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
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.