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Jun 21, 2008

Parenting and Running a Home-Based Business

An Ann Landers column "Parenthood is not a job for the weak at heart" caught my interest.

Job Description for a Parent

Position: Parent

Job Description: Long-term player needed for challenging, permanent work in chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts. There is some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in faraway cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed.

Responsibilities: Must keep this job for the rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule. Must be willing to tackle stimulating technical challenges such as small gadget repair, sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must handle assembly and product safety testing , as well as floor maintenance and janitorial work. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and levels of mentality. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute and an embarrassment the next. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of end project.

Advancement and Promotion: There is no possibility of either. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

Previous Experience: None required, but on-the-job training is offered on a continually exhausting basis.

Wages: None. In fact, you must pay those in charge, offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 and attend college. When you die, you give them whatever income you have left.

Benefits: There is no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options. However, the job offers limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life.

This article is of special interest to those of us who work out of the home. Seeing this Ann Landers column made my think about why so many of us wanted to work out of our homes. One of the big reasons being to spend more time with our families. Balancing a family life and a home-based business can be a delicate one, especially when you look at all of the duties we have as a parent. Truthfully, it is amazing we get anything done at all.

If both partners or spouses are running the business there are some very different and other important factors to consider. Since we have already addressed and written articles on these issues, I will direct you to our website to the articles, Business / Marriage Partners: Will the Marriage Survive (Parts I & II)
http://www.homebusinesssolutions.com/homebusiness

There are some good rules however, to help you balance family and business.

Rule #1 - This is one of the most important rules. Yes, this is your home, but it is also my office. What that means is the things you use in your business (like computers, files, fax machine, business phone, supplies, etc.) are off limits to them.

Rule #2 - Set office hours. This lets your family members and friends know when it's okay to disturb you; when your day is done. This will avoid them taking you away from your work.

Rule #3 - No one but you answers your business line, and if your office is in part of the house, there is to be quiet when you are on the phone. I know sometime pandemonium breaks lose. Well on those occasions it does, don't answer the phone, let it go into voice mail and call back as soon as you can get away or get the situation under control. Almost all phones today have a mute button, use it, especially with young children that cry and scream.

Rule #4 - Establish rituals. Just like when you worked an outside job, you if dropped them off at the daycare, or their bus stop or school, even if you don't leave the house, when you are ready to go into your office, tell them good-bye. When you are done for the day, say "I'm home", or if you take a break say "I'm back for a bit", but be sure to tell them when you leave again, so they know you can't be interrupted.

Rule #5 - Follow the other rules. Be sure that the above rules are followed. This is the most important rule. Rules not only help you, they help your kids, family and friends draw the line between your work and your home day.

Some other tips are:

1. Keep a stash of kid stuff in your office. Get a variety of things like paper, stickers, crayons and games, in case your children are in your office and you need to take a call.

2. Get a cordless phone as an extension to your business line. When you enter the "home" part of your house, take the phone with you. If it rings, answer it and walk back to your "work space". Let your children, family and friends know that when this happens, they should try to be quiet until you are out of earshot or ask the person to hold, and press your hold or mute button until you are back in your "work area" or quiet space.

3. Understand it may not be easy, but if you train your children, family and friends to respect your time, space and need for concentration, both your work and family life will be easier.

Jun 19, 2008

Realization of Dreams

We all have dreams. Some of us dream about winning the lottery and never having to work again (also the most unrealistic dream). Others dream of going to college, retirement, travel. Still others dream of working from their home. Some even want to run their own business. Whatever your dreams are, the realization of them is extremely important. We need our dreams to keep us going.

For many of us our destiny is based on what dreams we have for ourselves. Think of your dreams as mini goals. There are certain things you want to do over the next month, over the next three months, six months, or the next year.

For those of you who believe your destiny is pre-determined and there is nothing you can do about it, I don't buy it. Yes, bad things happen. We all go through periods where it seems that nothing is going right for us. However, you can't sit there waiting for a miracle to happen. It doesn't work that way. In order to realize your dreams you have to make something happen. You and only you control your destiny and the realization of your dreams. You have to set mini goals for yourself, and if you have trouble realizing those goals, ask for help. We all have something we are good at. Some of us, however, need help developing our skills. So ask for help. Don't just decide you can't do it. Also don't make your goals unrealistic. Start with small goals and work from there.

Your dream might be to run your own business. However, before you can do that you have to become proficient in that area. In order to become proficient, you may have to take classes or work a job related to the business you want to run, to gain insight. Any other number of things might have to occur before you realize that dream.

While we all have our strong areas, and things that we are good at, they don't always mesh with what our dreams are. The skills you need to realize your dreams can be learned, but only if you ask for help. So, if the reason your dreams are not being realized is lack of skills, ask someone for help. You won't know if you are good or bad at something until you try. Yes, sometimes you might have to put aside certain dreams for others, however, that is part of the life process.

One of the best ways to move yourself toward the realization of your dreams is to visualize yourself doing what your dream is about. If it is retirement, visualize yourself during a typical day of your retirement. Visualize the home you live in, getting up, visualize your daily routine.

So, to realize your dreams, remember your destiny is based on what dreams you have for yourself, and you control that destiny.

Jun 17, 2008

Getting Started

One of the first things we do with our Partnering For Your Success students is to have them plan out how many hours they can spend on lease purchasing.

We know that many of you are working and want to start part-time. Well the best way to do this is to take a calendar and to put in the times you will work your lease purchasing business, or whatever business you want to get started.

Your initial planning is the key. The number of hours you can spend, getting your identity package done, setting up your office, making the contacts, making your calls, and setting your goals (both short term and long term). In effect, getting your ducks in order, being sure all your P&Q's are taken care of, and then just getting started.

However, the first step is yours. If after doing all the planning, you never make the commitment, all is lost. You have to implement the plan, and make the commitment to follow through.

And when there are bumps in the road, and believe us, there will be, ask for help, don't just give up. If you just give up, you'll never know what you could have accomplished. Think of the bumps as challenges, and learn from the bumps rather than just giving up. Nothing comes easy. You are not going to be a millionaire by next week (unless you win the lottery), it is not going to work on auto pilot, you need to stoke it and help it grow.

So start planning and doing today. Let this year be a new beginning for you. If you feel you can't do it on your own, check out our Partnering For Your Success program.

Jun 15, 2008

Home Based Real Estate Investing

So you want to work from your home, invest in real estate, and make a fortune...

Well, there are not too many more excuses that can be made in this day and age concerning working from home...

With so many multiple listing services constantly uploading fresh data to the web and the the niche sites for foreclosure data, the tools are quite readily available to begin a career in real estate right from your own home.

Now, the big million dollar question, are you motivated and focused to do so? This is really where the truth seems to hurt most.

I have personally been involved with an Online Foreclosure Multiple Listing Service http://www.foreclosurestore.com/index.php?p=zine for the past 6 years, and let me tell you, I have heard every excuse there pretty much is as to why people fail with the tools provided to them.

The biggest problem I find with people investing in real estate for the first time is a lack of patience. Things do not always happen instantly. The more anyone progresses in any business, they quicken their success by understanding their own mistakes, and hopefully from the mistakes of others. Whether you are a first time investor or seasoned pro, taking the time to understand each potential real estate deal is key. This is an example, I received a call from a lady who was unhappy with the listings that she was looking at. She starts the call off with me very upset and quite frantic. I punch up the zipcode that she was searching in and quite a few properties come up from the query. I then ask the woman why would she be upset when there are so many properties to possibly get involved with, she replies "I don't have the time to pursue so many listings", so now I think to myself, at one moment in the not so distant past this lady has come up with the bright idea of owning a home for whatever reason, she purchases a membership to a service that allows her the luxury of reviewing homes from the comfort of her own home, yet she has no time? Well, now I have to ask why she has no time, meanwhile in my head I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt with rationals like, she's probably working fulltime, is a single mom, etc. etc...This is not the case...her husband works fulltime, she stays at home, no kids, and is trying to undertake a career in real estate...WOW!, no time, eh? I decided to basically dismiss this person after that comment and realized that her membership to our listing service would soon collect dust just like any exercise equipment she may have invested in.

This brings me to the real meat of what I have to say here. Whatever it takes for you as an individual to become self motivated and organized is truely up to you! It really starts and ends with YOU! Of course understanding and learning are quite key to any endeavor, but the motivation and focus needs to start with you. Think about it, you can review and inquire on properties right from your home, you can find free credit reports pretty much anywhere online, you can apply for loans online to fund your ventures, and you can even buy how-to materials or even get a personal real estate coach these days...no excuse in the tool department...also a bit of advice, if you find after reading this article that you have had a few moments in your life with past attempts at anything like exercise equipment, courses on anything, dieting, saving money, or whatever, go and dig them out of your closet and make the most out of them as possible...how could you repeatedly make the largest purchase any American will make(buying a home) if you are carrying the weight of failing yourself or letting yourself down...you owe it to your self to do what you say you are going to do for yourself. This is how a network of real estate contacts starts, this is how a portfolio of real estate investments gets built, this is how balance and happiness is brought to your life.

Always take notes!

Best wishes on your endeavors...and remember to do what you say you are going to do for yourself!

Jun 13, 2008

Does Your Business Need An Attitude Adjustment

First you need to: Change your attitude. I know you feel you have a good reason for feeling bad. However, instead of moaning and groaning about why me, ask yourself how you can turn the situation around. It’s better than feeling sorry for yourself, and a lot more productive. You may not have all the answers you need immediately. It is important, though, that you are asking questions. Eventually you will ask the right questions, and move forward.

Second, it is very important that you believe that you have the power to change things. The one thing to take from the past is the experience of success. Like us, many people “have had it and lost it and have had it again”. As we discuss in our book, “Who Makes It Happen We Do”, we lost it for a while, but we got it back. As we state in our book and constantly to our students, “who makes it happen, you do!” You have to believe you can be successful, to be successful!

If you haven’t had the experience of creating a business success or earning a lot of money; then you need to get a mental picture of a time when you made a wise choice or acted in a certain way. For example, having the suggestion you made at work implemented. Getting down to a weight goal you set for yourself. Winning a tournament or championship in a particular sport. Closing your eyes and getting a mental picture of yourself succeeding or a mental picture of yourself in a more positive time is a very popular technique.

Third, you need to work harder and smarter. As we have stated before, you are not going to be a millionaire overnight, unless you win the lottery; and we all know what your chances of that happening are. The surest way to make money is the old fashioned way, working for it. When you’re starting a new business, expect to work harder for months, even several years. If you can, hire someone or buy a piece of equipment that saves you time. If all your time is spent producing the product or if you are concentrating only on the supply end, you miss the big picture. You need to be able to see the big picture, to set goals for the future, and make decisions, in fact, some very important ones, to keep your business ahead of the competition. In order to succeed, you need to be able to focus clearly. This means that you need to take the time, away from the work environment, so you can think, without all the distractions and pressure. So your think time needs to be in a calm and serene environment. If that occurs while in your car, walking, exercising, the spa, the shower, whatever, go there.

Fourth, you need to keep focusing on what you want. Unfortunately for too many individuals all the focus is on the negatives. They focus more on why they can’t do it, instead of the positive, and because of this their business failures become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Fear can be very debilitating to the business person, especially in the finance area. If you are fearful of financial disaster you may head toward it instead of taking the risks necessary to become successful. You need to focus on what you want for your business, to be ready for the challenges that will come your way, and then do whatever it takes to make it work.

Five, instead of looking at the recession as an excuse, see it as a time of opportunity. Economic down turns sometimes will open up different opportunities for your business. During these times, people need and want value for their money. Instead of replacing an item, they will repair it. During this time, you may be able to buy equipment or inventory for less. Think ahead. Remember, business growth tends to be erratic with growth spurts and setbacks. You need to believe in what you are doing. You are in business for the long run so learn to deal with the ups and downs. Realize that you will prevail in the long run, since your product or service has value and appeal.

Six, you also need to look ahead by staying on top of changes. Keep in touch with innovations in technology and how they effect your business. Don’t purchase something because it is the latest and greatest, if you don’t need it. However, if a piece of equipment or certain marketing methods will help you reach your goals, save you time or help you run your business better, invest in it.

Seven, be aware that political or social changes that can make a difference, too. They can mean that your whole market is changing. Read everything you can get your hands on, stay tuned in to all the media and don’t forget to be aware of what your competition is doing. You need to keep asking yourself,” How can I cash in on this new trend?” and “What do I have to do to catch up?”

And last but not least, realize that there are going to be certain areas of your business you are better at than others. Let’s say you manufacture and sell cassette holders. You are great at selling them, but not very good with the manufacturing end. Once you find what you can do better than any one else, keep doing it. You’ll not only stay in business through tough times, you’ll stay ahead.

Jun 11, 2008

Goal Setting for your Home Business

The ability to set goals and effectively motivate yourself to achieve them are two essential skills that will help you achieve success in you home business.

To try and start a business without goals could be compared to throwing a baseball pitch, blindfolded in the dark. What would be your chance of getting your pitch on target? Never mind getting a strike-out. Unless you are very lucky it is unlikely that you will have any success without properly setting out goals.

If when you start your home business, in what ever field it maybe, if you have no goals and aim at nothing, is it not unlikely that you will hit nothing and achieve nothing?

To set effective goals there are a few things you need to know about yourself which will affect how you set your goals. You are affected by, the environment in which you live, your experience and knowledge, your attitude and dreams and visions for the future.

When you set your goals you need to decide what you want and when you want to achieve each goal. You should spend time writing down your goals and display them in a prominent position where you will see them daily to remind yourself to stay motivated and focused. Cross off your goals once they’ve been achieved, adding new ones to ensure your business keeps growing.

“Don’t set your Goals to low. If you don’t need much, you won’t become much”. - - Jim Rohn - -

I’m sure you will have come across the SMART analogy, with regards to goal setting. It contains the most important concepts to consider and adhere to when setting your goals.

Goals should be; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time related.

For example it would be unwise to set a goal of making $10,000 in a week, it’s just not a realistic goal for the average person, unless you have a lot of experience and knowledge in your field or receive help from someone who has these attributes. When you failed to reach this goal your motivation would suffer and you might start doubting your decision to start your home business.

Before you start setting your goals I want you to write a list of all the things you want; whether it is a new car, watch, house, to send your kids through college or a successful home business, write them all down and say why you want them. When I did this I had a list the length of my arm and I’m still working through it 3 years on. By doing this it will help focus your mind and motivate yourself to succeed.

Now set your goals, they need to be SMART and you need to set both short term and long term goals, and also daily goals. One of the best techniques I use is to set 6 goals before I go to bed for the next day and prioritise them so I know clearly in my mind what I have to do the next day.

All successful people set goals and prioritise them in order of importance. Remember your time is your most important asset; you simply cannot afford to waste it.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. -- Aristotle –

When you are in business for yourself, you are the primary motivating factor, if your truly want your home business to succeed you will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

By making goal setting a habit there is no reason why you cannot achieve excellence.

Jun 9, 2008

How Beets Changed My Life

If there was one thing I hated as a kid, it was beets. I couldn't stand the look of them. Or the taste of them... although, I'm not sure I remember ever actually eating one. I just knew I would hate them.

And so, my whole life I've held to the belief that I hate beets. Until recently. I was at one of those huge salad bar restaurants and there they were. My husband loves beets, and he was heaping them onto his plate.

"Come on, try one. You've never even had one, have you?", he cajoled.

So, I did the unthinkable. I ate one.

And it was good! To think I'd been missing out all this time just because of a stubborn opinion I'd formed as a kid.

So what does this have to do with working at home? My point here is that I once felt the same way about home business opps.

When I first quit my job to stay at home with my kids, I wanted only to find a telecommute job. No business opps. No Network Marketing. No way. For reasons that escape me now, I had no desire to start a business. In fact, I had a negative impression of business opps in general. I thought most of them were thinly veiled pyramid schemes (even though I'm not sure I really knew then what constituted a pyramid scheme).

Eventually though, I succumbed to one of those "Mom's Needed!" ads and I signed up with a --gasp-- Network Marketing company. I liked their product, which had educational value for kids and I actually made a little bit of money. In fact, this is where I got the money to start my current business, 2Work-At-Home.com.

In the beginning, my husband was beyond skeptical (yet this was the very same person who convinced me to eat beets....), but after a year of toiling my efforts were really starting to pay off. I was able to pay bills. I was even able to start getting some of those extras that we wanted.

So, here I was a home business owner, even though I had started out with the firm and non-negotiable goal of securing a telecommute job. And you know what? I think I'm much happier running my own business than I ever would have been working for a company.

Who'd have thought that beets could change someone's life?

Jun 7, 2008

5 Good Reasons You Should Stop Looking For a Work at Home Job

Looking for a work at home job? I’ll give you 5 good reasons
why you should consider starting a home business instead.

1. Telecommuting jobs are rare- are you? The only real
work at home jobs out there are for highly specialized skills
like programming, translation, transcription and such. What
they all have in common is that they require special training
and employers that hire telecommuters always require
experienced candidates- experts in their field. Employers
just don’t hire people to do things like typing from their
homes.

A home business can be anything you want it to be. You get to
follow your passion and do something that you truly enjoy. I
think that if we all couldn’t wait to leap out of bed each
morning because we loved what we do, the world would be a much
happier place. So, unless you have a passion for learning
MYSQL / SQL database structure or how to translate medical
documents from English to Japanese, a home business can offer
endless possibilities in an area that interests you.

2. Telecommuting jobs don’t afford as much flexibility as
you might think. Your boss picks your clients and coworkers,
not you. You may or may not like the people you find yourself
working with day after day, which can be like a slow form of
torture.

With your business you choose who your client will be. Maybe
you want to start a business that has to do with kids and all
your clients have kids at home with them. They would be more
likely to understand and appreciate kid noise in the
background while on the phone with you. You get to create
your own “company culture”.

3. You’re not in control of your job security.
Corporate downsizing will still apply and even if you have
that rare and special skill that they once found
indispensable, you might find yourself back on the job search
track. Also, unless you have a written agreement that your
telecommuting arrangement is set in stone, employers can pull
you back into the office at their discretion.

4. Big brother will be there looking over your shoulder.
Employers need to know that their employees are being
productive. They just can’t help themselves. This puts more
pressure on you to meet deadlines, to prove that you will be
at least as efficient (if not more efficient) that your on-
site coworkers. Even companies that champion telecommuting
often have strict checks and balances to ensure that you’re
not lying around watching television or heading off to the
beach. Supervisors are often suspicious to the point of
micromanaging their telecommuters.

You just can’t afford to be lured away by the many
distractions of the home office. The television beckons, the
kids want your attention, you just want to get a load of
laundry in…. This is not to say that you can succumb to these
distractions as a home business owner, but the difference is
that you call the shots.

With your own home business, you are Big Brother, Big Sister,
The Big Cheese- your own boss. You set the goals and the pace
and it’s up to no one but you how and when you meet them.

5. And lastly, but most importantly… when you are a home
business owner you get to take a vacation whenever you want.
Could there be a better reason to stop looking for a
telecommute job and start a home business?

Jun 5, 2008

Pull Them, Don't Push Them

This article is primarily directed toward people who work at home in a business that happens to involve network marketing.

I am often contacted by members of my business team with complaints regarding a lack of response or lack of action on the part of their affiliates. Their complaints typically go something like..."I send out lots of emails to all of them and I very rarely get any response and it seems like very few of them are taking any action. What am I doing wrong?".

There are many types of internet-based home businesses where feedback and interaction are quite important and getting anaffiliate or business team member to communicate with you is adefinite objective. It's not at all surprising that this can bea challenge when you stop to think that what you are trying to dois initiate a dialog between two complete strangers who have never even seen each other.

In the case of network marketing, it is of critical importance to build a sense of trust with your team members. Network marketing is very definitely a relationship business and each relationship typically starts out with two complete strangers sitting at their respective keyboards.

The team building aspect of network marketing is of vital importance to the success of each individual member and to the team as a whole. Two key elements of team building are trust andconfidence and these factors play a very large role, particularlyfor new team members.

With all that being said, many people love the IDEA of making goodmoney working at home in their own business and expect it to just "happen", but have no willingness to take any action or put forthany effort to make it happen.

Having been involved with team building and network marketing forsome time, I have come to adopt the following as my operatingcredo..."if you have the desire and are willing to put in the effort, I'll pull you along so you can go faster down the road to success, but if you don't want move on your own, I'm not going to waste my time trying to push you forward".

Its like working with a length of chain...pulling it along worksfine, but trying it push it forward only results in a pile offrustration.

You need to be able to distinguish between people that have a legitimate interest in developing a home based business and those lost souls that feel that they have just joined another chat group and only want to engage in an endless "debate" about the virtues of whatever business you are promoting, but never actually had any intention of establishing a business...you will have to develop your own method of reading people like this (its mainly a sense of feel...sort of a belly button thing).

You can help someone reach for success...but you can't reasonably expect to make them want to be successful. Its just another variation of that very old and tired cliche...that "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink".

Another way of looking at it is if you are trying to move peopleforward, you pull them from in front (a leadership position), butif you have to push them it will be from behind (not a position of leadership).

Jun 3, 2008

Working at Home and Making It Work

Working at home can seem like the ideal situation - no commuting hassles, more time to spend with the family, the freedom to set your own work hours. In reality, though, combining your home and office environments presents many special challenges. If you want to make working at home work for you, you need to understand those challenges and meet them head on.

Choose the right business. Not every business can be run successfully from home. Consider the appropriateness of your business as a homebased business. A business that involves large machinery, lots of inventory, frequent truck deliveries and pickups, or lots of foot traffic from customers or associates is not a good candidate.

Be professional. Contrary to the popular stereotype of homebased entrepreneurs being able to "work in their pajamas", you must be businesslike and project a professional image if you want to be seen as running a legitimate business. Keep regular office hours, get business stationery printed up, have a business phone and voice mail or message system, and keep your office neat, organized, and attractive.

Optimize your work space. Don't make do with a makeshift work space. Locate your office in an area of your home that can be dedicated to business activities and affords you some privacy. Choose a space as far as possible from street noise and other distractions. Invest in functional furniture and the right equipment and set up your home office in a way that lets you be comfortable, productive, and organized.

Minimize distractions and interruptions. Staying focused is hard enough without the additional distraction of friends calling, neighbors dropping by, and children clamoring for attention. Screen your phone calls and filter your emails. Let your friends and relatives know what your work hours are and explain that during those hours you'll be at home working.

Plan your work and work your plan. Use a "to do list" every day with the tasks you need to accomplish in order of decreasing priority. At the end of the day check your progress, and put any unfinished tasks at the beginning of the next day's list.

Set goals and evaluate your progress. Setting goals and tracking your progress toward them will give direction to your efforts and keep you moving forward. Set both long-term and short-term goals that are realistic given your resources and that produce measurable results, then reward yourself every time you reach one of your goals.

Separate your home and work lives. Keep your work life separate from your home life as much as possible, both physically and emotionally. Keep your work space off limits to household members and ask them to respect your work hours by not interrupting you unless absolutely necessary. If you have kids who aren't old enough to amuse themselves while you work, hire a sitter to keep them occupied while you concentrate on work.

Keep your balance. Don't let work dominate every aspect of your life. Commit to a "quitting time" and stick to it unless a real emergency arises. Take a break and devote some time to your hobbies, getting together with friends, a change of scenery, getting some exercise, or just doing nothing. You'll come back to your work refreshed and stave off burnout.

Get some help. Don't feel you have to do everything yourself. As your business grows, use some of the profits to hire help. Outsource, streamline, or automate where you can and hire an assistant (or a "virtual assistant") to help you if the work load has become more than you can reasonably manage.

Jun 1, 2008

Set Up Your Home Office

Running your business from a home office saves money, spares you a daily commute, and gives you control over your work environment. A desire to work at home may even be the reason you're in business in the first place. The advantages are pretty obvious, but merging your office and home does present some challenges. You'll probably be spending a lot of time there, so careful planning will go a long way toward making it all work.

To create the ideal work space, you'll need to take into consideration the nature of your business, your own work style, and the other members of your household. Pay attention to the environmental factors that make your home office a healthy, safe, and pleasant work environment. The goal is to make your home office a place where you can be comfortable, organized, and productive.

Location: Your first consideration will probably be the right location for your office. It should be convenient, roomy enough for your furniture and equipment, and relatively private with minimal distractions. Taking over a spare room in your house is ideal, but if that's not an option choose a suitable area in your home, set it up permanently for your business activities, and declare it off limits to the rest of the household. Don't plan on working from your kitchen table -it's just too inconvenient and time consuming to clear it off every time you want to get some work done.

Access: If you expect to have clients and colleagues visiting, try to have a separate entrance so they won't have to walk through the living areas of your house to get to your office (and you won't have to feel embarrassed if your house is less than tidy!). Being able to see the street and driveway from your office is ideal, since you'll be able to see any visitors or delivery trucks as they arrive. Separate your home and business lives as much as possible, both for the sake of professionalism and the privacy of other household members.

Wiring and cabling: Another consideration is electrical wiring and cabling. You'll need to have enough outlets to accommodate your computer and all your peripheral devices, plus any lamps, clocks and other electronic devices. You may need to hire an electrician to do some additional wiring to accommodate all the electronic devices your office requires. You'll also need enough phone lines and jacks for your business phone, fax machine, and Internet access if you're using a dial-up connection. You'll need a DSL or cable connection if you want high speed Internet access.

Lighting and ventilation: Your office should should be climate controlled with adequate ventilation, both for your sake and your computer's (operating your computer at high temperatures can damage it). It should also be relatively clean and dust-free, since dust and dirt can also damage your electronic equipment. Natural light is easiest on the eyes, but you'll obviously need lighting fixtures after dark. Use more than one light source in different spots to balanced lighting and buy bulbs that provide a soft glow. Place the main lighting source above and behind you so light will come over your shoulder(s) onto your computer screen and desk without creating glare.

Desk or workstation: Your desk is the central piece of furniture in your office space and the most critical in terms of your productivity. You need a desk or table with room for your computer, monitor and peripheral devices, plus a work surface with room for your papers, notes and anything else you want to keep handy. Another option is a multi-purpose "workstation" that accommodates your computer system, printer, and phone along with some storage space for books and CDs. If space is very limited, using a simple computer stand that holds just your computer system may be the best option.

Other furnishings: Invest in a good desk chair that is comfortable, durable, and adjustable to be ergonomically correct for you. Choose one with arms and lower back support to prevent fatigue. Not only will you be far more productive in a chair that "fits", but it will help you avoid back strain and carpal tunnel syndrome. If you'll be using your office to meet with clients and colleagues, include a few guest chairs and a table where you can sit down together for meetings and consultations. A combination bulletin board and chalk board or write-on board give you a handy place to stash business cards and clippings and jot down notes to yourself.

Ambience: After you have all the essentials, add some personal touches to create a pleasant work environment. Decorate your office in a way that relects your taste and personality, creates an upbeat mood, and motivates you to do your best. Surround yourself with pictures and objects that relax, amuse or inspire you. Use color in your paint or wallcovering, fabrics and artwork to set the mood. Your work space can be soothing or energizing, depending on the color scheme you choose.

Personal touches: Some possibilities for personalizing your office are family photos, a globe, your kids' artwork, mementos and objects with sentimental value, framed quotes or motivational sayings, a table top fountain, small sculptures, a fish tank, photos from nature, a wall mural, a radio or sound system, or a small TV. One of the biggest perks of working at home is having the freedom to personalize your work space, so be creative in setting up the ideal work environment for you.

Safety and security: If your office has an outside door or a door that opens to the rest of the house, make sure they're securely locked when you're not in the office and consider an alarm system as well. Not only are your computer and other office equipment valuable, but lost data may be irreplaceable. Your home office may become a target for thieves, and it's worth the effort to protect both your investment and your personal safety. Installing a smoke detector is a must. Hopefully you'll never need it, but as they say, better safe than sorry.