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Choosing a Home-Based Franchise

Home-based franchise businesses appeal to entrepreneurs for many good reasons. For some, it is a relief from the daily commute; for others it represents a break from the corporate rat race; for still others it means a chance to follow their passion and do what they love. But for all, it's a chance to take control of their financial future and build a business of their own.

However many the attractions of working for yourself out of your own home, it's still hard work with its own, unique set of challenges. One of the first is to determine what kind of person you are. Do you like to stay at home and work on your own, or do you like to get out in your community and meet your customers face to face? Are you a hands-on type, or do you like to manage a staff while you stay at home and work on growing your new business? Are you interested in doing something you're passionate about, or is money your prime objective?

Another important challenge is to ask yourself if you have all the tools to start, manage, and expand the business you choose. Running your own business from home will demand a set of skills you didn't need in your life as an employee. These include knowing about financial management, legal issues, tax issues, local zoning, insurance, suppliers, marketing, human resources (hiring, firing, compensating, and retaining employees), setting up a home office (and all the technology that goes with it), and any and all business-related issues, expected or not, that are sure to arise.

You can learn much of this from your franchisor, who should provide you with a training program that covers these areas. Since a franchise company's success - in fact, its very existence - depends on the royalties it receives from its franchisees, your franchisor should be very interested in preparing and training you to succeed.

One more thing: Do you have the desire, motivation, and organizational know-how to get up every day and do what needs to be done? Can you resist the temptation of your family, neighbors, and friends and say, "Sorry, I'm at work. Can we talk after 7 p.m?" Distractions are inevitable - the load of wash, the breakfast dishes, the afternoon nap. Can you bear down and focus on your business without a boss looking over your shoulder?

While the autonomy and flexibility of a home-based business are a real plus (along with no office rent and eliminating the wear and tear of commuting), success requires the ability to shut out distractions, temptations, phone calls, and the unexpected. Sure, build in breaks for exercise, take a walk, and eat a healthy lunch - but keep your nose to the grindstone because if you don't get it done, it doesn't get done.

And in case your passion is seasoned with a slight dose of uncertainty, it's worth looking for the increasing number of franchisors that offer a part-time version of their home-based concept. The advantage of this, of course, is that you can keep your day job… just in case.

Once you have that worked out (no simple task), it's time to look at the different concepts that might match your vision and your dream - and your budget. How much can you spend to become a franchisee, and still leave enough in the bank to support the business during its startup years? It's time to get real.

As noted above, there are all kinds of segments and sectors to choose from. Let's take a look at some of them, arranged roughly by category:

Business services - Accounting, billing, financial services, and tax preparation are popular for former white-collar workers; so are coaching, training, and consulting. Businesses also need to be kept clean, providing opportunities for janitorial services in large commercial buildings and small private establishments. Ever notice all the plants when you visit a dentist or a professional office? Somebody has to supply and care for them. It could be you (or your employees).

Home improvement and maintenance - One of the maxims of home ownership is, "Everything breaks." Your opportunity is to fix or repair it, opening the door for handyman services (electric, plumbing, HVAC, etc.), home renovation from kitchens and garages to decks and landscaping and lawn care. And don't forget furniture repair, floor refinishing, painting, and restoration services after a flood, fire, hurricane, or too many years of family living.

Senior care and services - This sector, already growing rapidly, is expected to expand even faster in the coming decades as the Baby Boomers become the Elder Set. This means a boom in at-home senior care, from cooking and cleaning to transportation and basic medical care. It also means remodeling homes for access and safety.

Computers and technology - As technology continues to expand its role in everyday life, so do opportunities to help people manage it. These include IT services for home and/or business; building websites; after-school computer classes for children (or adults); installing home entertainment systems; and appliance repair.

Pets - Even in times of recession, people continue spending money on their precious Muffy and Spike. Opportunities in this sector include pet walking, pet washing, pet care, and pet cleanup (yes, there are franchised poop-scooping businesses, several in fact!)

Specialized services - A wide, ever-changing, and growing variety of options in specialized, home-based services continue to appear in the franchise marketplace. Examples include real estate, home inspection, detective work (online or in the field), franchise consulting, photography, DNA testing, drug testing, and coupons (online or on paper).

Special events - All those kiosks and mobile food and beverage stands at sporting events, concerts, fairs, parades, and street corners have to come from somewhere! Some of them come from franchisees who wheel them out on weekends and evenings. Not exactly home-based, but you don't need an office and your hours are your own. And for many who thrive in this environment, it could lead to a full-time retail site. After all, many great businesses have started out at home (whether on the kitchen table or in the garage)?

This brings up another important point: After running your business all day, can you "turn it off" and spend quality time with your mate and your family? Workaholics may drive their business to success, but they also can drive their family and friends crazy. Another critical skill is learning to balance your family and personal life, to have your financial goals serve your life goals. You want to run your business, not have it run you.

Whether you like to get out and provide hands-on care or manage a staff from an office, any of these sectors and subsectors could be your ticket to self-employment and securing your financial future. So once you have your house in order (literally and figuratively) and your priorities straight, it's time to go for the gold!

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