Working from Home:
One thing Chad Brown doesn’t stress about is his daily commute. Rolling out of bed, washing his face, and walking 10 paces to his computer, he’s already at work. The CEO of Plus 1 Tickets, a home-based, ticket-brokering firm that sells sports, theater, and concert tickets throughout the nation, Brown is one of the more than 4.2 million Americans who are ditching the daily commute in favor of punching in at home.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost half of the nation’s small businesses operate from home-based offices — and why not? As employer loyalty wanes and low-cost, lightning-speed technology becomes more accessible, it’s easier than ever to launch your own firm without leaving home.
Below are five skills you’ll need to kiss the cubicle goodbye.
Sure you’ve got industry knowledge, but do you have what it takes to be the boss? According to Tamara Monosoff, author of the best-selling book “Secrets of Millionaire Moms” and the CEO of the Alamo, California-based product marketing firm, Mom Inventors Inc., it takes more than good ideas to make a business work. “A successful business is really about knowing what steps you need, and taking action,” she says. “It’s about making a plan, setting concrete goals, and shaping the business the way you imagine it to be.”
Entrepreneurship courses offered through your local chamber of commerce, small business association chapter, or online through schools like DeVry University can help new home-based business owners get off the ground.
When you own your own business, it’s all about thinking financially. “As a new business owner, one of the first things you need to know is how to structure your company to have maximum tax benefits,” states William Ellyson, a Richmond, Virginia-based attorney who specializes in small-business issues.
Entrepreneurs can find basic tax planning courses through local community colleges and small business association chapters. Those looking for more in-depth knowledge can check out year-long financial planning certificate programs offered online.
Public Relations and Marketing
“The main thing my major has taught me is how to network,” states Brown, a public relations major at Virginia Commonwealth University whose networking skills grew his ticket-brokering firm from a sideline hobby into a nationwide company with more than $150,000 in sales each year. “I’ve also learned how to effectively talk to clients and efficiently deal with problems.”
No matter the industry, all home-based entrepreneurs must be able to promote their services, reach the target demographic, communicate effectively with clients, and create a professional image for the public. While four-year institutions like Virginia Commonwealth offer bachelor’s degree programs in public relations, home-based business owners can also find PR courses through their local community college or chamber of commerce.
“Five years ago, the attitude was ‘Yeah, I know I need to have a website, but I’ll get around to it,’” says Gene Fairbrother, lead small business consultant for the National Association for the Self-Employed. “Today you’ve got to have a Web presence to be in business.” According to the market research firm, Forrester Research, Inc., e-commerce retail sales topped $175 billion last year, with the industry projected to grow another $160 billion by 2012.
Brown fine-tuned his e-commerce strategy, moving his products from eBay to larger ticket broker sites such as Stubhub.com and Ticketsnow.com, increasing sales by an estimated 200 percent. To learn how to set up, manage, and promote your business online, check out e-commerce courses offered online through the University of Maryland University College and the University of Phoenix.
Being the CEO, chief sales officer, HR director, bookkeeper, and janitor requires expert multitasking. “It’s very difficult to manage it all,” admits Monosoff, who leads a multi-million-dollar home-based business while raising two children and writing a monthly column for Entrepreneur Magazine. “You have to have discipline, organization, and be able to prioritize.”
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