You’ve probably read the statistics on home-based business growth in the U.S.A. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2012 data, about 50% of all small businesses in the U.S. are home-based businesses. Of those, 60.1% of firms without paid employees are home based, and, 23.3% of small employer firms are home based. According to the SBA, “The industries in which businesses are most likely to be home-based are information (70.0%), construction (68.2%), and professional, scientific, and technical services (65.3%).”
- Read more small business stats in this SBA fact sheet (PDF).
- Read more about the steady increase in home-based workers since 1999.
Do You Have the Right Skills to Start and Run a Home-Based Business?
Not everyone is suited to working in a home-based business. Starting your business if fraught with uncertainty, and, once you are up and running with an income that supports you, continued success requires equal amounts sacrifice and courage.
Friend to freelancer: “Freelancing must give you a lot of freedom.”
Freelancer: “It’s great…I’m free to choose which 12 hours in a day I work.”
While you may not work a 12-hour day regularly, you most certainly will work! The idea that working from home means you roll out of bed when you want, hang around in your pajamas and have a more “relaxed” work ethic, is far from the truth for successful home-based business owners. Many freelancers and home-based workers, myself included, find themselves working longer hours than they did at their day job. They may also work in the evenings and on weekends. This happens because it’s all on you! No longer will you have the luxury of working for an employer who hands you a pay check every two weeks. No longer will your employer’s office staff take care of administrative and finance duties that you didn’t even consider when you were working your day job. You wear all the hats.
Following are 10 skills that successful home-based business owners possess. I based this on my own experience as a freelancer, from many discussions with other home-based business owners, and from what I’ve read on many small business forums. Those that “make it” seem to possess, or, have developed the skills necessary to succeed. While there is no blueprint for success, these skills will certainly increase your chances of survival.
Skills 1-5 of Top 10 Skills
1) Knowing When to Give Up the Day Job
The most difficult part of starting your home-based business, whatever you do, is making the transition from your day job to your dream job. For me, it meant keeping my day job and contracting on the side for nearly a year before I built up enough work that I could cut the tether and let my day job float away. For some, it may mean cutting hours at the day job or taking a part-time job, so you can have more time to spend building your home business while still having a reliable income stream.
Whatever you do, don’t take a leap without a safety net. Don’t quit your day job thinking work or clients will fall from the sky like blessed rain. They probably won’t. You don’t start a home-based business overnight: you transition into it. If you are thinking you’ll quit your day job and survive on savings or credit cards until you make it, you may want to re-evaluate that plan. Doing so could lead to financial and personal disaster.
Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur who teaches entrepreneurship, cautions against quitting your day job, illustrating why with an example from his experience:
“I quit my day job a little too early and I learned a lot from that experience. That single choice created a longer term effect on how quickly we were able to scale the business due to cash flow constraints. It ended with me having to move back in with my parents.”
Learn more about why you shouldn’t quit your day job too soon.
- Read Ryan’s post “10 Steps to Start a Small Business While Working at a Full-Time Job“.
2) Self-Promotion and Marketing
If you are going to be successful in a home-based business owner, you must become a shameless self-promoter and DIY marketer. If you are shy, practice approaching people. Take a public speaking course, hire a career coach or life coach to help you overcome your anxieties. As a home-based business owner, you can’t afford to “hide your light under a bushel”, as the saying goes. Let people know you are working for yourself and are seeking work. Let them know what you do and how well you do it! Tell your friends, tell your family, tell work colleagues and any who will listen. Word of mouth is powerful and the oldest form of marketing.
In addition to learning the gift of gab, learn some web marketing as well. When you have a website, either hire someone to blog or blog for yourself. Summarize blog posts to your business’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. Post about your passion, give away wisdom and ask for nothing in return, share you experiences.
- Rikke Friis Dam, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Interaction Design Foundation gives great advice to freelancers (applicable to home-based business owners) in the article “Entrepreneurs and Freelancers: How to Overcome Your Fear of Selling“.
Perseverance (noun): “Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”. – Merriam Webster Dictionary.
If you are going through hell, keep going. Winston Churchill
Churchill’s wise words paint a clear picture of leaving a fiery landscape by continuing to walk until you reach its end. The ability to keep going in the face of adversity is a hallmark of those who succeed. All people who achieve any level of success or accomplishment, whether on the job, in art, music, relationships and business have all “kept going”. A million years ago, when I was a music student and in the midst of a very difficult school term, a band conductor and wind coach gave me this gem of encouragement: “Half of life is showing up”. I’ve used that wisdom ever since and it’s helped when times were tough. Just show up. Keep going. Consider how many great artists, musicians, actors, writers, and business people the world would never have known if they had not shown up when things were tough. The reason these people “arrived” is that they overcame adversity by paving the road to their destiny with perseverance.[End pep talk].
4) Organizing, Scheduling, Planning
Being organized will help you remain sane, juggle appointments, schedule planning sessions, manage projects, and feel in control. Whether you use an app or go old-school and use a paper-based organizer (people DO still use paper) doesn’t much matter, as long as you do organize, schedule and plan.
- Read “The 5 Best Personal Assistant Apps to Help Organize Your Life” and,
- “31 of the Best Cloud Based Apps for Micro-Businesses and Freelancers“.
This could be part of item 4 but it deserves special attention. Time management takes work and a little discipline and a method. Whether you schedule everything in Outlook or another mail client calendar or use a time-management or list app (or both), you’ll want to schedule your life. This is a lesson to learn early – while you are building up your business and still working your day. Once you’ve made the transition, you will be a time-managing master.
Check out these time management tips. Learn the Pomodoro technique and read about list apps, project management apps, and timesheet apps.