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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

I'm looking into working at home. What do you do? How do you find people to work for or how do you advertise your business and your skills?

Laura

Answer from our Guest Expert Allison Gaea Jucha of Yes!Coaching

Dear Laura:

The work-at-home movement has returned and it's healthy and strong! It seems there's no end to what you can do in an at-home job. You may work for yourself or someone else. You may come up with a product or service to offer or join forces with a legitimate network marketing group. You might even find yourself partnering up with other like-minded people in your town to form a business together. Work-at-home possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Starting Your Own Business

This is the trickiest of all possibilities because as your own boss, you're also the accounting department, marketing department, management, employee, public relations department, CEO, receptionist...Well, I think you get the idea. It's the entrepreneurial spirit that keeps business fresh, however, so don't let the scope of the challenge intimidate you if that's what you really want!

Talk to friends who've started their own businesses. Research through informational interviews. Call your local Chamber of Commerce and ask for member referrals. Tell them what you're up to and what you'd like to know. If you know what type of business you'd like to start, get in touch with your potential competition (or partners). Ask how they got started, what obstacles they've overcome, what they attribute to their success.

If you're going to be seeking capital to fund your start-up, check into government grants and loans for women in business. Private businesses sometimes look for creative ways to "spend" dollars. They may sponsor an educational program your business provides to their employees or the community at large. Don't forget to get a how-to book to walk you through writing a business plan. Even if you don't plan to ask for bank or government loans or grants, it's a great help to visualizing the business in its "business" rather than visionary glory.

Working For An Established Business

Many businesses, large and small, outsource work to employees or independent contractors. Whatever your expertise, you may find you have the solution to an existing problem that can best be approached outside the confines of administrative or manufacturing headquarters. Small businesses often hire out for marketing and design, accounting, product testing, employee training. Larger companies may already have telecommuting employees. This type of arrangement provides at-home work and a steady paycheck to boot!

Creating Business Through Alliance

While this isn't really its own type-of-work category, it's an effective path to developing your own work situation. Using skills and contacts you already have, you may be able to take that million-dollar idea and create alliances that bring it to fruition. Burger King was floundering in the market until it joined with Disney and their "Lion King" marketing sweep. Families started pouring in the doors because of this successful alliance. Without actually working for someone else, you add value and profit to both you and them by solving their problem with your solution.

Network Marketing

This is kind of a cross between starting your own business and working for someone else. Legitimate network marketing companies are proliferating because of the quality of merchandise, easy delivery system, and merchandise guarantees. If you elect to join the "downline" of someone you know, you should expect to be supported on a grand scale in getting your business started. After all, for your "upline" to earn passive income, you must be wildly successful. Companies such as Amway offer such a wide variety of products; you may easily pick and choose which products you'd like to focus on in your business. Others, such as Excel, a phone service, offer a narrower range of products or services. But in all of these companies, you won't have to reinvent the wheel. Paperwork, accounting, shipping, ordering have all been developed to work as efficiently as possible, and you will get much help learning the how-to's.

Getting Seen

As for advertising and getting known, that will depend much on what type of work you do at home. Again, alliances may provide the marketing your ideas require to become profitable. If you're starting your own business, you may find networking (through business conferences, local Chamber of Commerce, etc.), word-of-mouth sales, and other low- to no-cost marketing enough to jumpstart your business. Other marketing efforts include media coverage, paid advertising, speaking engagements, and even volunteering your services or products for the publicity or in exchange for endorsement.

Being Free

Work at home sounds great, but keep in mind why you want to work at home. Individuals who start their own businesses often work more hours than they did at a "normal" job, but many feel ultimately more satisfied because the choices are in their hands. If you hope to integrate work and family, spend some time planning office space, child care, working hours. Whatever home life you picture as perfect for you, remember to create a work possibility that suits your criteria.

Until 100 years ago, almost everyone worked at home! With advances in communication and technology, more and more employees are shifting to home offices. We no longer need to deny that we have home lives, just because we need work lives. You're not alone in your desire to balance these two major aspects of your life. Keep asking questions and researching the possibilities and you'll find what fits your needs.

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