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According to a 2004 report released by Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, US, 4.6 million people had a home-based business in the USA.
This concept of 'work-from-home' jobs, seems to be catching up in India too.
What is a home business?
If you like spending lots of time with family, are capable of managing a business on your own and have very little money to invest, a home business might be for you.
Unlike a full-time job, it saves you the commute between work and home every day. And unlike an entrepreneurial venture, the only employee in a home business is you.
Hence you need to develop multiple skills, because unlike a full-time job where you have superiors and juniors who work with you in a team, in a home business you have to do it all on your own.
For instance, if you are sitting idle after your husband goes to office and kids go to school, analyse if you have any skill worth converting into a business. If you like making soft toys, use this skill to engage yourself and make a profit.
There are dozens of home businesses one can do without much investment. You can write for newspapers, edit photographs, design web sites, give consultancy on varied topics. Just analyse your skills and you could find one idea that works for you.
Why start a home business
~ You can be with your family and still work at the same time. "My family appreciates being able to see more of me. Also, the children get to use two computers," says Ashok Rajagopalan, who has been running a home business in Chennai for 13 years. He writes and draws for children's books and preparing web content, brochures, logos etc.
"I do my share of domestic work, which is easy, compared to coming home tired and sweaty, and not looking forward to chores!" he says.
It is advisable to have a separate area for work. Family members, relatives and friends may drop in or make phone calls. Keep fixed timings for work and leisure. This way you get time to attend both, and be disciplined.
~ You could be thinking of a home business because you have aged parents or young children at home. In such circumstances, it has proved to be the right thing to do.
"Working from home helps me avoid the hassles of commuting as well as be a part of my child's growing up," says Kaumudi Rao, a nutritionist who quit her full-time job and is working as an editor with Spryance, a medical transcription firm, to take care of her little one.
~ You could be looking at saving time. Commuting between office and home is likely to take a few extra hours, depriving you of the time which could otherwise be utilised for leisure activities, creative development or family.
~ You could pursue your other interests simultaneously.
Navin Pangti (www.pangti.com), a post-graduate in visual design from Industrial Design Centre, IIT, runs a successful home-based business alone, in product/application conceptualisation, information architecture, print design and video communication.
He was able to build his own resort (www.himalayanvillage.com) alongside, which he now managing along with a friend.
"It is only because I was in a home business I was able to give attention to building a resort which wouldn't have been possible with a full-time job," says Navin. Besides, he was fed up of going to office everyday at 9 am and coming home close to midnight.
Ready to take the plunge?
A home business could prove to be fun, as well as a financially viable option, provided you step into the right business at the right time and put your heart and soul into it.
Paul Edwards (www.workingfromhome.com), who has co-authored 16 books on home businesses with Sarah Edwards, and is based in the US, advices, "For most people, a home business is a way of having more control over their lives; for others, working for yourself is being an employer of last resort."
Though most home businesses do not require much investment, there are other factors you must consider before making the final choice.
Or else you may be forced back to your full-time job.
Consider these factors
~ Confidence levels
Be confident and sure about the move.
"Most people, even before starting on their own, are more bothered about fall-back options. This reduces their focus and faith in their own abilities, " says Navin.
So, faith in your own abilities is a must.
~ Expertise and knowledge
Improving your knowledge in the chosen field is a must as well as learning the ropes of how a home business works. Logging on to the Internet and finding information, visiting the library to read up, locating people who have been in the home business and taking their valuable inputs, could be some of the ways to get you started. And yes, network with people related to the field.
~ Negotiation skills
Mastering negotiation skills is a must.
"Communicating effectively with clients and good negotiation skills are a must. Secondly, one must make sure one gets regular work so that the cash flow situation is even," says Navin.
~ Money management
The pay is bound to be irregular. Try your best to have at least one or two regular clients. If you aren't involved in a job which gives you regular clients, try Ashok's method.
He says, "Restrain from buying things on installment. Spend only when you have get a huge sum of money or through your credit card. Invest surplus money in mutual funds or fixed deposits, to be saved for lean periods. "
Take risks, avoid scams
Every business comes with risks. Be ready to take them.
It is preferable to do a check on the background of clients, if possible.
Beware of opportunities that claim you could make millions in a short span of time without much work, or demand money from you to start the business. And with scams widely spread, Paul Edwards offers some suggestions in his book 'Home-Based Business for Dummies' with co-author Sarah Edwards (chapter on scams available for free at www.workingfromhome.com)
So, if you think working from home is a shortcut to earning money, it's not. You might need to work extra hours, perhaps for a few days in a month to keep your deadlines.
Yet, for some it is worth it, compared to the extra hours, night shifts and constant travelling you need to put in at a place away from home. Finally, discuss with your immediate family members your decision to quit your job and operate a business from home.
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