At-home Entrepreneurs

By Christine Durst and Michael Haaren

April 29, 2011 4 min read

Advice on what to avoid when you're planning a home-based business is harder to come by than tips on growth. But it's just as important, if not more so, because the mistakes are made much more often.

Here are five of the more common ways that home-based entrepreneurs shoot themselves in the foot:

1) They don't keep their families on board. Many entrepreneurs have partners and children, but they forget how a home-based business will change their lives, too. A new business can bring as many changes into a home as a new baby, without the nine months of preparation.

Suddenly, Mom or Dad is gone from the dinner table or psychologically "somewhere else" or forgetting that bedtime story as the "newcomer" in the house takes priority. Tighter budgets and financial anxiety can also come in the door, just as they often do with newborns.

Make sure you have the agreement and support of your family before embarking on that home-based startup. And once you're up and running, be sure to keep your partner "in the know" on the progress of the business. And prepare children for any additional changes that they may face.

2) They let their websites stagnate. It's fine to launch a business with a bare-bones website. After all, better to have a basic site than be invisible online. But many entrepreneurs get caught up in the chaos and excitement of a business's early stages and forget to tend to the "storefront." That's a big mistake.

These days, visiting a business's website is one of the first steps taken by a prospective customer. If your latest blog post or company announcement is 6 months old or your site still appears to be "under construction," you may have just lost a sale.

3) They swan dive into debt. Many first-time entrepreneurs think of launching a new business as a chance to indulge themselves. New office furniture, a high-end computer and printer, a cellphone with all the extras -- the credit cards come out, and debt goes from manageable to unwieldy.

The longer it takes to make a business profitable the greater the chance of failure. Piling debt on the shoulders of the business slows its progress and pushes profitability further and further into the future.

4) They listen to naysayers. The world respects entrepreneurs only after they've succeeded. Until then, they are inconvenient, disruptive and generally unwelcome. They also remind non-entrepreneurs of the dreams that they, too, once had. This induces guilt, regret, jealousy and dissatisfaction in the onlooker. Accordingly, naysayers are always available for free discouragement, cynicism and disapproval.

Avoid naysayers like the plague. Then succeed, succeed, succeed!

5) They do something they don't care about. Many people launch home-based businesses in hopes of capitalizing on the latest craze. This might be health drinks from the Amazon rain forest or "message bracelets" that all the tweens are wearing.

A few months later, as the caravan moves on, these entrepreneurs find themselves immersed in something that leaves them bored or indifferent -- with diminishing prospects, too.

Choosing your own path and working for yourself should be a liberating experience. Or put another way: If you want to be bored, you can always go stand in line at the DMV.

Christine Durst and Michael Haaren's weekly column, "Rat Race Rebellion: Finding Work, Sanity and Laughter in a Rat Race World," appears at creators.com.

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