Fifty million home-based businesses will be in operation by 1997,
according to Link Resource’s National Work-at Home Survey. All around the country, people who want more control over their lives are starting home businesses
In New Orleans, Rick Hart’s home based cajun Cargo ships seafood
nation wide. In Palatine, Illinois, Stephaine Heavey works from
home designing and selling original patterns for fabric dolls.
And in Dallas, Lisa McElya published the Dallas Party & Event
Planners Guidebook from the entire first floor of her two-story
These three people are living the new American dream of owning a
business, but avoiding the high overhead and start-up costs of a
commercial location. If the idea of working from home is
appealing, but you don’t know where to begin, here is a
STEP #1 DECIDE WHAT PART OF THE HOUSE TO USE
Select an area away from family activity. The perfect space is a
separate room (or perhaps the garage), but any area will do, if
it can hold all the business supplies and equipment, and also
provide enough work space for desks, tables, or counters.
STEP #2 DETERMINE HOW MUCH TIME YOU CAN SPEND ON THE BUSINESS
Many people start a home business on a part-time basis while
raising children or working outside the home. Others start
full-time when family and finances allow. However you begin,
figure out how may hours per week you can devote to the business
Make a weekly chart of your activities, examine it, and determine
where the business fits. Don’t assume you have time and find out
later you don’t.
STEP #3 DECIDE ON THE TYPE OF BUSINESS
Make a list of things you like to do, your work and volunteer
experience, and items you own that can be used in a business.
Look over this line-up, and using ideas from it, list possible
businesses to start. Eliminate any business that isn’t appealing
or doesn’t fill a need people have.
For ideas on different types of businesses, consult the end of
this article. Other ideas can be found in the source material
listed at the end of this article.
STEP #4 CHOOSE A LEGAL FORM
The three basic legal forms are sole proprietorship, partnership,
and corporation. The most common is the sole proprietorship. As
its name implies, a sole proprietorship is owned by one
individual. It is the oldest form of business, the easiest to
start, and the least complicated to dissolve. Here are some of
the advantages of this business form:
- You own all the profits
- Your business is easy and cheap to organize. You don’t need
any government approval, although you may be required to carry a
city, state or county license. Your only other obligation is to
notify the Internal revenue Service (IRS) for the purposes of
- You’re the boss
- You enjoy certain tax savings.
You must pay regular individual taxes on your income, property,
and payroll, but these are not levied as special taxes, as with a
corporation. You will also have to pay sales tax which you have
received from your customers.
- Greater personal incentive and satisfaction. Since you have
your investment to lose if your business is not successful, you
should be more willing to put time, thought, and energy into the
business. And when your business is successful, you enjoy maximum
sense of accomplishment since you know its success was dependent
upon your decisions about your management ability alone.
For more information about this and other forms of business, send
for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Publication
MP25. Selecting the Legal Structure for Your BUsiness (50 cents).
It outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each legal type
of structure. If after reading it you are still uncertain what
form of the business should take, consult an attorney.
STEP #5 DETERMINE WHERE THE MONEY WILL COME FROM
There are three ways to finance start-up costs: use your own
money, obtain a loan, or find investors. If possible, it is
better to start small, use your savings, and not worry about
repaying a debt. also keep in mind that since you are a
home-based, chances of qualifying for a loan or finding investors
are slim until the success of your idea is proven.
STEP #6 GATHER INFORMATION
Spend a few weeks researching home-based businesses. A library or
bookstore can provide numerous books on business basics, and on
the specific type of business that interest you. Homemade Money
by Barbara Brabee (see sources) is an excellent book to start
STEP #7 CHECK ON ZONING RESTRICTIONS
Find out how your property is zoned, the call City Hall and ask
what regulations apply to home businesses in that zone. Also, if
you rent or live in a condominium, check the lease or homeowner’s
association rules to be certain a home business is allowed.
Generally, if you do not annoy your neighbors with excess noise,
odors, and traffic, you will not be deterred from running a
business at home. The neighbors may not even be aware of the
business, but it is necessary to know exactly what you can and
can’t do before you start. This is important should any problems
or questions arise later.
STEP #8 PICK A BUSINESS NAME AND REGISTER IT
If the business you choose is different form your name, file an
assumed (or fictitious) name certificate with the county. You are
notified if another business already has that name, so you can
select a new one.
Do this before investing in expensive stationery and brochures.
It costs only a few dollars to file, and it protects the business
name from being used by someone else in the county.
STEP #9 WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
A good business plan clarifies your ideas and establishes a plan
of action. A good business plan should include a description of
what you are selling, your background and qualifications, who the
prospective customers are and where they can be found, what is
needed to build the business, how you plan to promote, and how
much money is need for start-up costs.
STEP #10 GET AN IDENTIFYING NUMBER
If you are the sole proprietor of the business and have no
employees, you may either use your Social Security number or an
Employee Identification Number (EIN) as the business number on
official forms. If you have employees, or the business is set up
as a partnership or corporation, you must obtain an EIN. To do
this, complete IRS Form SS-4 (Application for Employer
Identification Number) and file it with the nearest IRS Center.
STEP #11 OBTAIN A SALES TAX PERMIT
If the product or service you sell is taxable, you need a state
sales tax permit. Call the local tax agency, explain the type of
business you have and what you sell, and ask if you need to
collect sales tax. If you do, they will send you the necessary
information and forms to complete. You also use this tax number
when your purchase items for resale.
STEP #12 OBTAIN LICENSES & PERMITS
It’s very important not to overlook any necessary license or
permit. For example, some cities and counties require a general
business license, and most have special laws regarding the
preparation and sale of food.
Call City Hall to find out what is need for your particular
business. In addition, Chamber of Commerce provide information on
city, county and state licenses and permits.
STEP #13 SELECT BUSINESS CARDS, STATIONERY, BROCHURES
Spend time on the color, design and paper for these items. They
make a definite impression-good or bad- on the people who receive
them. If you are not certain what is most suitable and effective,
consult a graphics designer or a creative printer whose work you
STEP #14 OPEN A BUSINESS CHECKING ACCOUNT
Call several banks to find out what services they offer, and what
minimum balance, if any, must be maintained to avoid paying a
service charge. Also ask about credit card if you plan to offer
this convenience to your customers. Bank fees can be significant,
so shop around for the best deal.
If your personal checking account is with a credit union, see if
it can also provide a separate business account. when you open
your account, you may need to show the assumed name certificate
and business license.
Finally, investigate obtaining a credit card in the business’s
name. If this is not possible, set aside a personal credit card
to use for business expenses.
STEP #15 SET UP RECORD-KEEPING SYSTEMS
Put together a simple and effective bookkeeping system with an 8
1/2 x 11″ three-ring binder, columnar pad sheets and twelve
pocket dividers from the office supply store. For each month, set
up columnar sheets for income and expenses. Use a pocket divider
for each month’s receipts, bank statement, deposit tickets, and
In addition, an automobile log for business mileage, and filing
system for correspondence, invoices, supplier catalogs, client
records, etc. are two other useful tools.
STEP #16 CHECK IRS REQUIREMENTS
If you comply with basic IRS guidelines, you can deduct a
percentage of normal household expenses (mortgage, interest,
taxes, insurance, utilities, repairs, etc.) as a business
expense. see the box accompanying this article and, for more
detailed information, IRS publication #587, Business Use of the
Also become familiar with these IRS forms: Schedule SE
(compensation of Social Security Self-Employment Tax) and
Schedule 1040 ES (estimated Tax for Individuals). Depending on
circumstances, you may have to file them.
STEP #17 OUTFIT THE BUSINESS
Make a list of everything needed to start the business, but
before you buy anything, look around the house for things you
already own that are usable.
When you are ready to start purchasing, check the classified ads
and garage sales. Both are good, inexpensive sources for office
furniture, typewriters, computers, answering machines, etc. But
only what is absolutely necessary for start-up, and wait until
the business is off the ground to get the extras.
STEP #18 DECIDE ON TELEPHONE REQUIREMENTS
Call the telephone company to find out the cost of a business
phone in your area. If you cannot afford a separate business
line, investigate the telephone company’s regulations on using
your personal phone in a business. It may be possible to do this
if you follow certain guidelines. Keep a record of long distance
business calls as they are a deductible expense. Finally,
consider the benefits of an answering machine to catch calls when
you are out.
STEP #19 CHECK OUT THE POST OFFICE & UPS
Using a post office box as the business address down plays the
fact you are home-based. It also prevents customers from dropping
in at all hours.
While looking into box rental, ask for information on the various
postal rates, particularly bulk rate, if you plan to do large or
specialized mailings. If you mail many packages, check out United
Parcel Service (UPS), as it is less expensive than the Post
STEP #20 PURCHASE THE NECESSARY INSURANCE
Check with your homeowners insurance agent about a rider for your
existing policy or the need for a separate business policy. Also
make sure you have adequate personal and product liability
coverage. Shop around, as each company has different rules
regarding home businesses
To save money on medical insurance, join an association and
participate in their group plan.
STEP #21 ORGANIZE THE HOUSE & YOURSELF
To have more time for business, organize and simplify household
routines. Start by holding a garage sale to get rid of
unnecessary possessions. Next, have a family conference and
divide household duties, making sure each person does his or her
part. The, set up a planning notebook to keep track of
appointments, things to do, calls to make, errands to run,
shopping, etc. Finally, set up a work schedule so you won’t get
sidetracked by TV, neighbor’s visits, snacking, and telephone
Creating and operating a home business is a wonderful and
rewarding challenge. The satisfaction is not only in the money
earned, but in doing what makes you happy.