The Home Business: Is it For You?
By Risa B. Hoag

Back in 1991, I concealed the fact that
I worked from home. I rented
a separate mailbox address
and I told people I would go to them for meetings.
I even taught a course, titled, “How to look bigger than you are.” Home based
businesses were considered small and unprofessional.

Today, many of the people I run into are envious of my ability to run my business
from home. And while I’m quite comfortable in my home office, it
hasn’t been without sacrifice and fortunately I have learned a few things
along the way.

I am often asked, “Don’t you get distracted working from home?” My reply is yes,
pleasantly! When I’m working on a big project and feel myself getting stuck, I head
outside for 15 minutes of gardening and, feeling refreshed, return to my desk ready
to work.

The trick to distraction is using it to your advantage. If you enjoy gardening during
your lunch hour then the home office setting might be perfect. But, if you find
yourself doing more laundry, gardening or shopping than work, perhaps you want
to consider a regular office setting.

“With a home office don’t you find you are working all the time?” This used to be
true. When I started my business, working from an 800 square foot apartment in
White Plains, my office was just a desk in my bedroom. I often found myself
working until 2 AM while my husband and infant daughter slept a few feet away.
However, in the beginning it was essential to work long hours. I was building a
business and a reputation so I had to ensure that client work was done on time and
done well and I also had to make time to network and find creative ways to market
my business. So yes, I worked all the time.

Today, I am more flexible and, thanks to my home office, I can be. I often check e-
mail at 6:30 AM responding to anything urgent. Between 7 and 8 I get the girls off to
school with help from my husband and then begin my day in earnest at 8:00 AM. At
3:30, when my girls are due home, I meet them at the bus, hear about their day, get
homework started or play chauffeur and head back to work either before 5:00 or
after 7:00 PM if need be.

There is tremendous flexibility with a home office; the trick is finding your own
comfort zone. If your kids are wondering what you look like, you may want to
consider setting time constraints for yourself. After all, one of the biggest benefits of
working from home is the ability to spend more time with family.  

“Don’t you miss all the equipment you have in a ‘real’ office?” Not at all, in fact
when I merged my business back in 2000 with an advertising agency, I found much
of my technology was newer and more efficient than the equipment in the ‘real’
office. I have always treated myself well when it comes to office equipment and I
suggest others do the same. It is much easier today to get the right technology at the
right price. In 1991 I shelled out $800 for a black and white HP printer. Much to its
credit, I only discarded it two years ago. But the incredible color laser printer I
purchased from Minolta last year only set me back $400, thanks to smart internet
shopping and rebates.

Today home businesses can have all the equipment they need to produce
professional, full color, bound proposals and reports. Scanners, color printers, large
flat screen monitors and computers with all the bells and whistles cost a fraction of
what they did 5-10 years ago and, provided you keep your computer virus-free,
should last a long time as well. My current computer, going on four years old, is the
envy of many thanks to my recent RAM, monitor and video board upgrades. Don’t
skimp on technology.

“Don’t you miss the talk at the water cooler?” Well, yes and no. I enjoy the quiet of
working from home, but I balance it by networking and attending events as often as
my schedule will allow. It is easy to build a “nest” in a home office and stay there.
But it’s not healthy. Getting out to events and volunteering to work on boards
provides you with an opportunity to make new contacts and demonstrate your
talents and skills. So, my advice is to enjoy your home office, but don’t forget there’s
a big world out there.  

Like everything else in life, working from home has its pros and cons; it isn’t for
everyone, but after 15 years, I won’t be trading it in for an office position any time

About the author Risa B. Hoag is the President of GMG Public Relations, Inc. Risa
has more than 17 years experience in public relations and marketing. As a teacher
certified by the State of New York and a seminar leader, Risa has presented public
relations and marketing seminars and workshops to business organizations and
area colleges. An accomplished business writer and source, Risa has appeared on
several radio and television programs and has been quoted and featured in
numerous national and local publications.
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