When discussing the electronic cottage industry, Paul Edwards displays all the passionate zeal of a disciple blinded while wandering through Silicon Valley.

"Every year, half a million new businesses are filing tax returns," he says. "That's a new business every 49 seconds . . . Someone is going to profit from the new business opportunities computers are opening up for us. It might as well be you."

Edwards and his wife, Sarah, a California entrepreneurial team who have been called the "Ambassadors for the Electronic Cottage," are riding high on the crest of the Third Wave to recognition, personal reward and riches.

And, according to them, so can others. "It's one of those rare times that comes along once in a lifetime, if at all," says Paul Edwards. "The last time we had such opportunities, most of us were too young to take advantage of them -- the automobile, radio and television. Today's computer and communications revolutions are as far-reaching as any that have come before us."

The Edwardses (he's 45; she's 42) joined the revolution four years ago, when they turned their Sierre Madre, Calif., home into an electronic cottage. (Prior to that, both had home-base businesses: Paul was an attorney and management consultant, Sarah a clinical social worker.) Under the umbrella organization Home Enterprises Unltd., the partnership has produced a series of audio-cassette tapes on specific computer home-business opportunities, developed the PSE Preference Survey and Motivation Profile (a tool for identifying people who are tempermentally suited for working from home), and are authors and creators of various books and products, including How to Make Money with Your Personal Computer; The Paul and Sarah Edwards Complete Start-Up Kit for a Home Business With Your Computer (Cherry Valley Press, $69.95 plus $5 postage and handling); and The Computer Companion: The Complete Computer Management System (Harper House Inc., $39.95).

They also are founders of the Association of Electronic Cottagers (AEC), an international consortium for computer entrepreneurs and telecommuters.

Their latest venture -- a nuts-and-bolts source book, Working From Home: Everything You Need To Know About Living and Working Under the Same Roof (Jeremy P. Tarcher Inc., $11.95) -- was written for the 11 million Americans who, according to a 1984 survey, maintain a business office in their homes. The number of self-employed people in this country was found to be increasing by 4 percent each year.

The Edwardses caution, however, that working from home is not merely a shift in location, but in life style.

"For some, working at home answers their fondest dreams. For others, it can be more like a nightmare," they say.

Most of us have been on some sort of schedule from birth, says Sarah Edwards. "Although all of us seem to want, or at least say we do, freedom and independence, when we get it we don't know how to manage ourselves. When you're working at home suddenly you have to make decisions about how you're going to manage your time, your space and your things in relation to your work . . . The whole experience is different from everything we're used to."

"I think of this whole set of self-management skills as a kind of muscle," says Paul Edwards. "When you become a work-from-homer you have to work at developing that muscle."

The Edwardses' innovative systems approach (that can be customized) to managing time, money, information and people is user-friendly, simple and effective.

"We wanted to provide everything in the book so that there would be no excuse for people to go ahead to do the thing that they really wanted to do. The only excuse is if they decide they don't want to do it."

Sarah Ban Bre