By Times staff writer
Many people dream about running a business from home, but they don't know where to start. Above all else, you need to be sure there's a market for your product or services. You also need to write up a business plan, even if you don't plan to apply for a loan from a bank or the Small Business Administration. Once you tackle those crucial steps, here are the nuts and bolts of what you'll need to make your home-based business function well.
1. A separate peace. You're going to need a separate space for your office. An entire room would be ideal, but if that isn't possible, create boundaries for a work area with partitions or drapes.
2. Think about child care. If you have children, set rules about when they can and cannot enter your work area and how they should behave there. Come up with a workable child-care system, which may involve hiring a sitter for a few hours a day.
3. Put thought into your work station. It should be comfortable and ergonomically sound, which may require an investment in a good chair. You also will need a desktop computer or a laptop with a good mouse, Internet access and a fax machine, which could double as a copier-scanner.
4. Install a separate phone line. A separate phone line is crucial so your phone calls can be answered as professionally as possible, without children crying or dogs barking in the background. Also consider opting for a higher-quality voice-mail system instead of an answering machine.
5. Set up a bank account in your business' name. This will help you avoid mingling your business funds with your personal funds.
6. Get legal. For information on applying for a business license, visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Web site at www.state.fl.us/dbpr/index.shtml. For information on applying for a federal tax ID number, visit the Internal Revenue Service Web site at www.irs.gov.
7. Build a Web site for your business. You need a professional-looking Web site with a domain name that corresponds with the name of your business. You also need an e-mail account in your business' name.
8. Order professional-looking business cards. Your business cards and stationery should be on a par with what a large company would use.
9. Make sure you have enough insurance. You'll need health insurance for yourself and your family and liability insurance for your business. A good way to find relatively reasonable health coverage is through a business or trade organization in your field.
10. Establish business hours. In order to maintain your sanity and prevent your work life from bleeding into almost every aspect of your family life, set regular business hours and stick to them. Also, beware of isolating yourself at home too much. Maintain a network of contacts and meet them for lunch.
-- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.
Sources: Microsoft bCentral (www.bcentral.com); "Bringing Home the Business: The 30 Truths Every Home Business Owner Must Know," by Kim T. Gordon; National Association for the Self-Employed (www.nase.org)
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