be a candidate forhaving a homebased business that someone else's cookie cutterhas already created. Regardless, you'll have to heedsomeone's else drumbeat if you buy a franchise or businessopportunity.

Whether the advantages of a prepackaged business outweigh thedisadvantages is as much a personal decision as a financial andbusiness one. With a franchise or business opportunity based on aviable concept, you won't have to invent or reinvent the wheel.Plus, you'll often get faster earnings and receive initial orongoing assistance and support.

But there are potential disadvantages, too. First, virtuallynine out of 10 corporations that sell franchises, businessopportunities, and network marketing goods and services fail intheir first five years. Common sense says you would therefore wantto seek out companies that have at least a five-year trackrecord-but that leaves out the possibility of getting in on theground floor of a cutting-edge company that's maybe the one of10 that makes it.

Second, there's the investment. In the case of a franchise,generally the more you pay for one, the more training and supportyou'll get. Business opportunities may come with or withouttraining. You should consider your learning curve an investment.Even as a distributor for a direct-selling company (a term thatincludes both direct-sales companies like Avon and Tupperware andmultilevel companies), you are apt to need to purchase samples,become a customer yourself, and go to meetings and training thatyou typically pay for.

Third, even though the business you buy may work for someoneelse, it doesn't mean it will work for you. Too many peoplethink they'll be buying a business that runs itself, includinggetting customers. If you're considering a business that claimsthe contrary, the seller is probably manipulating you.

If you determine the advantages of a prepackaged businessoutscore the disadvantages, you'll want to carefully answer thefollowing questions:

  • What would your territory be?
  • What is the product line like?
  • Is there a body of knowledge based on a proven trackrecord?
  • Is there a valued name brand associated with theopportunity?
  • Will you receive training and ongoing support?
  • Is there a marketing plan you can implement, both on a localand national level?
  • Will you receive leads and referrals to paying customers?
  • Will you receive any software, equipment or othersupplies?

Finally, always ask yourself whether you're buying somethingyou don't already have or couldn't obtain on your own.

Paul and Sarah Edwards' most recent book is Changing Directions Without Losing Your Way.Send them your start-up business questions at or through us atEntrepreneur.

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