Operating a Home Business: Is It Right For You?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that as of 2010 more than 18 million businesses are run primarily out of a home. That may actually be on the low side, given recent advances in mobile and wireless technology, as well as the cost-cutting realities of a low-growth economy. If you’re considering running a business out of your home, here are some things you’ll want to take into account, courtesy of the Financial Planning Association®.
Is It Legal?
Perhaps the first issue you’ll need to address is making sure your home business meets zoning regulations and that any required licenses or permits are obtained. Many municipalities and condominiums restrict home business activities. If customers will come to your home, you may additionally need to consider parking, disability access, and display of advertising. You may also need to amend your homeowner’s insurance policy to cover commercial activities.
The significant advances in Internet technology and home office equipment in the past 10 years have made working from home realistic for a growing number of people, but there are technology issues you should consider. Find a local support person you can rely on to resolve systems issues quickly and effectively should the need arise. Save your work often, back up your files regularly, and make sure you have an alternative should your computer suddenly crash. Since high-speed access to the Web is a necessity for most home businesses, check with your local phone and cable company to see what’s available.
If you operate a business out of your home, the IRS may allow you to deduct certain expenses — such as phone, Internet hookup, even a portion of your rent or mortgage — based on the percentage of space in your home that the office occupies. To qualify, the home office must be used exclusively for business; a guest room or other shared space will not qualify. The key to claiming any of these deductions is to prove that they are necessary for and confined to business use.
You should also consider how the work-at-home arrangement will fare from your family’s perspective. Will there be tension if you’re home all day? Will your presence cramp your family’s daily activities? How will your family interact with clients or employees? Many former work-at-homers cite family conflicts as the reason working at home didn’t work, so make sure to give this issue serious thought and discuss it with your family.
Finally, consider your daily interaction — or lack thereof — with business associates and employees. Depending on the nature of your work, you may find yourself isolated and miss frequent interaction with others. Many people need the social outlet that an office environment provides and may be uncomfortable spending long hours alone.
Running your own business out of your home can be very rewarding, but it’s not for everyone. Be sure to do your homework before taking the plunge!