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AZRIELA JAFFE

6.23.99  
Seven Myths about Setting up a Home Business
The life of a home-based entrepreneur is no idyllic existence

A national company, which wanted to develop new products for the home-based professional market, hired me as a consultant. The people I met there were as far removed from the day-to-day realities of running a home office as you can get. My challenge was to give them a glimpse of that reality.

My first task was to help them understand that there is no typical home businessperson. There's a huge range, from multimillion-dollar businesses to small ventures that barely turn a profit. Some of us work alone, some with a spouse or employees, others amid the chaos of kids running around the house or in relative peace with the children in full-time day care. We have service, retail, manufacturing, and agricultural operations. We work from spare bedrooms, attached offices, basements, and hallways. We are white, African-American, Hispanic, disabled, over 60, under 30, married, divorced, single, and from every town in the country.

Yet we share one thing. We've all heard the same fairy tales about working from home. Here are some of the most common:

Fairy Tale No. 1: You'll have more free time. You don't have to commute, sit in wasteful meetings, take time to decompress when you arrive home, or do someone else's administrative busy work.
The Truth: You'll have more flexibility, but you won't have more time. Your business will quickly fill up the "free" hours of your day, and you'll probably work more hours -- not fewer.

Fairy Tale No. 2: You won't have a boss. You are free to work when, how, and if you want to. You can't be fired.
The Truth: You have several new bosses -- your clients. Your clients will fire you if you don't deliver, so you aren't free to do what you want -- unless you don't care about paying the bills or creating a successful business. You've also got another new boss -- yourself. Self-discipline will replace corporate expectations.

Fairy Tale No. 3: Working from home will be inexpensive. Your overhead will be low. All you need is a telephone, a computer, and the kitchen table.
The Truth: Modern technology costs money. By the time you upgrade your computer, install a second and possibly third phone line, pay for an Internet service, purchase a fax, modem, printer, and more, it begins to look like real money.
The list of new office equipment and products you discover you "need" in order to be efficient and competitive is endless. You can easily spend as much on office equipment for your home office as you would leasing an office suite for several years.

Fairy Tale No. 4: The house will be cleaner and better organized.
The Truth: Office clutter is like an oil spill -- it tends to ooze out all over the house. And instead of cleaning your house, which means tearing yourself away from your work, you're more likely to hunker down in your office, feeling guilty about what a mess the house is.

Fairy Tale No. 5: You'll make more money working from home. You can break free from your fixed salary and earn six figures or more.
The Truth: Working from home may improve your lifestyle, but not necessarily your bank account. Although there are plenty of examples of prosperous businesses run from home, most small-business owners struggle financially during the first few years. Your standard of living may fall substantially if you quit a high-paying job to start your business.

Fairy Tale No. 6: Your family will be delighted you are working from home.
The Truth: Working from home can be very positive for everyone in the family. You may see more of your spouse and children, find it easier to care for their needs, and be present at key moments. For many households, one parent working from home is the key to managing the demands of two careers and raising a family. But beware: Your family will need to make many adjustments. Working at home can strain your marriage and family, especially if your family members start to feel as though they live in your office. All that togetherness with your spouse may spark conflict.

Fairy Tale No. 7: You'll be happier working from home.
The Truth: You'll still have your share of frustration, loneliness, and "quitting days." It's not a relaxing lifestyle. Working from home has plenty of pressures.
It can be deeply satisfying to follow your passions and control your own destiny, all from home -- so much so that many of us who start a home-based business will never work on the outside again. Others who try working from home find the challenges more than they bargained for, and they gratefully return to their corporate jobs with a Dilbert book tucked in their briefcase. Still others view working from home as only a way station until they grow into an outside office or manufacturing space. In any case, the life of the home-based entrepreneur is no fairy tale.

Have a question on how to handle the pressures of running a business and the impact on your personal life, marriage, and family? Contact Azriela Jaffe at AZ@azriela.com. Please put "BW Online question" in the subject field. Your real name will be kept confidential if you request, but please give an E-mail address, phone number, and your hometown so she can contact you for more information. Because of heavy volume, Azriela cannot guarantee that she will answer every query.

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