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Posted on Oct 17, 2011

6 Questions For Potential Franchisees Considering Home-Based Businesses

With the rise of more effective personal communications technologies, from instant messaging to social media to ever-more capable, blue-tooth-enabled smartphones, the dream of rolling out of bed and shuffling to your home-based franchise, coffee mug in hand, has never been more achievable.  As people discover that with a little practice they can use Twitter, Facebook, G-Chat, Google Voice, Skype, and other tools to work with people thousands of miles away as though they were working from the same office, the question has changed from whether you can work from home to whether you should.

There are so many franchise opportunities today covering such a wide range of industries that almost any work arrangement imaginable is possible.  Running a franchise from home gives people the freedom to control their schedule and timetable, set their own hours, and avoid increasingly hellish commutes.  On the other hand, many people feel they are unproductive in a home office setting and, worse, that they are unable separate their work life from their home life.

The best thing about working in an office is the general feeling of work all around you. Everyone is immersed in their job, and there is a certain amount of accountability in the workplace. You can get up for a coffee run several times a day, take a long lunch break, even come in an hour or two late, but there is little chance that you would put your feet up on the desk and watch re-runs of The Sopranos all day.  Similarly, to a franchise's customer, a proper office can lend an air of professionalism, while a home office may strike potential clients as undisciplined or too informal.

On the other hand, there are many reasons that a person with the right routine could effectively work from home.  Mary Cunningham, for example, a Decorating Den franchisee, supports the home-based option without hesitation. "I am very disciplined and usually work seven days a week," says Cunningham. She adds that she prefers "working from the home [more] than from an office. I still deal with people all the time, but I don't have to put up with all the personality problems in the office."

Many people might find themselves nodding along to Mary's frustration with office personalities, while others feels that having all those different people around is what helps get them through the day!  Making your own choice between investing in a home-based franchise vs. an office-based business requires an honest personal assessment. The following questions will help guide you through the decision process.

1. Am I self-motivated?

Are you like Mary Cunningham, who can work just as well at home as she does in the office?  In other words, are you disciplined enough to set clear priorities, translate them into both short-term and long-term goals, and then methodically follow through on those tasks every day, even if you are surrounded by all of the distractions of home?  You may face a similar situation when you are home for the weekend with a list of chores that need to get tackled, so a great proxy for your ability to work from home would be to ask yourself how effective you usually are in accomplishing what you put on your weekend to-do list.

2. Do I have a reason for wanting to work out of my home other than just saving money?

If money is the main priority, it's unlikely that you will be able to really save just by working from home. If the office is where you get the majority of your work done, you should try to increase productivity while at work.  Don't consider your office a "luxury" - it's your place of work and therefore extremely important to your overall effectiveness and job performance.

3. Am I organized and resourceful?

There may be certain things you take for granted in an office setting, such as the receptionist who does all of the filing, faxing, calendar organization, etc. Although these tasks may seem small and menial, they can be killers of productivity if not managed effectively. If you lack the organization skills and resourcefulness to handle these administrative elements, you may consider hiring a virtual assistant to take on some of the load.

When you're juggling multiple responsibilities and trying to push forward with the day-to-day of your business, these "menial tasks" can really slow you down.  If you can't manage these responsibilities by yourself and you refuse - or can't afford - to hire some part-time or virtual help, a home office may not be the appropriate setting for your franchise.

4. Am I comfortable working alone?

Sometimes people who live and work in the same place get a claustrophobic feeling. You should be able to feel confident working alone. Ways to prevent this feeling would be to consider your office really "going to work." Get up everyday and shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc. before heading into your home office. This will help form a mental boundary between your lazy days in pajamas and your productive work days. Some home-office workers feel it is beneficial to go even further, purposefully scheduling outside meetings, lunch dates, sales calls, etc. to get away from familiar settings on a regular basis.  If all of this sounds like it defeats the entire purpose of a home-based business, then you're probably considering going into a home-based franchise for the wrong reasons.

5. Does your house have the necessary space and facilities for operating a home-based business?

This is very important; don't just assume your living room sofa will double as your office chair. You need a clearly delineated personal area that is reserved strictly for work.  This space should include a spacious desk, computer, fax machine, printer, file cabinet, etc. There should be a door between your home office and the rest of the house, so that if your family is at they house, there is a physical boundary to indicate when you're working and when you are not.

6. Will your family support your decision to operate a home-based franchise?

Although you will technically be "at home" every day, that shouldn't mean that you are always free for chores, appointments, etc. Your family must understand that although you are working from home, you require the same privacy and ability to concentrate as when you used to go into the office.  You shouldn't have to constantly leave your office and break up your day.

Before you dive into any business, whether home-based or office-based,  it's critical that you pause to understand what you're actually get into.

For more guidance on deciding between home-based and more traditional franchise options, you can read FranchiseHelp's discussion of Home-Based Franchises vs. Offices / Restaurants / Stores (part of our Choosing the Right Franchise series).

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