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How Do I Avoid Home-Based Business Blunders?

How Do I Avoid Home-Based Business Blunders?

Tapping your home's potential as a business venue lets you cash in on the intrinsic value of a roof over your head without treating it like an ATM.

The benefits are numerous.

• A home-based business comes with a full array of tax benefits.

• What you'll save in the time, cost and mental anguish associated with schlepping to work weekdays is by itself enough to want to work in your jammies.

• And all those savings could allow you to let your equity stay put for a rainy day -- which, as a work-at-homer, you won't have to go out in.

This all assumes you have what it takes to avoid common blunders associated with building your business at home.

Here's what not to do around the home, when you work there.

• Don't choose the wrong business. You may think you have enough space for those widgets in the crawl space above your garage until business booms and you've forgotten to have a load-bearing capacity analysis of the structure. Choose a business you love, to build in motivation, and then check on local licensing, zoning, work-at-home ordinances and other requirements before settling on a business. Make sure you've got the passion for the work and a job that is a good fit for your home and community.

• Don't give up your bedroom. Find a space in your home that is large enough to dedicate to running a real business or consider keeping your day job. You won't sleep in your bedroom if that's also your cubicle. Don't kid yourself. Leave your bedroom as your inner sanctum, a place to retire from life's daily challenges. Choose a location you can dedicate to your work, a spare room, an alcove under the stairs, a corner you can divide off from the rest of the room. Tax laws also require you have such a dedicated space.

• Don't use an easy chair as your desk chair. Don't cut corners, but get well-designed ergonomically correct office furniture or expect to pay the same or more for chiropractic or physical therapy services. The more you work at a computer or do desk work, the more you need the best furniture for the job.

• Minimize personal effects. A few personal items -- family photos, job related awards, a stress button -- are allowed in any work space, but there's usually a limit to maintain a business-like and professional atmosphere to your workspace. This is especially critical if clients come to your home office for a visit, conference or other meeting.

Instead equip the office with a fast computer, faster broadband connection an all-in-one printer, scanner, fax machine and feature laden telephone that can take messages and screen calls.

• Don't be a 24-7 business, unless you've got staff. Set realistic office hours and stick to them just as you would if you had to commute to work. Establishing regular work schedules includes break times, a lunch hour, giving yourself days off during the week, holidays and vacation time. If you have a family, they will still expect some of your time and you don't want work at home life to take over your personal life.

A regular work schedule also plays a part in motivation that can be threatened by kids, television, household chores, pets and the backyard hot tub. A work schedule also means no distractions from family members, family affairs and other matters you typically don't handle when you are at work.

You should have a separate phone line for your business and answer only it during business hours, letting non-business callers know you are busy and will get back to them as soon as you can.

• Don't forget room for growth. If your business is successful it will grow and growth demands more physical space. Don't allow business growth to take over the rest of your home. Consider using a garage, attic, basement or other area to store files you don't use. Rent long term storage for obsolete items. Work with only the equipment you need and store, sell or otherwise get ride of space grabbing items. Hire a professional organizer if you are all thumbs at keeping things neat.

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