Do Some Homework Before Opting to Work at Home

By Mary Ellen Slayter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 15, 2006

Valerie Parham-Thompson had hoped a polite note on the door would be enough: Please don't ring the doorbell.

The baby was sleeping, and the Durham, N.C., Web developer was trying to get some work done.

But soon enough, a neighborhood kid came by and rang anyway. "What does that sign say?"


The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 7 million self-employed people who worked at home in May 2004, the most recent figure available. Two-thirds of those had a home-based business, one that they ran from home and nowhere else. The others included people who divided their work time between home and other locations.

Starting your business out of your home certainly has appeal, especially if you don't have enough money for separate office space. It's hard enough to cover the rent on your apartment or house in most urban areas, much less take on a commercial lease. The home-based business enjoys a significant edge in terms of keeping overhead low.

There are other advantages, too. For Parham-Thompson, the impending birth of her son pushed her to set up her own home-based business in 2000. "I just knew I wasn't going to feel comfortable leaving him."

So she quit a job handling database development for someone else to start her Web development company, Tortuga Tech. The business has been a success, allowing her to make more money than she did before while spending time at home with her family.

But before you set up shop in the living room, here are a few things to consider:

ยท Your business. Some small companies are better suited for the home option. If your business is chiefly service-based, and requires little more than your brain, an extra phone line and a laptop, home will likely be the best place for you. But if you have lots of inventory, or need to meet with clients frequently, a separate commercial space might be wiser. The numbers bear this out: The BLS survey found that 45 percent of people with home-based businesses were in management and professional fields.

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