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Shattering the Myths about Working from Home

Many myths are floating around about home-based businesses. No doubt you've heard some of them. You may even believe some of them. Regardless of what you may or may not have heard, the simple fact is that millions of people are making home-based businesses work for them, proving that the vast majority of home-based business myths are false. Perhaps you'll prove them wrong, too.

You have to be a salesperson to be successful

Home-based businesses come in all sizes, shapes, and flavors. While plenty of home-based sales opportunities exist — selling cosmetics and telemarketing, for example — that kind is just a small percentage of the entire universe of home-based businesses. Consider the following nonsales businesses and careers that can be done from home:

  • Accountant
  • Organic farmer
  • Caterer
  • Personal fitness trainer
  • Income tax preparer
  • Web site designer

In each case, you could build a successful business with little or no sales experience. By doing great work or creating the best products, your first customers will tell their friends and associates, who will then tell their friends and associates.

Although being a good salesperson can be an asset to getting your business off the ground, salesmanship is by no means an indicator of your ultimate success.

You can't work with kids at home

Without a doubt, kids do put their own unique demands on a home-based business. But the belief that you can't work with kids at home simply isn't true. When everything works the way it should — and it can — nothing beats working from home, really being a part of your family, and getting to know your kids far better than most working parents can ever hope to. And for many individuals who start home-based businesses, being close to their families while making money is what it's all supposed to be about.

So how can you do it? Here are a few tips:

  • Find a location for your office that's flexible — one where you can shut out all outside distractions when necessary or monitor your young children, if you desire.
  • Set a regular business schedule — one that accommodates the needs of your children but that your customers and clients can rely on.
  • Ask for extra help from your spouse or relatives, especially for those first few years before your children enroll in school.
  • Bring a babysitter into your home during working hours. Four hours a day can keep the insanity away.

You'll get rich quick

Starting a home-based business is not the same as buying a lottery ticket and hoping your numbers come up. A home-based business is like most businesses — it takes a lot of hard work and no small amount of time to build sufficient income to make a full-time living.

Unfortunately, the world of home-based business is rife with all kinds of get-rich-quick come-ons, blue-sky promises, and overpromised-but-underperforming "opportunities." You're wise to ignore the persistent drumbeat of the less-than-ethical sellers of promised riches and focus on working hard to create a business where you can do what you love, serve your customers, and make money at the same time — for the long term, not overnight.

You can't make any money

Money magazine commissioned a study of the earnings of home-based businesses in 1996 and found that 20 percent of home businesses reported gross business incomes between $100,000 and $500,000 a year. Similarly, when Paul and Sarah and Lisa Roberts did a nationwide survey in preparing their book The Entrepreneurial Parent in 2001, they found that while over half of the over 600 respondents worked fewer than 40 hours a week, one in seven claimed earnings of over $100,000 a year. Most recently, the research firm IDC found the average income for income-generating home office households to be $63,000 a year.

Can you make any money with a home-based business? The answer is an unequivocal yes! How? The key is to provide something people will pay for and then pour your heart and soul into it.

Home-based businesses aren't real businesses

What is a business? According to Webster's New World Dictionary, a business is "a commercial or industrial establishment; store, factory, etc." Today, a commercial or industrial establishment can be found anywhere, from traditional storefronts and mini-malls to suburban basements and urban lofts. Real businesses aren't defined in terms of how many cash registers they have or whether they're located in a shopping center or mall. Real businesses are measured by the attitudes of those people who own and run them, and by their results. In fact, the term "brick and mortar" had to be coined to distinguish traditional storefront businesses from the growing number of home-based and virtual ones.

Home-based businesses are cheap

Sure, some home-based businesses can be started on a shoestring, using tools and equipment that you might already have (a phone, a computer, wrenches, and so forth). But some do require a substantial investment of both time and money to get off the ground. Here are some startup estimates for a few types of home-based businesses:

  • Computer consultant: $4,700 to $12,050
  • Gift-basket business: $2,655 to $9,770
  • Home inspector: $4,925 to $12,600
  • Medical transcription service: $2,670 to $8,700
  • Image consultant: $3,080 to $9,650

As you can see, even at the bottom end of their ranges, starting some kinds of home-based business — while usually not as costly as a car — is not an inexpensive proposition. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. If your primary reason for starting a home-based business is because you think you can make a lot of money for little or no investment, you will want to select a type of business that doesn't require much cash to get off the ground.

But if you buy a franchise; start a business that requires significant training, such as medical coding or information brokering; or begin one that requires special equipment, such as mobile pet grooming or medical transcription, you may need to invest $10,000 to $20,000 or more. Even businesses with low entry costs require you to cover your cost of living — rent, food, health insurance — until you generate enough revenue to pay yourself. This can take months or sometimes years.

There's no going back

Here's another popular — but patently untrue — myth about home-based businesses: After you get out of the regular 9-to-5 world of working for someone else and start your own business, you can never go back. Indeed, many potential home-based businesspeople decide to defer or even forget about their plans because they're afraid that if they leave the regular world of work, they won't ever get another job.

The truth is that if for some reason your home-based business doesn't work out, you always have the option of returning to the good-old 9-to-5. In fact, depending on the kind of home-based business you start and the amount of experience and clients you gain, you may find yourself in even more demand than before you started your own business.

If you're at home, you must not be working

Most home-based business owners feel the effects of this myth from time to time. Because you're working at home — and not in an office or store or workshop — you're not really working at all. But as anyone who works at home will tell you, nothing could be farther from the truth.

That fact still doesn't stop your friends, relatives, and acquaintances from calling on the phone, visiting and carrying on as though you had nothing better to do all afternoon than talk, talk, talk. If you find that people don't believe that you're working when you're at work in your home-based business, give these ideas a try:

  • Set regular business hours, and let all your friends, relatives, and acquaintances know what they are.
  • Set up separate phone lines for your business and your home. Answer only your business line during your regular business hours.
  • Don't fall into the trap of taking on people's errands during your workday just to be nice. This means not agreeing to babysit someone's kids or pick them up from school every day!
  • Don't be shy! Be polite, but firmly let your nonbusiness callers know that you're busy and that you'll get back to them when you take a break or after work. Remember: Time is money!

The sooner you treat your home-based business like the business it is, the sooner everyone else will.

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