You may want a job to earn extra income or to put your unique talents into action. But you may also be hesitant to take on a traditional job that requires you to work a fixed schedule in an office outside your home. What you want is flexibility, which is just what a home business offers.

Even if you've never thought of yourself as an entrepreneur, you can be successful if God leads you to start a home business and you rely on Him for guidance and strength as you do it.

Here are some ways you can effectively start a business based out of your home:

  • Pray about a potential home business venture, asking God to make it clear to you whether it is His will for you to proceed. If God calls you to undertake the effort, have courage. Remember that, although it won't be easy, it will be worthwhile and an enriching adventure for you. Have confidence in your potential to succeed, and commit yourself to doing your best.

  • Set boundaries so your business doesn't overtake other areas of your life. Be sure to allocate the proper time to your relationship with God, your family and friends, your health (through enough sleep and exercise, for example), etc. Decide how many hours you would like to work per week, and don't work any more.

  • Consider what you're interested in and what you have the talent to do before choosing a specific type of home business. Don't waste your time starting a business in a field that isn't right for you because you're simply trying to make money. You must love what you do to do it well, and if you do it well, the money will follow.

  • Ask yourself how the product or service you're planning to offer will be unique. Think about the type of people who will be in your market, and how your product or service will meet their needs better than any products or services currently available to them.

  • Research as much as you can to prepare for your business. Find out what zoning regulations govern your neighborhood so you'll know whether it's legal for you to operate a business out of your home, and if so, what rules you need to follow. Obtain appropriate trademarks, patents, or copyrights for your work. Study tax regulations and follow them when setting up your financial system. Be sure to keep your business finances completely separate from your personal finances.

  • Study what your costs will likely be and figure out how much you should charge for your product or service.

  • Seek support from people with experience. Talk to others who are operating businesses in the same field - for example, other accountants if you're planning to start a tax preparation business - for advice. (Once you've established your business, be willing to give others advice.) Contact your local Small Business Development Center, county extension office, or other organization dedicated to providing support - often free! - to small business owners. Ask lots of questions.

  • Get your family's support before proceeding, and make sure they know what you expect of them. For example, let your spouse know your office hours so he or she will know not to interrupt you during those times.

  • If at all possible, keep your home office separate from other areas of your house, and install a separate phone line for business use only.

  • Start out small, and work diligently from there. Don't go into debt from buying expensive equipment or supplies you don't need, and don't hire employees until you absolutely have to do so.

  • Persevere. Realize that it will likely take a while to build your business to the level you would like to achieve. Learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward.

  • Be professional. Don't treat your business like a hobby just because you operate it from your home. Strive to give your customers your best and to make a profit.

  • Publicize your business. Network with people through your local chamber of commerce and trade associations. Send press releases to the business section editor of your local newspaper.

Adapted from Home Business Happiness, copyright 1996 by Cheri Fuller. Published by Starburst Publishers, Lancaster, Pa., www.starburstpublishers.com, 1-800-441-1456.

Cheri Fuller has authored numerous books and magazine articles. A wife and mother, she also writes a regular column for Homework, a national home business magazine.

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